Celeste – Overcoming the Mountain


You may have heard a few things about
hot new indie game Celeste. For one Celeste is a bit tricky. Classic Nintendo levels of challenge. Pixel perfect jumps mad puzzles and the like. Due to this and its retro aesthetic there have been comparisons to top tier
indie platformers like Super Meat Boy as well as golden era classics like Mega
Man 2 and Mario 3. It is also a truly amazing game. IGN gave it a perfect 10. It has a universal acclaim rating on Metacritic and currently sits as the
third best rated game on Switch. But I think what elevates it beyond its
indie platformer brethren is its heartfelt story. The tale of young Madeline’s self-imposed struggle to climb the eponymous mountain. The mountain, as is often the case in fictional works,
is a metaphor A metaphor for her anxiety and depression. Your task in Celeste is to overcome all three. Celeste’s mechanics
seemly complement her struggle, with real-world anxiety there can be an
overhanging sense of dread, that every potential little mistake you make
feels like the end of the world. This is usually referred to as aversion anxiety, ones inner struggle to get anything done due to being uncomfortable or unwilling
to continue in certain circumstances. In the game mistakes are numerous and
deaths constant. The lack of lives system shows that it’s okay to make mistakes and the instant respawn shows
that even after a fuckup you are never further back than if
you didn’t do anything at all. There is no punishment for not succeeding within a time frame or within a certain number of tries. This all combats that ever-present controller-breaking frustration of harder games. It may be hard but the game seems to say
“if you keep trying you will overcome whatever challenge
you’re up against.” This continues on with the greater challenges ie the strawberries and the B-side/C-side tapes. These are not essential to completing the game and this is stressed upon with the game’s friendly non-threatening postcard load screens. You don’t need to collect all the strawberries. They are there only if you want a greater
challenge, just to impress your friends. You don’t need to drive yourself to
distraction attempting to get every secret. They are there for your own peace of mind,
your own measure of success. The mental health subtext is probably at its most overt when Madeline races against the other part of herself. A composite of her doubts and worries embodied
by a goth re-skin of herself. Madeline at first
tries to outrun these feelings before eventually facing them head-on. Though super hard, fighting depression in its physical embodiment is extremely satisfying. The game itself is all-consuming. The Switch is great for half paying attention to games with either the TV in the background or
music playing over the top but with Celeste all of my mind space
is taken up by the game. I know that if I don’t have the game’s epic score audible the timings get harder to hit. All other real world troubles cease to exist, just the game and this current screen’s obstacles. Another reason Celeste is really connecting with people is the narrative relates to them directly. It’s not a case of wish fulfillment,
of being someone other than yourself. Sure you play as Madeline
but she’s the typical every girl, with worries, exes and plenty of relatable traits. The genre standards of saving the world or the
princess have lost their allure they’re too impersonal.
The world is fucked either way Celeste focuses on the inner turmoil. Princesses don’t need to be saved anymore. They have the agency to save themselves. In a way Madeleine is the princess saving herself from her negative thoughts, to overcome them and reach her self-realized goal. Other games have explored mental health in its various forms but mostly in a cringy damaging way with all too many psychotic antagonists. That is until recently. Last year Hellblade notably focused on psychosis within its gameplay its sound design when paired with headphones gives a player the experience of dealing with the crippling voices voices and self-doubt that typifies the condition. This combined of the game’s warnings of finite lives give the player a game of actual consequences. Darkest Dungeons with its sanity system also gave
some weight to its adventurer’s mental well being in the face of unthinkable Eldritch horrors. Of course in real life, there is no PTSD gauge but the fact that is something you need to be aware of is admirable. Many gamers use video games as
a way to deal with their symptoms. You can check out Nakey Jakey’s recent video on the depression combating qualities of Dark Souls difficulty and this is great and progressive. One in four people will experience a mental health problem this year and any way that people can find to treat these
symptoms is to be championed. Awareness has increased over the last few years, with celebrities coming out about their inner mental struggles The stigma has lessened but there’s still a hurdle present in allowing people to talk about
it comfortably. Video games can be a way to bridge that gap Everyone’s struggle is different though and if your experience doesn’t sync up with
the one that Celeste presents then that’s okay too. Without the trappings that I’ve spent the last minutes talking about, it’s still a dazzling platformer that will deeply impress you with its depth. Just grab the controller,
let the soundtrack wash over you and make those first steps forward. You can thank me later.

9 thoughts on “Celeste – Overcoming the Mountain

  1. i really feel like u deserve more views man, you put so much work on the flow of your videos and the analysis part, and the thumbnails also show that u put a lot of effort on your videos

  2. So glad this game is getting a lot of attention, it deserves it. I really enjoyed the video man! I loved the bit about how Madeline isn't a case of wish fulfillment, but instead something the player can really get behind. I think projecting yourself onto a romanticized hero is what a lot of people look for in gaming, but its refreshing to see Celeste take a detour from the well worn path. I made a video about Celeste as well, and how the level design makes you feel what Madeline is going through if you're interested. I think this game needs much more attention than it has. Fantastic work, you've got another subscriber. Looking forward to more!

  3. this game is helping me fight depression and anxiety! thank you. remember youre worth something to someone somewhere, somehow, someway, sometime.

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