• It would be easy to dismiss ‘Getting Over It’ as a quirky game tailor made to get attention by having YouTubers get angry and scream at a naked man in a pot for a few hours. But I think there is more going on here. The game makes it pretty clear it is something of a meditation on challenge, difficulty, failure, suffering, pain and what they mean. So let’s talk about failure.”

The YouTube vlog about the cult hit game “Getting Over It” by Errant Signal (itself a nod to the world of errs) is about as quirky and heartfelt examination of the embrace of failure that you will find (thanks Chase). The treatment is almost poetic as he combines philosophical musings and insightful analysis with excerpts from the delightful wacky visual feast of a “game”.

The piece doesn’t just include the author’s perspective and reference the game’s own periodic reflections on the nature of failure, but it also draws from other works that have dissected failure in game play. For example, it refers to Jesper Juul’s book “The Art of Failure: An Essay on the Pain of Playing Video Games” and its “Paradox of Failure”:

  • We generally avoid failure.
  • We experience failure when playing games.
  • We seek out games, although we will likely experience something that we normally avoid.”

The paradox is sort of subset of the generalised paradox of “Painful Art”, ie. why do we read sad books or watch scary movies?”. It represents a duality of two desires:

  • Immediate Desire – Avoid failure
  • Aesthetic Desire: Experience that includes partial failure

The piece looks at the very nature of risk (the element that links embracing failure to leadership and management) and discusses the importance of looking at both the (a) incidence, and (b) severity of failure.

The piece also references commentary by the game’s creator itself, Bennett Foddy in his blog post “Eleven Flavours of Frustration”:

  • Game designers take it as axiomatic that if the player feels frustrated, something has gone wrong with the design. Yet frustration is an essential ingredient in many (all?) of the most famous and influential designs. What would space invaders be like if you never had to start again? What would Myst be like if you were never stumped. A game that is completely devoid of frustration is likely to be a game without friction, without disobedience. Games that are perfectly obedient are mere software.”

To which Errant signal adds:

  • Expensive digital games have to focus on accessibility, but cheaper games, B-games and indy experiments can afford to be rougher, harsher, and more indifferent. If there is a place for heartburn as gameplay, it exists here among the trash. The game jam game made over a weekend, the rough hewn work of an indy just starting out, the programmer art-filled games of a theorist who doesn’t care about content but cares deeply about design and its implications.”

The net result, is a smorgasbord of failure for those truly gluttonous for its bittersweet taste…

  • ·”Some part of us wants to be hurt. It is the territory that games are built on. Victories to be savoured and defeats that stingWe have the same taste you and I. It’s not ambition. It’s ambition’s opposite. An obdurate mission to taste defeat.”