Last week, I got Hades for the Switch. It's a game about many things - escaping Hell, family dysfunction, maid puns, illicit drink sharing, the goddess Demeter's Titan-killing boxing gloves, fishing, and the usual. Most of all, it's about
romancing Death personified failure.
I'm up to almost twenty failed escape attempts so far. To be clear with the world and/or rabid fandom, I love the game and accept how failure is a core mechanic to move it forward. But after a Saturday session fueled by hard cider, I saw my escape attempts fell into two categories:
- Runs I intended to fail from the start. These were to farm items, improve my fighting technique, or wielding the Infernal Arms to relive pre-pandemic boxing classes and bash in my enemies' heads with joy. These are the fun runs, where I'm laughing and making snide comments about Artemis' crush on Zagreus. I'd also speculate about Dionysus' weekend parties and where Gods draw the line between a party being "fun" and "utterly fucked up." They're the likely cause of all our crazy weather lately.
- Runs where I seriously aimed to escape. In these, I'm trying to get further than my last run. It's to a new area or past that damn pair of Asterius the minotaur and Theseus the do-gooder prick. But my mindset goes a full 180 degrees - I'm tense, anxious, and not having much fun. Once I procrastinated for a whole day right outside the Bone Hydra's chambers. I worried I'd somehow slip up and was sweating like crazy by the lava. In these runs, dying without getting further is unforgivable and almost ruins my day. Turning Skelly to dust over and over only helps so much, you know?
I saw this difference after my last escape attempt. I beat a new boss and got through the next area on my first try. I was half a health bar away from beating the final boss but died. By all accounts, this should have thrilled me. Instead, I felt miserable. I planned to stick with "planned failure" runs for a while. At least until I got the mental strength together for another real attempt.
So I asked myself: why couldn't I do a serious run and still have fun? Doesn't having so many "planned failure" runs limit my improvement? After all, it's hard to get better each time when I'm holding myself back from the pain (and progress) of another failure. Especially in a game where, like in life, failure is often the best way forward.
Why shouldn't I start aiming for that third type of failure?
Embracing Unplanned Failure #
When I got Hades, part of me thought of my birthday resolution to fail more. It could be an enjoyable way to get more comfortable with failure, along with throwing around Zeus' lightning and breaking hearts as only Aphrodite can. Instead, I found a way my mind maintains its fear of failure. Even if I experience that fear as anxiety over rematches with a relentless ax-swinging minotaur giving me nightmares.
But seeing this fear of failure in a clearer form can help me start to overcome it. That alone is something to be thankful for. Well, along with the fun hours of backstabbing Wretched Louts.
So, Theseus and Asterius, get ready. I won't always make it to you, and I'll beat you even less often. But I'll at least be serious and try to get there more often.
Except for Tisiphone. Keep that murderous Fury far away from me.