Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Health Meters

Image from
So my wife and I finally finished Jessica Jones and I really want to talk more about it in relation to Daredevil, Supergirl, the MCU, and the DCU, but I don't have time for that today because that will take a lot more work and research than I have because I'm still moving. (Although, I will be done soon--tomorrow in fact!)
Today, I want to talk about health meters.

Health meters have been an important aspect of gaming pretty much since its inception. A very quick glance at Wikipedia tells me that they were used in video games as early as 1983 with the stamina meter in Punch-Out. However, what's interesting to me is the progression of the health meter and its usages.

Sometimes the health meter was a bar--like in Mega Man or Robocop vs. Terminator, or Earthworm Jim. Sometimes it was a series of heart, like in Legend of Zelda. But the basic function was the same: measure how many hits you can take before you die.

What's interesting to me are the games that didn't use health meters: Pac Man, Donkey Kong, the various Mario games. Those games, and many like them, involved perfection in order to complete the games. You played the game over and over and over and over and over, many infuriating times, until you were able to complete the level perfectly. And then you did it all over again. The point of those games is to eliminate all mistakes until you can get through the levels seamlessly. The levels get increasingly difficult to match your skill, but it still comes down to how well you can memorize the level, improve your reflexes, and master the game.

Games with health meters seem to imply something else. They're not about perfection, but rather, they're about the experience. True, some games with health levels are punishing and almost as difficult as the games without health meters, but the point stands that getting hurt once didn't end the game like it did when those barrels hit Mario in Donkey Kong. You have a little wiggle room.

Especially interesting to me is how we include items in the game that will replenish our health meters and allow us to progress further than if we were simply given a finite amount of health and expected to beat the game (or level) with just that amount. It's almost philosophical to me--it acknowledges that we all need some time to recharge, something to replenish our health levels. We all need to heal.

I've been doing a lot of recharging lately. Focusing on moving and working as hard as I can at work and making preparations for the approaching holidays has me feeling a little worn, and I've found myself seeking comforting things to give myself time to rest, to recharge, to complete another level tomorrow.

If it seems like life is getting too difficult for you, try to take the time to refill your health meter. Whatever your health pack is, whether its a first aid kit, candy bar, potion, watching a beloved TV show, remembering to take your medication, or reading a favorite book, you deserve to take the time to take care of yourself.