I have a buddy who describes Super Meat Boy in three letters. The three letters stand for the essence of what Super Meat Boy is at the core. The three letters are ABS, which is quite the acronym. It stands for “always be sprinting”, which is essentially the attitude of Super Meat Boy. It eats what we traditionally know as a genre and vomits it out unabashed at the grotesque nature of the genre’s reincarnation. That is some heavily gruesome imagery, but Super Meat Boy tends toward the gruesome in a genre full of color and joyous scenery. Likewise, Team Meat, vaunted developers of Super Meat Boy, used it to flip nearly all other platformer conventions into fully new ideas, which shines a light onto what the modern gamer is drawn towards.
There are a smattering of platformers available right now. Go ahead, pull up Steam or Desura and search for platformers, then proceed to marvel at the billions. There is no problem with that; however, I would not bargain to guess that anyone has either heard of them or that they have seen any significant amount of success. Surprisingly though, Super Meat Boy hit it huge. Rightfully so, because it is a fantastic, addicting, and innovative game, which is instantly accessible. It also says something about the modern gamer as compared to the gamers of the 90′s; the setup is all about immediate payoff in an age of the attention deficit gamer whereas old games required the player to work and persevere for success.
Just think about the modern teenager. Everything is accessible to that teenager through their phone, internet, television, and tablet. There is no longer a need for the modern teenager to work for anything. The modern teenager should see no reason to sit down and play an engrossing 100 hour RPG, when they can play 3 levels of Super Meat Boy in a matter of 5 minutes. That is not to say that those 100 hour RPGs are not successful as Skyrim exists, but its obvious that gamers crave ease of accessibility. Even Skyrim is a walk in the park for the majority of gamers. The switch is to a casual style of gaming which is always rewarding the player instead of punishing the player.
Super Meat Boy is a near perfect example of the modern casual game and even though it is challenging, still manages to never truly make the player wait or suffer. If a player dies in Super Meat Boy they are instantly reincarnated to make another run at the level with no load screen or punishment. Players can beat Super Meat Boy‘s main story line in the first sitting if they ignore all the optional Dark World and Warp World stuff. Could you imagine beating Contra in a night? Super Meat Boy even eliminates enemy interaction because every enemy must be faced in the same way; by avoidance. Super Meat Boy becomes a casual game by streamlining the whole platformer process, most specifically the time required from a single sit-down.
Old style platformers all operated on similar conventions and the most successful template was from Mario series. Mario contained a myriad of long and difficult levels with no check points and limited lives. Players would have to take long periods of time to battle through these levels, and spend nights trying to learn the structure of each stage. I would argue that Mario would struggle to make it in this day and age abiding by that same style. It would still be successful, but not the mega hit it was in the 80′s and 90′s. Super Meat Boy requires much less time, attention, and commitment from the gamer. A player of Super Meat Boy can turn it on and play for 30 seconds and make similar progress percentage wise as a Mario player could in a half hour. But that is the thing. This is what players have begun to crave. Our attention spans have shortened, and our tolerance of difficulty has gone down.
Do not get me wrong, Super Meat Boy is a lovely game. It is cheeky and fun and definitely deserves your time. You can pick it up on Steam or on supermeatboy.com. I just think the community’s love affair with it goes beyond its fun. It is timely in a world which now has 1000 means of entertainment and is fully up for a quick thrill, even in gaming.