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I guess I just like liking things

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! I know I have.

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! I know I have.

I recently started playing Temple Run 2, which is only the second “infinite runner” game I’ve ever played (Jetpack Joyride being the first). I’m going to guess most infinite runners follow this same format: daily goals, weekly goals, & level up goals? The daily and weekly goals give you more coins or gems while the level up goals give you XP which gives you better levels which gives you access to more stuff. Of course, you can but those things with actual money, if you like.

I don’t understand why I’m playing this game. An infinite runner, as its genre name would suggest, has no end goal. If you are super good at it, you still are only going to get a high score. There’s no ark or grail at the end, no “You won!” There’s just more running. I guess in a sense it’s like arcade games of yore, right? Pac-Man had cutscenes, but it wasn’t story driven. Frogger wants to get across the road to his pad, but there’s no revenge subplot. This is how games used to be: “Get your bragging rights here, folks! Step right up, only costs a quarter!”

But even in an age where people were trying to get the highest score possible and clear as many levels as they could, the games couldn’t handle it. The hardware limitations on Pac-Man mean you’re not getting a level 257 no matter how much you want one, but I have wonder if the game creators even considered that someone would even try or be able to get past 255.

If I had been aware of the concept of an “infinite runner” when I was a kid, I would’ve thought that Pitfall was one, aside from the time limit. None of us could figure out what the deal was with that game. We knew we needed to collect treasures and avoid (ahem) pitfalls, but was there an end?  We never knew, although we did try letting the timer run all the way down once to see what happened (answer: the game ended). Turns out, to “win” at Pitfall you need to collect all of the treasures and never lose any points (by falling or hitting a log) and never lose a life. A perfect score is 114,000, and I never in the world would have known this without Wikipedia.

So the goal for me in Temple Run 2 is to buy all of the available things to buy with the in-game coins, not by spending any cash on it.  I mean, I did buy the Usain Bolt character, but he was only 99 cents and he added a new ability to the game, and the game was free, so for me it was a way to support the gamemakers and get a new ability in the process. So now I can run to collect coins to upgrade those abilities.

The thing is, I’m not very good at the game. An slightly-better-than-average game for me results in 400-500 coins, so coming up with the 25,000 I need to upgrade Usain’s ability is going to take me a long time, and that’s only level 2 of 5 for that ability!  There are a few more characters I can buy with in-game coins, but will cost 600,000 coins to get the remaining three, and I just don’t see that ever happening. The absolute most coins I’ve ever gotten in a run is 8,341, and that’s after using 15 gems to continue. I was pursuing a score of 10 million because that’s one of my goals right now, but I ran out of gems so I couldn’t keep going. I fear I may never clear that goal, as that same run only got me to 8.9 million points. I have a buddy whose high score is 27 million, and this guy is ridiculous.

The layout of the path my runner follows bothers me. Three right turns should have me crossing the path I already ran, but it never does. I guess a path that is somehow suspended in mid-air should bother me more than that fact, but it’s the turns that get me. Plus the mine cart sections. Ugh. Those are the worst. And I want to know the story on the creature that’s chasing me. I mean, I get that he’s mad I took his golden idol buddy, but what exactly is he?

Despite these issues and questions, I’m still playing, so I guess the gamemakers have done their jobs. I have this weird feeling I’ll never understand exactly why I play this game.

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