Vulnerable Characters Make Me Feel Stronger

Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is a game where you’re some kind of demon slaying badass sent to an island taken over by a Lovecraftian curse to badassily slay seven powerful demons. Hollow Knight is a game where you are an adorable little bug exploring the ruins of a fallen arthropod kingdom, slowly unraveling what happened to this place and how to stop it from spreading.

Now, I’m biased in favor of Hollow Knight because it is my favorite video game and Morbid is a game that is pretty okay. But I think part of the reason why I like Hollow Knight better is that the protagonist is small and cute and I think this better suits the high-ish difficulty and threatening atmosphere the two have in common. In Hollow Knight, my avatar seems small and vulnerable compared to the world I’m exploring, so if I get my ass kicked by a boss a couple of times, then I feel like that’s a pretty reasonable result under the circumstances, and when I get good enough at a boss to breeze through, I feel like a tiny and adorable god of war. In Morbid, my avatar seems like she should be pretty good at this right off the bat, and while the dodge-roll-and-strike gameplay isn’t unfamiliar to me so I’m able to chew through the early content with only a bit of effort, whenever I do get killed, it feels like more of a failure.

Logically speaking, the odds are pretty equally stacked in either game (and whether you say they’re stacked against me or in my favor has a lot to do with how much you weight win:loss ratio versus which side of the conflict is ultimately victorious – that I get infinite retries is a minor advantage in the first context but overwhelming in the second). But in Morbid, the presentation of the game feels like success is to be expected and defeat is a failing, whereas in Hollow Knight the presentation makes me feel like defeat is to be expected and success means I’m an absolute legend.

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