Papo Y Yo Creator Says Games Should Move Beyond Mechanical Challenge
We're being limited.
Challenge and difficulty exist in many forms, and increasingly, games are catching on to this fact. Recently the game Papo y Yo came under fire in reviews for failing to be challenging in the way most of us expect games to be--especially since its a puzzle game. Vander Caballero, mind behind Papo Y Yo and the inspiration behind the premise of the game, recently spoke to Bit Creature on the subject. When asked what games he played as a child, he says:
I really enjoyed Mario. What happened with Mario is that it brought us the notion of challenge. But it’s time to move past that. It limits what games can do. I want Papo & Yo to be challenging emotionally. I don’t want it to be challenging dexterity-wise or logic-wise, because emotion and rationality do not gel together. You cannot rationalize it, but you can feel it.
What this hits on is something that Bit Creature nails in an earlier article about how people saw Papo Y Yo and its lack of traditional difficulty.
I understand why most people reviewed Papo & Yo the way they did—most puzzle platformers want to be judged on the cleverness of their puzzles rather than their overall narrative impact. However, I think its time that let go of our rubrics for grading video games by our culturally defined genre expectations and by how challenging they are. Games like Journey, Dear Esther, and Papo & Yo transcend easy genre labels. They ask us to judge them not by how good a “game” they are, but on what they mean—what they say about us and the world we inhabit.
Maybe Papo & Yo isn’t a great “game”. Maybe its something better altogether. We can’t expect video games mature if we continue judging them by rubrics they have already transcended.
There's room for both types of 'challenge,' mechanical and emotionally. Maybe even both at once, if we can pull it off and it's appropriate! So why do we keep acting as if games can or should only provide mechanical difficulty?