[Media Meandry] Playful Versus Perfection

Although I can conduct my way through overly technical playthroughs of platformers and other games, they don’t bring me much joy. Depending on the game and the level, you might have to jump through arbitrary hoops to reach pedantic goals, then, return back through the level you traversed in the name of gameplay. I’m fine with some of this. Too much of it, however, becomes tedious, and those are the times when I stop playing.

Unless, of course, I’ve committed my time to playing through the game.

I look at it like it’s OK to let a title pique your curiosity and it’s OK to skip through the first page of a book, but when you sit down with it for more than a few minutes, you should commit yourself to playing through enough of it to drop it with an educated opinion or fast enough to where you didn’t waste much time. For the Jill of the Jungle trilogy, I enjoyed playing through the first one because, in its hour play-time, there’s enough variety to keep it interesting.

The second game, shown here, is just more of the same.

While I can jump through all the same hoops of the first game, and will continue to do so through to the third because the games are short enough and non-challenging enough to accomplish, they lack the variety and reward of playing Mario games. I don’t have an easy way to play any of the Mario games currently, but I’ve made notes to play them eventually.

Until then, I have these games that will satiate my interest in platformers.

Although I’d rather play a Mario game than a Jill game, it’s still fun playing through these more obscure bits of history. As long as there are Nintendo consoles, there will be re-releases of Mario games, in whatever format they may be, however for games like this, it’s up to conservationists like GOG or emulator communities to preserve these other games.

Now, why would I prefer Mario over Jill?

Platformers like Jill, Celeste, Super Meat Boy, and VVVVVV focus on the technicality and precision of perfect jumps over the playfulness of just having fun. I can play cold, hard challenging games and have for years, but now I’m just after hanging out and having fun as a filthy casual of videogaming. I don’t need complete collections to enjoy games. I don’t even need many of the artificial artifacts of my past or someone else’s past – either as cartridges I had as a kid, or replacement stand-ins – to represent them.

I don’t remember if we had a physical copy of Jill of the Jungle or not.

I remember seeing the first screen, where Jill drops down and a little bit of that first level, but nothing more other than that. I remember Commander Keen and Jazz Jackrabbit more. Still, having committed my time to playing the first game, I should want to complete the trilogy, at least for a cultural reference point, if not because it was free, and the games are fun enough. Maybe not to play all in one sitting, because of the saturation overload of playing levels with the same designs for three or more hours, but they’re not bad games, just overly concerned with technical gameplay than with exploring fun worlds. That makes for a good puzzle to romp through, but not really something to return to repeatedly, which is what I like most about videogames.

The hangout-itude, if you will.

The games that are more playful, and not really because they’re cartoonish although I suppose it helps, are the games I’d rather hang out in than the ones concerned with precision. We have enough of that in life. Why deal with that in our recreational time? For some, that might be a release of superfluous technical energy, but for me, it’s just more frustration to bring into my reality than needed. First-person shooters may be popular because they’re hyper-competitive, and that is the main appeal of fighter games, but for me, platformers and RPGs should be about presenting unique, narratively-rich worlds first, then bringing challenge in only as an arbitrary skill floor where it can be difficult but not impossible to play.

All that said, I can enjoy a good challenge.

Just as long as the challenge itself does not seem cheap or demeaning, where accomplishing the goal is less a matter of learning new skills as much as luck or monetary barriers. Those are not, in my books, good challenges. Nor are the challenges with arbitrary goals that can only be done in one way without mistakes. Those are just boring for me. As I’m going through my digital library of games to check out, I’m dropping plenty of them that have a promising premise but then deliver underwhelmingly in those narrative or design elements that I enjoy. I think it’s fine to try out as many things as you can, just as long as you can learn to spot what’s valuable for you, so you don’t waste your time slogging through things you don’t care about.

I’ll keep playing through the rest of this trilogy.

Its priority is now more about clearing it off the table so I can move onto the next games, however, than soaking in the scenery and playing for my own pure enjoyment of the games. I do get some elements of fun out of these games, so I haven’t dropped them, but were it not for my interest in the platformer genre and that era of gaming, I probably would have dropped them, like I never got around to watching so many new movies, playing other games, or doing other things. I just like playing things at my own pace and when that pace is artificially challenged by a game’s design, I become increasingly disinterested. For me, I’d rather spend more time in playful situation than perfect situations. For others, they may prefer perfecting their situations.

Pefection is an illusion.

Quotes: None.
Sources: My personal experiences.
Inspirations: Mainly a Mario thing for Mar10, but it ended up being more about platformer games.
Related: Other Media Meandry essays.
Screenshots: The point in the game where I just decided to stop playing for that day.
Written On: 2020 February 21 [2:44am to “having committed my time to playing the first” at 2:59am, then 3:11am to 3:26am with a few few-minute distractions. Gdocs.]
Last Edited: 2020 February 27 [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.