Game Pile: Hinedere Beat

Hinedere Beat And Saying What You Mean

Script as follows:

Thinking a lot about words.

Thinking a lot about how we use them.

Thinking a lot about why I don’t use them.

Hinedere Beat is a dreamlike fluid parkour platformer with room-to-room puzzle-solving. It’s in the model of games like Prince of Persia, the original two in 2d, on a computer that is old enough to be mad about how young people are voting. In that particular model of game, levels are sort of labyrinths designed out of puzzles. Each room has some element of an individual problem to solve, but you still need to pick the right path through those rooms, one after another. In the original 80s games, you had to first work out the right place to go, then work out the way to get there without killing yourself.

Hinedere Beat is a little like that, but without so much of the grand labyrinth. Instead, you’re running through a reasonably linear, limited set of rooms which deliberately stop you from getting lost by encouraging you to instead keep going forward, forward, forward, and offers you a story as a way to incentivise that movement. And that story, I liked a lot. You might notice though that I’m just showing you gameplay and not any of the story. I’m not even showing you how this game shows you its story, and intentionally so. This is in part because the story is itself, pretty interesting and easily segregated out from the play experience meaning that you can go into it blind if you want to, but it’s also because it’s horny.

And it’s horny in a really specific way.

And that was one of the words I got thinking about. What is a horny game? In this case it’s a game where there’s a romantic plot, and it plays out and progresses from meeting to kissing to different types of sex – hand stuff if you’re feeling particularly detail oriented. There’s also a delicious dash of what I guess I’d normally call Anime Bullshit if I was trying to be dismissive about it but which serves as more sort of general warning label. Something that’ll surprise you if you’re not familiar with the media form, something forgettable if you are.

It’s horny, but like, the horny is part of the game? It’s not something that comes out of nowhere; a character is pretty forward, but it’s hardly a mystery. It has a feel to me of games from the late 90s that didn’t come with documentation, downloaded off sketchy sites that maybe didn’t work because your operating system couldn’t handle Japanese characters. There’s a characteristic of the visual novel to it, but also of that time of visual novel – where characters spoke in a particular cadence with an oddness to their word choice. I think it was back then that people like me learned a particular kind of roleplayed space aesthetic, with translators striving to represent Japanese sound effects resulting in english text like asterisk-gripping, or open bracket sharp breath close bracket.

Anyway, while there’s a oddness to it, it’s not an odd idea. You go on a date and have sex, it’s just the character of the date that isn’t standard. And that’s where we run into the next word to struggle with.

I hesitate to use the term ‘surreal’ for anything when I’m discussing games. This is not out of any kind of prestige for the term or any deep understanding. It’s actually oufo f the much more mundane and embarrassing reason that I know I don’t know what the term means precisely or meaningfully, and between theatre, film and art, my nerdosphere has people who I am pretty sure will judge me for using the term incorrectly. And hey, why should I use a term I don’t quite understand to invoke something I think I mean? Aside from that being how most language works if you believe Wittgenstein (and I kinda do). Without this word in my repertoire I have to consider what I mean when I try to reach for it.

I heard the term used to describe Inception a lot? And then subsequently, it means ‘like Inception’ to people, which also, funnily enough, often means ‘about the process of making a movie,’ which is what Inception mostly makes me think of. What I think I want to say when I intuitively reach for ‘surreal’ is not an invocation of incoherence, but rather, a description of the Dreamlike.

And, yeah, this game is dreamlike. It begins and it ends with your character waking up or falling asleep and it’s hard to say which and what it means, because the story features things like cybernetically controlled traditional Japanese ghosts, or rewriting your own past, robot drones and also is, again, a date. It’s weird! Pleasantly weird!

Inevitably though in a conversation around this kind of game, there’s another word that comes up, and that is flow. Flow is a term you probably know from this graph, or from someone else in a much more successful channel bringing it up, but its origin point is –

oh god help –

the book Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience, by Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi. And honestly, I’m sorry about how that sounded, but I’m doing my best. This book is one of those great Games Studies books in that it has an idea in it that lots of people have built out and explored, and stopped reading the second they got to the definition, because the book has some problems.

For you unfamiliar, Flow is a book about ‘flow states,’ which is so much just like being ‘in the zone’ that the wikipedia page lists both on each other’s disambiguation page. Without going in depth on the book, it’s an idea that psychologists and occupational therapists put to some use. Which is great! I’m glad it’s a term that’s useful for considering how people focus. My beef comes later in the book where Mihaly trots out such ideas as:

Part of the answer probably has to do with innate genetic causes. Some people are just temperamentally less able to concentrate their psychic energy than others. Among schoolchildren, a great variety of learning disabilities have been reclassified under the heading of “attentional disorders,”

Where he goes on to describe that people with attention disorders can’t achieve Flow, or True Enjoyment. But don’t worry he also throws people with anxiety conditions in as well, with:

A less drastic obstacle to experiencing flow is excessive self-consciousness. A person who is constantly worried about how others will perceive her, who is afraid of creating the wrong impression, or of doing something inappropriate, is also condemned to permanent exclusion from enjoyment.

It isn’t like Flow is a terrible concept, it’s just that when you read these statements, it kinda makes you wonder what this person knows about psychology at all. People who are anxious and people who are distracted are unable to attain true enoyment, unable to tap into flow states.

But this is also after a chapter in which he describes the ideal of people who do things not because of incentives but because of their entirely focused enjoyment of them. He calls this the autotelic personality. An autotelic personality, according to the book, is someone who is (probably) genetically born to be better at getting into a flow state, capable of discarding unnecessary stimuli to focus intensely on a project, and capable of doing things that may not seem even to be fun to some people purely for their own sake of enjoying the doing itself.

And all this is after he forwards that the Nazis, well, they were probably in a flow state presented to them by the propaganda of the war. It’s also before he suggested an inability to find enjoyment and fun in things was part of how African slaves in the Caribbean died out.

The book is from 1975. It’s old and it’s by an author who definitely had some weird opinions and bias against things like, say, well-supported socialist safety nets. It’s not to say Flow is an idea we should throw out necessarily. But it does make me wonder about when I want to use it to invoke an idea in a game, because the rest of that book has some frightful stuff in it that goes unexamined when you take one idea out of it.

This is a thing that games studies always does you know. I like making fun of Roger Caillois because of the misogyny and racism but it really is a rarified air in the genre. Caillois argued that the destiny of a culture can be seen in its games, and because Europeans played competitive games like Chess and Poker, which both gave you a way of handling random chance and a way to be competitively aggressive, that was why European culture dominated the world. The game dictated their destiny of domination and superiority. This was used in contrast with African games, which Caillois did not look at at all. If you’re a student of games, you might know that Chess is an Indian game, and Poker is a Persian game – and so to head this idea off at the pass, Caillois argued that Oriental cultures don’t experience the same drive to win at games because they were fundamentally non-innovative cultures.

Which is to say, he just, he just made up some racism.

And am I inviting in those ideas when I look at games, and use those words, without thinking about it? Hinedere Beat is a game with an anime aesthetic. It reminds me of Japanese videogames from the 90s. Its storytelling is disjointed and invokes manga stories I’m familiar with. And it does have after all, an amazing sense of flow.

Horny, surreal, flow.

I really liked this game, I liked the romance it told, and I liked how it interrupted that with being the coolest girl in the world doing ridiculously badass things to impress a cute girl you were on a date with.

And it made me think about words I use.