Video games are a hobby that seem to demand players find ways to delve deeper. From collecting to going for high scores players find many different ways of getting deeper experiences from games and challenge runs are one of the best.
While collecting is definitely fun, it costs money. Challenge runs are simple: play the game with a constriction that informs your play experience. Some challenge run ideas might be to do a total stealth/no kills run of games that allow it, use specific character or classes in an RPG, or maybe a permadeath run where after the first death you start over.
There are games that come with their own challenge modes, like the Binding of Isaac Rebirth which has a wonderful series of challenges that open up through play, however some fans go the extra mile and mod games for challenge. Final Fantasy Tactics has a popular difficulty mod, and through the Insane Difficulty site people can find other difficulty mods. Like speed running challenges have bred their own communities expanding what's possible and are worth a look if you're interested.
However the one we're talking about today is the blind run: going into a game with no idea what's happening and not letting yourself look up info about the game. What's interesting to me is you only have one shot. After a person plays a game you can't un-play it; you know what's happening and you know what to expect.
While it is great to figure out a challenge you like to delve deeper into a classic, and there are loads of FAQs regarding how to do different challenges if you're interested, the blind run is something you can only do once.
A decision must be made and without the help of outside forces a player has to really examine how the game works. Does the game have a clear tutorial stating how the game plays or do you get more subtle clues as to gameplay mechanics? Doe the atmosphere or music tip the player off to obstacles or is there a disconnect between what the player is shown and what actually happens?
How many times have you been told by friends "oh, watch out for this boss" and been able to prepare? I mean Chapter 7 of Valkyria Chronicles really does come out of nowhere. Final Fantasy Tactics does the same thing at one point. While these are all obstacles that can be overcome playing a game blind totally changes the experience. On one hand it does lead to a question of whether these difficulty spikes are well designed there's a sense of awe that a player just can't get having been told these things are going to happen.
Recently I've been playing King's Field 4, it's a great game, but I've been trying to run it blind. It doesn't explain some things as well as it could, but without any sort of guide I have this new appreciation for how many context clues the game provides and how subversive it is on top of this. Though it often gives players clues about secret passages, a dungeon crawler staple, there are some secrets I've found out of sheer experimentation due to not knowing how to proceed.
The experience has a purity to it that's very compelling. I didn't know how to proceed at one point and decided to drop down this hole-I died every time before but with some new armor and a bit more health I wanted to see if this was the right path.
But wait, there was a pool of water, and while you can't swim you have a few seconds to hold your breath so maybe there's something I need to find down there. Under the water I realize this was a terrible idea and thank my stars for my constant saves (blind run rule #1) but I also find what looks like a hatch. Maybe I can click on it to empty the water out. This life is doomed, but if I really push for it next time this might be a new path.
Piranhas come out. I'm already drowning and Fromsoft decides to let me release piranhas. There's a sense of humor and discovery that I wouldn't have experienced if I had read some guide and followed an optimal path. Failure teaches us a lot in life and sadly so many games now seem to not be interested in this aspect of a game.
So I know we all have busy lives, time is money and all that, but I hope more players think for a bit about a game they plan to play and weigh doing a blind run. You can always give up if it gets too hard, but you'll never have that opportunity again.
Blind run might not be for every game, and they might not be for every gamer, but I think they're a challenge that anybody can do. So, as the gaming holiday season begins to explode, why not do what gaming media wants and swear off game media so you can enjoy games? It just makes sense.