Run Based Games as a Metaphor

There's a genre of video games known as “run-based games”. They can have any other characteristics they like, but run-based games are built with the expectation that you won't complete them the first time you play them. Think of old arcade games and you generally have the idea. You start the game, make it a little way in, then die. New quarter please! The next time you start at the same point, get a little deeper into the game, and die. Next quarter.

Over time you build up the skills to make more progress. You learn how to dodge, how to counter the attacks of the enemies in the game. In more modern run-based games you might acquire tools or permanent upgrades that make the game easier. The expectation is still that you will try, fail, try again. The kicker is this: if you were somehow perfect from the get-go, you could theoretically beat the game without any upgrades, on the first try. You won't, nobody will, but technically the only thing stopping you is your own lack of experience.

So that's the metaphor that makes me feel a little better these days. My current run is just over sixty days. But man, I have had some bad runs at getting free. In theory I could have just...walked away, right? Using is a choice, an action that I take using my own agency, so I can just choose not to. I could complete the game on the first run.

But, for me at least, it doesn't work that way. I tried and failed. And learned. And tried and failed and learned and tried and failed and gave up for a while. And tried again. And again.

And now I've made it deeper into recovery than I've been in years. I might fail again. It's very possible. But I might not. And for the first time in a long time that feels possible too. Maybe this time I'll beat the end boss.