The last couple of days I’ve found myself playing VVVVVV again. I played quickly through the main game, satisfied myself I could still do the infamous “veni vidi vici” trinket, and then having been slowly beating the various add-on levels from other people (some of which are really good, at least in terms of the platforming). I find myself wondering why on earth I’m playing it, given that I’ve beaten it so very many times.
It seems to be because it’s just such a well-made game. It’s even weirder because I’m not actually that partial to platformers in general (I don’t love Mario for instance – though Kaizo Mario had me a little hooked). But VVVVVV just works so well somehow. It’s like a total abstraction of movement. In a way it’s a bit like Skate perhaps, in that you’re largely focused on kind of dancing with the environments (and the easy resets certainly make getting the dance steps right a lot more pleasant). There’s something wonderful about the simplicity and difficulty of the way levels in the game work out, and the way that most of the time a single screen is a little world to negotiate in miniature, a single dance move.
Another part of me kind of feels angry about playing the game so much though. I’m not learning anything, it’s not that fun per se, it just kind of “is” – it’s a bit like going for a walk or doing the dishes, except devoid of lived experience. I worry about games at times like that. Are we game makers wasting people’s time? Are we, in a small way, killing them by facilitating these sorts of activities? That’s dramatic, of course, but I like the way it sounds! Killing our players, eh? Heady stuff.
But really – I worry about myself as I play VVVVVV for the nth time. I learn nothing much except how to negotiate environments in VVVVVV. I feel nothing much except briefly acknowledged successes and failures. And then I finish. And it’s more or less the same whether I play VVVVVV, an older game, or shack up with some new suitor, like Spelunky. Each time I’ll turn away from the screen a little closer to the grave.
But goddamn it I love playing VVVVVV.