“Press B to Continue”
During the Summer of 2016, I hit my breaking point with oatmeal. I was living in a single dorm room at Université Laval in Quebec, with no air conditioning and no refrigerator (renting one cost like $45 CAD). All of my food had to be able to survive storage in an 80+ degree dorm room, and had to be microwaveable. This limited my options to, effectively, canned spaghetti, cups of noodles, cups of Minute Rice, and oatmeal.
Now I fucking love oatmeal, so this was fine. My only stipulation was that I only ever ate oatmeal if I could use milk as the liquid within which it was cooked (and I still do). With no fridge, and my utensils limited to a microwave in the student lounge and a Ziploc plastic container, I had to make do with water. This was how I ate for maybe six or seven nights in a row.
On whichever night was the sixth or seventh, I took probably my fifth bite of oatmeal and a primal sort of fury shot through me. At that moment, it hit me. I hated oatmeal. I had turned the food I ate for a sort of comfort breakfast the entirety of the prior year into a reminder of my existential state. Oatmeal, watered down, lukewarm, eaten in the sweaty, thick air of a Laval dorm room in a surprisingly sweltering Quebec City July, was all I could give myself.
The next day, I dropped the $45 and rented myself a refrigerator. I couldn’t do it again. I couldn’t just put myself through that shit again. It turned from food into torture in a matter of seconds.
I tell that long-winded anecdote because I just felt the Oatmeal Fury again.
A mid-game boss fight in Devolver Digital’s The Messenger, one depicted by this incredible, colorful, thematically and aesthetically impressive pixel art, underscored by fantastic 8-bit music, with a sort of action-puzzling mechanic at which I’ve been chipping away. I know how to beat them. I just need to survive a few attacks and I should, eventually, knock them down and move on to the next stage. Two of their attacks aren’t unavoidable, but I can only get through them without taking any damage about 60% of the time. If this fight was, like, ninety seconds shorter, I would be done with it, and I feel like I’d be satisfied with it, too. I jump, I slash, I dodge, I wait.
Some bullshit orbs kill me because I jumped a half-second too late.
The demon thing (whose name I’ve forgotten and don’t care to look up) that respawns you has another quip. I’ve seen all of the things he says, I’ve died enough. I don’t read it. I let the game hang on that screen as long as I can. Every time before this, I’ve pressed B to continue. I’ve pressed B. I’ve continued. I’ve died. Maybe I’ve progressed but most of the time, I haven’t. I mostly can deal with this, I normally don’t have an issue with going back to the last checkpoint. Some bits get tedious, sometimes I have to think a few extra seconds on that screen before pressing B again. Before now, every time, I’ve done it. I’ve pressed B. I’ve fought through each frustrating screen, I’ve fought through each invigorating screen, and I’ve continued.
This time, I press the power button. I press the power button and put the Switch down on the table. I can’t do it again. I can’t just put myself through that shit again.