There is a new genre of platformers on Twitch that is simultaneously captivating audiences and infuriating streamers. These games are not for the faint of heart and apparently seem to tap into a dark, sadist lust the likes of which have not been seen on the popular streaming service, until now.
What may be considered a descendant of QWOP, this trio of frustrating games: Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy, Pogostuck, and Jump King, has graced the internet with an unparalleled degree of pathos on Twitch that just might validate the existence of streaming itself.
Schadenfreude-vanias: A Twitch Sensation
Schadenfreude, pronounced shahden-froid, is a German word meaning "pleasure derived by someone from another person's misfortune." These games are popular on Twitch precisely because they make anyone who plays them very, very upset. This is because these games all share three common mechanics:
- The controls are intentionally unintuitive. This adds a layer of difficulty that makes these games difficult to learn and even when you do, you never quite get a feel for the controls or commit them to muscle memory.
- Progress is extremely slow. These games aren't difficult to understand, in fact, the task in front of you is always easy to see: move your character from one place to another. However, just moving a few inches across the screen may take hours. This means that progressing takes incredible patience and perseverance.
- Setbacks are common, and devastating. Moving forwards an inch might take you hours. Moving backwards, on the other hand, takes only a fraction of a second, and it will happen A LOT. When it does, you are going to lose tons of hard earned progression over, and over again.
The first game, Getting Over It, released in December 2017 with a very basic description: "A game I made for a certain kind of person. To hurt them." Getting Over It is a game in which you use a sledgehammer to carefully make your way up a mountain. It was an immediate hit on Twitch and attracted big name streamers like SweetAnita and Shroud to test their resilience. Some screamed, some cried, all were left broken. Viewers absolutely loved it.
It's All Fun And Games Until Someone Loses Their Mind
In fact, the experience of watching these streams is almost the inverse of playing the game: we begin by sharing in the player's feelings of tension and foreboding, sitting at the edge of our seat, holding our breath, waiting for the inevitable to happen. When it finally does, and the player falls, they feel destroyed, but WE feel ELATED. It's as if the distance they fall is proportional to the amount of joy we derive from seeing it happen. Its like watching Nascar just to see a crash.They feel pain, but we feel excitement. It's sort of a twisted thought: watching people suffer is trending on Twitch.
The Pain-Game Arms Race
These games represent a new category on Twitch. They're sort of the opposite of esports: rather than watching some one who is a master at the game, you want to watch someone fail over and over and feed on their misery. The rate at which these games are popping up shows that developers know rage is a hot commodity right now. Currently the genre is in it's infancy and devs will need to ratchet up the misery if they are going to keep audiences interested. Pain, as my mistress would tell you, is like any drug; once you get hooked, it will take more and more of it to satisfy you.
Imagine an entire category of truly unpleasant games designed not for the player, but for the audience watching them play. Games that assault your sense with images and sounds. Games that take trolling to the extreme and punish you for playing them. Would it be so absurd to imagine a game shipping with a shock collar?
In the immortal words of Jeff Goldblum: Your game developers were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.