I've heard researchers say there is no link between video games and violence. These people have clearly never played Spelunky. Never has a game filled me with such rage, with such hatred, with such contempt as Spelunky. The designer of Spelunky, Derek Yu, rarely leaves his home without a
bodyguard. Identifying himself as "the guy who made Spelunky" usually ends with him being unceremoniously punched in the nose.
Is it a great game? It most certainly is. It may be the greatest game ever conceived. It's challenging, it's unpredictable, it's full of depth and secrets. It looks and sounds great and it controls well. It is impeccably well-designed. Even after a thousand attempts, you won't have mastered it. Each time you play, you may learn a new detail to improve your play.
And yet, suffer you will.
Eventually, you'll take to the internet for help. You'll read wikis. You'll read strategy guides. You'll watch jerks on Twitch TV making the game look easy. You'll watch videos on YouTube of people beating the game in less than five minutes.
And yet, your nearly every attempt at the game will end in tears. You'll be left wishing you had just one more bomb, just one more rope. You'll be wishing you had robbed that shopkeeper when he had a jetpack. You'll be wishing you never entered that cursed black market. You'll swear that getting through the giant spider level in the dark was impossible. You'll play the Daily Challenge religiously, every day, always to be beaten by at least a hundred other players. You'll finally, finally, make it to the super-secret level, and then be killed instantly.
And yet, continue you will. For Spelunky is more than a game. It is a self-fullfilling insanity loop. It is a labyrinth of aggravation, addiction and delayed gratification in which your retribution and rewards are always within reach, yet inexplicably never attainable.
Soon the only thing you'll hate more than Spelunky will be yourself. Every missed jump, every wasted bomb, every poor decision, every careless death will tear another tiny piece from your heart. Finally, reduced to a soulless husk, clutching a battered gamepad, you will still find the energy to tap X to try again. Just one more time. And instantly regret it.
Do I love Spelunky? I certainly do. Do I recommend you drown in the same river, born of my tears, that I've swum in? No, I do not.