Today, my roommate Nicklas – the renown Swedish indie developer better known as “Nifflas” – beat the secret “Hell” world in Spelunky. It was truly a run for the ages, full of daring feats of skill and a well-timed miracle or two.
But I’m getting ahead of myself! First, some background:
Over the course of this past summer, I gradually got sucked into the game. Nifflas is very good at the original version, and so he’s been teaching me along the way. Of course, Nifflas has had to adjust to the new XBLA controls, so we’ve both been honing our skills.
About a month ago, Nifflas and I started a daily tradition – a ritual, if you will. Every night, each of us gets one – and only one – Spelunky run. The other sits and watches, cheering along and providing advice. On rare days we’ll indulge in a few practice runs, but it’s only the “official” run that really matters – at least to us!
This ritual has been deeply enjoyable for several reasons. First, the tradition gives us something to look forward to every evening. Second, the “stakes” of the game feel so much more real when you only get one shot. One error and you’re done for the day. Nerve-wracking, but invigorating! Third, and perhaps most importantly, I find that it’s far more rewarding to play the game with somebody spectating – a witness with whom to share your triumphs and tribulations. After all, Spelunky is all about the stories you the player end up producing. As my hero Hannah Arendt puts it: “The presence of others who see what we see and hear what we hear assures us of the reality of the world and ourselves.”
Jokingly, before each run, we make a little prayer to Derek Yu, the game’s creator. (For example: “Derek Yu, please grant us plentiful bombs and protect us from dark levels. Amen.”). The prayer has itself become a key part of our daily ritual – to the point where we feel like we’ve almost created a Spelunky religion/cult. Like, why do bad things happen to good Spelunky players? And does Derek Yu even exist? Spelunky theology is tricky!
This leads us to Nifflas’ epic victory today. (Warning: spoilers ahead).