Response to Matthew Thomas Payne and Stephen Campbell’s “Super Meat Boy”

I was a little surprised when I first heard that I wasn’t the only presenter who would be talking about Super Meat Boy at the eighth annual Games+Learning+Society conference (GLS 8.0). My first thought was that many excellent games came out between GLS 7.0 and GLS 8.0, and that there was already a huge array of other recent and classic games that could benefit from being well played with the aim of informing games and learning research. After thinking it over briefly, I
realized that SMB receiving more academic attention than other games really wasn’t very surprising at all. McMillen and Refenes’s indie platformer has been something of a banner bearer for the contemporary indie games movement. As a result, multiple played perspectives on SMB are particularly useful in furthering the multidisciplinary project of video game studies. It also became immediately evident when I read Payne and Campbell’s paper that the analysis of SMB they have conducted not only provides a thorough and enjoyable exploration of the game from a media studies lens, but also serves as an interesting complement to my approach. Their read focuses on the construction and significance of SMB as a media artifact within a long stream of played experiences. Mine examines personal played experiences of failure and learning. Between the two, an understanding of the Meat Boy experience takes shape that points towards certain consistent features of what it means to have played Super Meat Boy well.

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