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Gaming: I Beat the World’s Toughest Video Game – and the World Shrugged

Beating Playstation’s notoriously difficult Super Meat Boy was one of the biggest achievements of Liam Maguren’s young life. So why didn’t anyone care?

In 2010 a nasty lil’ bastard of a platformer called Super Meat Boy was released. Made, impressively, by only two dudes, the addictive indie game quickly gained a reputation for its incredibly tight gameplay, creatively devious level design, and brutal difficulty.

I have to emphasise that last part: this game is difficult. So difficult. So very, brutally, unforgivingly difficult. This shit is Ninja Warrior for your thumbs, and don’t just take my word on it – Super Meat Boy has been labelled one of the hardest games of all time here, here, here, here, here and here.

I failed to beat it five years ago, pushing my 21-year-old dexterity to the limits until my eyes leaked stress tears. With busted hands and hurt feelings, I limped away. The game did not care.

super-meat-boy-cast

But Super Meat Boy was not just a game – it was an ex-lover I could not quit. And when it was recently released for free on Playstation Plus, I came crawling back to the “press start” button.

To put this journey into perspective, the game starts off with five worlds containing 20 levels each, followed by a final world containing five levels PLUS a bonus world with 20 MORE levels that are even harder than the standard ones. That’s 145 levels.

And when I returned to that game on my PS4, I beat it. I actually beat it. I bloody knocked the bastard off.

I could have stopped there with my puffed-up chest and thoroughly patted back. But “beating” the game was less than half the battle…

After finishing all the standard levels, the game leaves you to replay the “dark” versions of those levels, which throws in 381% more shit that can kill you.

Super Meat Boy’s Dark World levels, as illustrated by co-creator Edmund McMillen.

It’s like finishing a half marathon just to do the other half barefoot over broken glass while chased by a hungry jaguar wearing Nikes. Only after that would I have truly beaten the game. To 100%.

Why would I do it? Was it addiction? Was it arrogance? Was it an apparition of my former inferior self that I was trying to distance myself from? I cannot honestly name the motivation, but I set forth to conquer every level, every bonus level, every secret level, and every expert level the game had.

And so I played…

And I played…

And I played…

And I played…

And I cried…

Above: 15min video of me completing ONE level (includes pause breaks where I dried the sweat off my clammy hands)

And I played some more…

Until…

iamagoldengod

I did it.

After a month or so locked into this play-play-cry-play cycle, I 100%-ed Super Meat Boy. I laid waste to 290 levels, as well as the boss fights, warp zones, and minus worlds. I even painstakingly collected all 100 hidden bandages.

I did it all. With an A+ ranking.

I was honestly stunned. I’m merely competent in skill when it comes to most videogames, and yet I had just completed something virtually monumental.

The moment I scored that 100% trophy, I had no idea what to do next. So, in an embarrassing moment of panic, I took a selfie with the stats screen.

statselfie

And then I tweeted about my victory, to which I got only one response:

This joking tweet was a precursor to a sad realisation: no one cared what I had just done.

And why should they? Most people I know hadn’t even heard of Super Meat Boy, and those who did had far greater things to strive towards: writing a novel, buying a house, full-time employment. You know, things that actually matter.

I had struggled so damn hard for a reason I still couldn’t pinpoint. And yet, my achievement was nothing I could brag about in the real world, despite what the trophy said.

My buddy Mitch was the only person I knew who took that game as seriously as I did, so I figure he – at the very least – would relate to my stupid struggle and reassure me that it was all somehow worth it. But the moment I told him, I didn’t get a solo round of applause or a “Wow! Bloody good on you, Liam. That’s a great achievement.”

Instead, he curled up and painfully sighed to himself, as if I had just unchained dormant memories of his own personal torture playing that game years ago.

I didn’t get his praise. I didn’t get his validation. I just triggered some weird PTSD inside him, which made me feel like a bit of an asshole for bringing it up.

But how was I actually meant to feel? On one hand, it was saddening I had 100%ed one of the most difficult video games ever released and that no one cared. On the other hand, it’s pretty ridiculous to be upset over something so seemingly trivial.

In my unusual state of emotional limbo, I went back to the game to look at my virtual trophy. That trivial little label saying “I’m A Golden God” was the only thing in this world that actually validated my trivial little achievement.

And I smiled.

I realised that this whole ordeal was my own personal Whiplash, and that the game was J.K. Simmons slapping me continuously in the face until I didn’t suck as much. Through my bloody fingers and many audible expletives, I pushed through until I surpassed the other 99.9% and accomplished perfection. To see “I’m A Golden God” was the game’s way of saying “Good Job”.

It’s all the validation I need, and the only one I was ever going to get, because no one gives a shit about Super Meat Boy anymore. Just like jazz.


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