Content note: This piece contains descriptions of depression.
It’s 2017, and you’ve just separated from your spouse and partner of eight years; you decide to download the remastered Crash Bandicoot in your newly much-emptier apartment. Or you’re in a hospital lobby, waiting for a surgeon to come tell you what you think you already know: that your father has lung cancer. Shovel Knight keeps you occupied in this clinical, quiet space. Or it’s the present day, and you were just told that you are not supposed to leave your apartment for the foreseeable future, and you are never going to see your students in person again, and all you have to keep you company is a copy of Celeste. In all of these clearly universal and not at all deeply personal situations, there is a commonality: grueling platformers providing grounding and a sense of purpose and achievement. Anyone can use this notoriously difficult, frustrating, and demanding genre to solve your problems, provided you follow this simple ten-step process.
Emma is a PhD candidate in Rhetoric and Composition who studies how play impacts learning. Her words have also appeared in Critical Distance and Unwinnable. When not writing, she enjoys passing the controller between friends for runs of Silent Hill. She can be found @kostopolus on Twitter.