Thoughts on Read/Write/Play

It’s been some time but here are my thoughts on my three favorite games that I played during Read/Write/Play and a little of what I took away from them.


Steam Store Link: Hades

Hades is one of the most memorable games that I’ve played recently. To me, this game is a gift that keeps on giving. It is a roguelite with a story based on Greek mythology and gameplay that features fighting against Hade’s minions in order to escape the underworld. The combat itself is pretty interesting and very replayable since you get to try many different fighting styles that depend on weapon choices, lots of upgrade choices, and random boons (in game upgrades) that change every playthrough. And then, what really set this game apart from other roguelite games that I’ve played was the story and how seamlessly it flowed with the gameplay. Without spoiling it, there is main story arc but, theres lots of situational dialogue and side conversations that feel perfectly adapted to the experience I had as a player. Instead of the story resetting after a game over, forcing me to repeat the same interactions again, in the next attempt, the characters speak like they remember you and even make little references to what happened. You can progress your relationship with almost every character you encounter and each character has nice amount of dialogue and backstory to learn about! The pacing is great because the game gives you little pieces of story each time you play. Further, every playthrough gives you little rewards and incentives to keep going. And thats not even to mention the overall sense of humor, great music, sound effects, voice acting, and art!

This game showed me the compounding value of being solid on every front.

I used to think that in order for a roguelite game to be great, the gameplay just needed to be challenging in the right way, with lots of depth and room for creative strategies so that it was replayable. And while Hades does have those aspects, I think what really won me over was how high quality every aspect of the game was. This game made me realize just how much the soundtrack, sound effects, visual polish, dialogue, and story factored into my level of enjoyment for a game that, at glance, seemed to be about smacking skeletons with a huge sword. While I feel like its more common to see games with one or two of these aspects on the level of Hades, I think its very rare and very special for a game to do an excellent job at all of them!

Super Meat Boy


Steam Store Link: Super Meat Boy

Super Meat Boy gave me two lasting impressions. The first one, “wow they nailed the feel of this game”. The second one, “wow I really don’t like precision platforming”.

In terms of the feel, jumping and moving just felt good. It felt responsive, predictable, fast, dangerous, and fair. I had never seriously tried to play a precision platformer before and I was blown away at how good it felt to zoom through a level that previously took me 50+ tries to beat. Not only that but the difficulty progression and level design felt perfectly tuned. I am very curious how they were able to get that to work so well! How many playtests and reworks did they go through? The game starts out simple and gradually introduces new mechanics, starting with showing you more and more of what your character does, and then, adding more and more complexity to what the obstacles in the level do. Especially in the beginning, it feels like each level teaches you a special, hand picked skill that promises to transform you from a hopeless button masher to a professional speed runner if you stay enrolled in the class. To me the magic was that almost every level felt challenging but just doable by the time I got to it. Even as I could tell the levels were getting much, much harder, the difficulty felt the same in a good way and I never lost that feeling of having to pull a rabbit out of a hat in order to pull the next sequence off.

That said, after playing the game a bit more I started to feel less and less fulfilled by the platforming. I got to a point where I was mostly playing to progress the story because I wanted to know what happens to Super Meat Boy, Bandage Girl, and the evil robot guy. The game’s ability to be consistently challenging, which was once a marvel, quickly made the game feel like a tedious chore. Why do I have to play this level 50 times just to see the ending? That’s when I realized I could probably use a break from the game. I haven’t played it since but I might beat it someday. For people who like challenging platformers, Super Meat Boy has a lot to offer, I didn’t even begin to attempt all of the bonus levels and special challenges that it had.

This game was a firm reminder that making a good platforming game is hard. 

Experiencing the polish of Super Meat Boy coupled with watching the film, Indie Game, (where the developers were under intense stress and time pressure to get the game out) made me realize just how much hard work went into making one of the most successful indie platforming games of my time. In contrast, I also got to experience previewing and playing what felt like an endless sea of free-to-play platforming games and demos that really put the quality of Super Meat Boy into perspective. I think platformers are one of those game genres where if they’re great it just feels normal and when they’re not so great it sticks out like a sore thumb. It feels like theres so many great platformers already that each new platformer has to really shine and do something special to stand out from the sea of other similar games. To me this is a reminder that making a great game in a competitive space is hard but small differences in polish and overall quality can make a huge difference.

*random note* After Super Meat Boy, a fellow student from class told me that I might also like Celeste. And I absolutely loved Celeste. Wish I had time to talk about that game too!


Steam Store Link: Journey

I had such a great experience with this game. The moment that still sticks out to me, to this day, was the moment where I realized the other character I was playing with in the game was another human being and not an AI. How cool is that? I was so excited when I realized! Up that point, the game felt pretty solid on its own as a visually stunning experience with soothing audio and simple but pleasing gameplay. However, the game felt so much more fun with the other player there. I had a lot of laughs trying to communicate with my new found partner. It was also nice to know someone else was experiencing the crazy parts of the game and exploring the massive levels with me. I was touched when I fell behind and had given up on seeing my partner again, only to see them waiting for me at the end of obstacle. The game was so much more fun with someone else there!

Not many games get the chance to sneak in a co-op experience in a way that would be so well received. Imagine surprise co-op in a game that required coordination in order to progress, I think players would want to know in advance. It would be frustrating to get stuck because you aren’t able to work well with the other player and having to work with a stranger could fundamentally change the experience in a way the player didn’t expect and doesn’t want. On the other hand, imagine the other extreme, a surprise co-op game where its an average single player game, you can see the other player but you don’t work together at all. That might be kind of neat but I feel like it would subtract, not add to the experience of many singleplayer games that I’ve played.

That surprise co-op works as well as it does I think indicates that this game sits in a special space. If I had to guess, its because a lot of the gameplay in Journey is relatively simple and seems to focus on experiencing an exciting and mysterious world, like a magnificent hike. I think that this simplicity leaves space for another human player to join the experience without it feeling like a task to work together or like a pointless addition to an already busy game. When I was experiencing this big empty but beautiful world, it was just nice to experience it with someone else.

This game reminded me why I started to make time for gaming and game development. 

I’ve been playing video games my whole life but I moved away from them in college. What got me back into gaming was playing multiplayer games and realizing that they not only helped me connect to my existing friends all around the world, but they also allowed me to experience these fun but fleeting moments with strangers. Once I got more involved in multiplayer games, I started to really value the ecosystem of communities that formed around those games and from there, communities that formed around games in general. I had many rough patches in grad school and during those times, while it’s nice to live in University housing, I also felt hopelessly surrounded by the world of grad school and everything that came with it. Thankfully, I got to take a break from all this by playing multiplayer games and getting to share fun, random jokes and crazy experiences with both friends and strangers online, brought together by the shared experience of quality games created by incredibly talented people. Having access to these communities, especially during Covid quarantine, really helped pick me up even on my worst days. I’m incredibly grateful for these spaces and the developers and players that make them what they are. To me, games are great, but sharing the experience of gaming with others is even better.


All images courtesy of the steam store pages of the respective games, linked above and here:


Super Meat Boy



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