(Don’t?) Go There, Girlfriend (Super Hexagon, Zaga-33, 7 Grand Steps)

Interesting experiences with games lately. In brief, I spent much of last year berating myself for not playing enough games and thus further stunting any remaining insights I might have into the medium. But then I got the chance to be a judge for the 2013 edition of the IGF, and then rather remarkably got to be a part of the jury for the Nuovo prize for that competition. And let’s face it, that’s the best prize. But I digress. The thing about the IGF was that I suddenly played a lot of games. I think I played around 70 different games over the course of a month and a bit, say. There are many nice things that came out of that, but perhaps the nicest was becoming obsessed with three games I would never have thought I’d give the time of day for one reason or another.

Super Hexagon is a game that I definitely noticed when it came out, but for some reason decided was some how “too hip” for me engage with. I’m not very clear what kind of decision-making process that is, other than a stupid one of course. But all those cool people playing it and talking about how crazy and great it is put me off. But then I did cave in and play it, and of course it’s one of the great action-puzzle games in existence. This isn’t really surprising because Terry Cavanagh is something of a genius. I should really just buy/play everything he makes sight-unseen and be done with it. Moral: don’t be put off by everyone thinking a game is really good; it’s probably just really good.

Zaga-33 is another whacky game by Michael Brough. I have evangelised many times here about Michael’s game VESPER.5, in which you take one step a day (and which is up for the aforementioned Nuovo award, deservedly). Despite that, I really didn’t like the sound of Zaga-33 and thought it looked very, very ugly. Actually, it’s still pretty ugly to my eye, but that doesn’t much matter. Mostly I was put off by the idea of it being a “Rogue-like”. I feel kind of automatically brow-beaten by these games that involve combat and resource use and tactical play and everything. I have an inferiority complex about it. Maybe it was that time I lost at Risk when I was 14 or something. But no, I played Zaga-33 because I read the Electron Dance piece on it and HM made it sound hilarious instead of stressful. Actually, it’s much more stressful than hilarious, but it’s the good kind of stress.

7 Grand Steps is from Mousechief (the creator of Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble). I didn’t expect to like it because I’m not a big fan of boardgames, and DHSGIT kind of eluded me in terms of enjoying it. But I was assigned 7 Grand Steps for IGF, so I played it anyway. And it was a total mess and there was this big wheel and I kept screwing everything up and I quit. But for some reason I kept coming back to it despite feeling annoyed for many of the early playings. There’s something very tactile and nice about the wheel, the sound effects, the tokens. It brings you back. And once you’ve been brought back and start to “get” how the game works, it’s just so satisfying to play and try to work with the resources you have to build your family up. I’m still playing it.

As a kind of cautionary bit at the end here, I should say that all of these games have tweaked the obsessive side in me, and it’s not a side I’m in love with. Super Hexagon makes me play it at the drop of a hat, if I have, say, a single minute to kill while waiting for the kettle to boil. I reach for Zaga-33 instead of my Kindle on getting into bed at night far too often. 7 Grand Steps has derailed many a noble attempt to get some work done on my own game after lunch. These are genuine problems, I’m not being cute.

So, play any of those games at your own peril (actually 7 Grand Steps isn’t out yet, but will be in Spring). They’re amazing, and they’ll draw you in. But then they won’t bloody let you go.

14 January 2013
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