What Streaming (Horrifying) Puzzle Games Has Taught Me
When I started this blog, I had a loose idea of what I wanted to do with it. I also knew I wanted to stream some alongside it. I’m not trying to make Twitch Partner or anything, though I did recently become Affiliate (humblebrag, yes), and I got there with the help of my recent weekly puzzle game streams. I’ve posted before about my first foray into the Rusty Lake franchise, but it’s been nearly two months since then, and I’ve now made my way through all of the Cube Escape series, another Rusty Lake title, and the co-op puzzle game, Tick Tock: A Tale For Two with a friend.
And throughout them all, there’s something very important that I’ve learned:
I’m bad at puzzle games.
Wait, no, not that. Well, not just that, anyway.
I did definitely learn that, though.
That being said, I don’t think it would be as fun if I didn’t struggle sometimes. No matter the game, for me, it’s never been about breezing through to the end; it’s always about the experience, the surprises, and, in the case of these puzzles and mysteries, those super satisfying “ohhhhh, now I get it” moments.
And surprisingly, these games about murdered parents and a haunted lake and confronting my corrupted soul have been a comfort to me in a way that I didn’t exactly expect. I don’t know if it’s just part of getting older and having so many IRL responsibilities, but I’ve had a hard time really getting immersed in games lately. I don’t mean that I can’t still play for hours, but story-driven games haven’t sucked me in quite the same as they used to. However, these puzzle games have managed to do it. I get into them more than I have other games lately, I think because I end up so zoned in and so focused, and, at least with the titles I’m playing right now, I really feel like I’m in the space my character is exploring, and that makes the games easy to get lost in. (And a lot of fun.)
It also helps that I can interact with (and, thank god, get help from) my chat when I stream. Even though most of the games I’ve been playing are single player, I’ve had a great time feeling like I’m working with my friends and that they’re in it with me week after week.
Whether they like it or not, haha.
These games have also helped me work my brain in new and different ways. Half the fun is in the times where I’m not even sure what direction they're trying to take me or when the mechanics of a new puzzle are throwing me for a loop. I miss things sometimes because I’ll be so focused on X that I’ll miss out on Y, and other times, I know exactly what the game makers going are for before we even get there, and I crack up because I just know something wild is going to come out of the toilet I just finally found a plunger for. (Don’t ask. Or... do?)
And, let’s be honest, when I (or, more usually correct, we) finally get to the bottom of that puzzle that had been tripping me up for what feels like forever, I feel a huge sense of accomplishment. I mentioned in another article how that feeling can expand beyond video games, and this is no different. While I’m overall very privileged and lucky, the lifestyle changes that come along with COVID precautions have still altered my life a lot, and I’m not saying I should replace all those missing things with video games, of course, but it’s been nice to have this constant, this ability to achieve, to conquer, and to complete while my real life is still so in flux.
So what have I learned (other than I’m not super good at these games and love to play them anyway)?
I've learned to appreciate and enjoy taking my time. I've (re)learned how to dive in and allow myself to escape like I did when I was a kid. I'm constantly learning how to find new ways of thinking and to embrace (and at times rely on) teamwork and the multiple perspectives that it can bring. I'm learning to take in whole scenes, to focus on the details, to expect the unexpected, and to remember that right when I think I have it figured out, they're going to throw me for a loop, so buckle in.
I’ve learned and am still learning a ton, for sure, and I love that part of the experience, but beyond all that, the games I’ve been playing have something else to offer, and it’s just as worthwhile as all the rest: fun. Let's not forget that, as I’ve said before, that’s all games have to be to be valuable. Don't get me wrong; I believe video games are art. That they contribute immeasurably to our lives. That they can teach us, train us, and help us build aspects of ourselves as well as provide challenges and comfort and safety in ways the real world often can’t. More and more, games are finally getting recognized for the masterpieces they are. Their storytelling, musical composition, visual aspects, and voice acting are no longer passing beneath our recognition. But even if all of that work and thought and planning and creativity leads to nothing more than just a darn good time, lots of fun, and feelings of adventure, well, that’s still incredibly valuable in my book.
And now, the most exciting part of this new puzzle game adventure I’ve embarked on is that it’s far from over. There are more surprises around the corner, more puzzles to get stuck on, and undoubtedly lots more help to require. I can't wait to see what pops out at me next, what dark humor cracks me up, and what more these games have to teach me.
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