You Have to Burn the What?

Geeky Wednesday posts on this blog generally feature a song, picture, video or literary excerpt. Today’s post is a little different.

This particular Geeky Wednesday features a video game. Most games are far too long for this blog, but this one can be completed in a couple of minutes. If you don’t want to play it, that’s fine; I’ll explain in just a moment why this weird, wonderful little game is significant.

If you’ve ever played a video game, spare a few minutes of your life and give You Have to Burn the Rope a try. The game’s controls are up arrow key to jump, down arrow key to throw axes and left and right arrow keys to move left and right, respectively. (As with YouTube videos, a brief ad may play before the game begins.)

Go forth, brave reader, and burn the rope!

You Have to Burn the Rope is a joke, a critique of the video game industry or an exercise in postmodernism. I’m honestly not sure which it is.

Right from the start, the game gives the player the following facts:

  1. There’s a boss at the end of this tunnel
  2. You can’t hurt him with your weapons
  3. To kill him you have to burn the rope above

Thus the player proceeds along the tunnel and finds the game’s one and only boss, the Grinning Colossus. This towering enemy can’t be hurt by the player’s axes, leaving the player to snatch a torch from the wall and burn the rope above the boss. Burning the rope sends a chandelier crashing down upon the boss’s head… and that’s the game. You have burned the rope. The end.

As the credits roll, the player is rewarded extravagantly by this wonderful song.

“Congratulations!” exclaims the song. “You’re the hero we all wish we could be! You made it through the tunnel and grabbed that fire from the wall! You burned the rope and saved us all! Now you’re a hero! You managed to beat the whole damn game!”

The irony here is obvious. This short, easy game gives the player step-by-step instructions on how to overcome its only obstacle—heck, the game’s title gives away the only strategy needed to beat it—and then congratulates the player as though completing the game were an extreme challenge.

Since a friend of mine recommended You Have to Burn the Rope a long time ago, I’ve wondered what its developer is trying to say. Is the game an elaborate joke? Is it a protest of how modern video games are becoming too easy and rewarding players for negligible achievements? Is it a postmodern deconstruction of traditional video game design?

I don’t get it. All I know is that you have to burn the rope.


This post was originally published on March 12, 2014. TMTF shall return with new content on April 20, 2015!

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