All Of The Lights

I fucking love the bosses in Hyper Light Drifter. Everything else is ok.

Two years after buying this game, I finally started it on Friday and finished it yesterday (and tonight is Sunday night and I can’t sleep rip). I’m hella slow at playing games, so me finishing this so fast is honestly saying something. Figuring out why I couldn’t put HLD down has been kinda tricky, but I think I’ve pinpointed it. Most obviously, the bosses and a few really challenging areas were where the game really shined, but for me, this doesn’t explain why the game immediately gripped me, or why I had to finish the game on my second sitting. To explain these, I think the answer lies in HLD’s framing.

In contrast to the difficult rooms and boss fights HLD throws at you, most of the areas in HLD are stretched out. You can’t always see what you’ll encounter next. You have no idea how far you are from your target. But you really REALLY wanna get there ASAP. HLD makes you feel like you’re hunting for that awesome boss fight, like you need to work to earn it. For me, this made me feel very similarly to how I feel about work.

For both personal projects and my actual work, the journey often feels like a stretched-out slugfest, only occasionally littered with gems of excitement. As with many activities, the best parts (brainstorming ideas) take way less time than the rest (actually implementing those ideas). That doesn’t mean they’re not worth doing. Implementing code for my research project can still be fun, especially if it leads to an interesting result. But for me, it can be easy to start wishing I was only doing those best parts.

Hyper Light Drifter made me think of this in a different way. I’m not slugging through narrow enemy corridors, I’m hunting for the boss. When I’m in the right state of mind, that’s also how I feel when I’m doing the little things towards any goal. Implementing some code for a project is really just hunting for my next big result. The next few steps on a run is just hunting for that post-workout satisfaction. Sometimes the journey is tough, and that’s ok. Just keep hunting, and you’ll make it to the good stuff.

Written on January 13, 2020