I recently started playing a very charming and challenging game called Kingsway. Kingsway is a fantasy adventure game designed to look and feel like an old Windows-style operating system from the ’90s. Although I don’t play many computer games these days, I do sometimes miss playing Magic: the Gathering online, a game that I’ve abandoned for reasons I might explain another time.
Kingsway is hard, but it pushes enough of my M:tG buttons that I am determined to not give up, and to get past that first discouraging stretch of learning and losing, over and over again. Losing in Kingsway means permanent death for your character. So you can’t get too attached. Despite knowing this, I put special care into customizing my first handful of characters, making them look at least a little bit like me, and making up custom names that referenced some other character or inside joke. I also envisioned myself most naturally as a Mage, or at the very least a well-rounded Adventurer who could throw a few fireballs along with wielding some kind of cool staff or sword.
After the 6th death or so, all within the first 5-15 min of playing these perfectly-crafted characters, I got tired of dying. I had just watched my husband finally win his first full playthrough as a really, really strong guy who attacked a lot, usually with two weapons at a time. He breezed through ultra scary bosses by basically running into the room screaming and swinging swords and axes as fast and as hard as he could. This approach was so direct and bone-headed that I saw it as effective, but not really “my style.” I was totally jealous but still toiled on for a while trying to play the game “my way.”
But at this phase of my Kingsway career, my personal “play style” apparently just meant that I sucked. Finally, I swallowed my pride. I decided that until I didn’t suck so hard, I would try it the dumb way. I chose the Warrior class and swung a pitiful bone club at skeletons and Undead, until I found an axe, which is where things started getting more interesting. I started levelling up, focusing all my new skills on attack speed and building up my damage until I didn’t even worry about blocking most enemies. I found a better axe and better armor. I enthusiatically found and learned the Axe Mastery skill, because I guess I’m really into axes now.
And of course I am having a lot more fun not dying and actually playing, even though I’m not playing the way I first envisioned in my head. It’s not the first time I am learning this lesson about what you think you should be good at, versus what you actually have to do to git gud enough to enjoy what you’re doing. But it is a lesson worth re-learning. For the first time in a while I am actually enjoying a video game beyond the first few moments of novelty and ease.
Now, back to axe-swinging.