The Beginner's Guide (2017)
At the outset of starting The Beginner’s Guide, I didn’t really know what to expect. I heard is a short 2 hour game that everyone NEEDS to play. I knew it was a short so I didn’t want to spend the $20 or so bucks on it when it released. But I heard everyone talk about it in such a positive light that I wanted to play it. I think I ended up finally getting it in some sort of Humble Bundle a while ago, and ended up finally sitting down and playing the game with my wife.
As soon as you start, it is pretty recognizable where you are. A small section of what appears to be Dust2 from Counter-Strike. Then a narrator starts talking about his friend that used to make game and never showed them to anyone, so he is releasing these as a why to maybe encourage his friend to make games again. This premise is fantastic, its a really interesting, new, and human plot. You instantly feel for the narrator. He’s just trying to help his friend, something that everyone can connect to.
So the first few levels/”games” are very small and the narrator picks apart he games and explains what the idea was for them, and why they are flawed. Almost in a Game Design 101/”Inside Baseball” sort of way. The way Valve as does some commentary on Half-Life/Portal. It’s a idea that I could really get behind….Until the narrator started picking apart a glitch and searching for a deeper meaning that clearly wasn’t there. You walk into a beam and die, instead of just dying and restarting a level over, you start floating up and clip through the ceiling, still floating upwards. Then he starts talking about a deeper meaning, like “Oh maybe this glitch represents the loneliness of space and how even if we sacrifice ourselves, we do it for selfish reasons and we are always alone in this world.
Right there I stopped. It was so ham fisted, so up it’s own butt. So pretentious. I stopped and quit the game, I tried to return back to it a couple times, but for whatever reason I was not able to start the game up again. I was finally able to install it on another PC and play it in a hotel room as I wanted to finish what I started, even though I didn’t like where the game seemed like it was heading.
So starting over again, I get past the overly pretentious part and continue on. Now we start the good part of the game. We see the levels have more design, short little tech demos/proof of concept games, and the narrator explains this well, and even manipulates the game in a way for us to get through it quickly once we get the point. It’s really interesting, it’s a peek behind the curtain of game making a bit. The levels progressively get more complex and have different ideas or iterate on ideas from previous games. Honestly, I’m blown away by this game…
Then, it get as little “raw” maybe a bit too real, but also feels a bit pandering, a bit over acted as the games get darker and start to be more depressing, like watching the self destruction of someone because they feel like they “have to” keep making these games, even though the creator never released it publicly. This is the hard part of the game, the part where I’m very divided on what I think about it.
On one end, I think it’s really lame and bought the whole game to a grinding halt, where someone was just overreacting and was being more of a baby about it all.
On the other hand, I am a perfectionist, especially when it comes to game making and putting something out for people to enjoy. Usually the creator is always unhappy with the finally product, no matter how unbelievably good it is. There is always part of you that questions the value or quality of the creation, no matter what. So I do get the whole “Why am I doing this? Is this even good at all?” stuff that the creator starts slipping into his games.
The narrator does a really good job of trying to stay objective and just provide commentary for a while, seeing a friend slip into depression/self destruction would really hurt and he covey’s it really well. Until the end. The last level really felt lame. It’s basically a “I was the monster all along” story reveal, that I’ve never been a fan of. That’s really all there is to it and I’m still torn on how I feel about this game as a whole. I think this game has an unbelievably interesting plot and ideas, which made me really want to get back into designing games. But.. the way the game tries to present it in it’s last half of a depressing story really threw me for a loop as that’s not the turn I was expecting it to take. It felt very heavy handed by the end and I kinda started to sour on it as it came to a close.
The Beginner’s Guide is a game that anyone who is interested in games should play, it gives you really interesting ideas, and shows you that games are only what you make of them. They don’t have to be a certain genre, or stick to a certain location or play style. They don’t have to be 80+ hours long. It can be a short 5 minute game if need be, whatever you want to make is ok. It’s your creation, and no one else. And I think that is where the conversation should stop with this game.