[Media Meandry] Meta Research Ruins

Early into Lisa: The Painful RPG, you must make a difficult decision. That’s cool from a narrative perspective that your answer will lead you down one of two minor story paths, however, this was also the point where I decided that I’m not a fan of branching narratives. Why would I pick one path without full knowledge over the long-term consequences? I’d rather leave the game, read the narrative-spoiling walkthrough, then move onto something else.

The simple answer should be just rolling with the punches.

Although this essay is beginning with Lisa as its example, I don’t like it when videogames give you arbitrary paths to their best-case scenarios. This happens with Super Mario RPG where you can miss content unless you know what to look for consulting a walkthrough and with FF7 where other content requires jumping through inane hurdles. This may be fun for completionists and replayers of videogames, and I will admit that for my top favorite games, I do enjoy these sorts of exploratory routes, but otherwise, I suppose I am less creative in my exploration of media.

I couldn’t quite trust that one decision or the other wasn’t going to nuke my playthrough.

That’s probably why I prefer watching playthroughs or reading walkthroughs of games rather than playing them myself. I am not completely inept at all forms of gaming, and can even hold my own in some games, but overall, I don’t see much of a point of perfection in videogames or reality. It’s great to try your best and to do what you can but as soon as it’s apparent that you have to act in certain ways to achieve optimal goals, whether through using fine motor skills or jumping through arbitrary hoops, I lose interest.

I’ll try a jump only so many times before I start questioning why I’m jumping.

If I’m jumping from one platform to another in a videogame and that platform is almost impossible, to the point where I have to research as to how to overcome that obstacle because I’ve exhausted all of my theories on how to accomplish that task and I have to research as to how to accomplish that goal, then for me at least the game has failed to teach me well enough how to beat it. Sure, part of the experience of beating one game teaches me how to beat others, but I am a filthy casual. I want to experience the narratives of games and soak in as much as I can for my writing of essays or fiction.

I am not overly interested in games that punish suboptimal play.

What if I solve a suboptimal problem? I suppose it’s like solving a math problem with a dozen extra steps than needed. If I could continue for answering the question, I’d be fine with that, since I wouldn’t be looking to get into the most advanced math classes possible, to run with this example, just like I don’t care about getting into the most advanced platformers or strategy games for pure gameplay mechanics. I think it’s cool when gameplay mechanics influence game narratives, but I prefer to let those stories unfold on their own.

I don’t want to waste hours of time on videogame precision.

At that point, I would be beholden to the rules established by a videogame world that I am opting to join. I already have to follow the rules of this reality. Why would I want to further restrict myself? If I can only act in certain ways within videogames to achieve the “intended” “best” solution, then I can’t freely act in ways that I would want to act. Being fair, in Lisa, either decision you make doesn’t drastically change your playthrough. I just find with decisions like that in videogames or life, if I don’t have enough information to make an educated guess, I prefer not to answer.

Maybe videogames are better at teaching us about ambiguity now?

In some ways, this meta-research encouraged me to explore my true thoughts on these videogames and videogames overall. I wasn’t hooked enough by Lisa to want to have its story revealed to me as intended. It’s been a bad habit of mine to play games while consulting walkthroughs, so rather than continue doing that, I think it’s better to stop playing the game and just watch a playthrough, so that way if you want to experience the game later you can experience the gameplay mechanics without concerning yourself with narrative branching choices.

That’s what I’ll do with SMRPG and FF7.

When I return to games I haven’t played in years, or play through games like FF7, I’ll make decisions based on what feels alright to me rather than with concern for optimal choices. Why would I care about whether I get the best armor or second-best armor when I like the game enough to play through it all? For games where I don’t care enough, then it’s a matter of deciding how much I want to experience it for myself. If reading about a game’s plot in under five minutes suffices, then I would read it and move on. Why spend the additional ten to twenty hours to experience it ‘as it should be’ when we can edit these narratives down into what works best for us.

What if I just want the highlights of a story or videogame?

If I hadn’t written this essay asking that question, no one at large would have cared, other than specific conversations with specific people. Now, though, I wonder if I will find myself with certain ire from certain people over not appreciating Lisa or other videogames as displays of skill and technicality? That’s where I have to remember that I prefer exploring worlds as a writer rather than a videogame player, so I prefer taking what’s useful from any media, applying it to my writing, and skipping the rest.

Why spend hours doing things that won’t help develop your primary avocation?

Quotes: None.
Sources: My personal experiences.
Inspirations: I wanted to explore my thoughts about Lisa, since I did enjoy the game well enough, but was wondering why I stopped playing at that exact point of deciding between giving up a party member or all my equipment, and that’s not because I had attachment to either one, but because the game hadn’t hooked me in enough. I didn’t accept those two as the only options and I was disinterested in deciding because either way is the right and wrong way to go.
Related: Other Media Meandry essays.
Screenshot: From Lisa, edited to fit to 600 pixels.
Written On: 2020 February 08 [5am to 5:42am.]
Last Edited: 2020 February 08 [First draft; final draft for the Internet.]
My big goal is writing. My most important goal is writing "The Story." All other goals should work toward that central goal. My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame some fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. I'm not better than you and you're not better than me. Let's strive to be better every day.