Hades teaches us that “failure” is normal
You see, the point of Hades is to fail — over and over and over again. The game stars Zagreus, the son of Hades and Prince of the Underworld, who is sick of living under his father’s constant criticism and yearns to escape the land of the dead.
Zagreus becomes even more emboldened when he discovers that his mother is the goddess Persephone. The average player will get Zagreus killed a dozen times in their first escape attempt. With each death, they’ll be returned to Hades palace, where a colorful cast of characters (including Hades himself) will be there to encourage or insult him.
But even after you finally manage to reunite Zagreus with his mother, the game isn’t over. Because Zagreus is bound to the Underworld, he can never stay in the realm of the living for more than a day. His own mother tells him that his quest was doomed from the start.
And yet, Zagreus will persist. Because of that, so will you. You will fight through the Underworld and die many times, maybe even a hundred times. Zagreus will learn a bit more about what happened with his parents and Olympus with every attempt. You will learn how to better tackle your next run.
Hades is more than just fun — it’s also instructive
Therein lies the beauty of Hades, which was officially released very fortuitously in Sept. 2020. A great video game does three things: (1) It “plays” very well, (2) It’s challenging (mechanically, artistically or both) and (3) It makes you feel something.
Hades fulfills all three of those things masterfully but it also does a fourth: it taught us how to get through the hellish year that was 2020.
If you stick with Hades and beat it 20 times, you’ll be rewarded with the true ending of the game. Zagreus completes his long quest and learns a great deal not only about the circumstances surrounding his parents, but also about himself and what he’s capable of.
Most players will spend over 100 hours to get this ending. Anybody can do this regardless of skill level, but like Zagreus, they’ll need to depend on the one thing. It’s the same thing that kept Zagreus going.
In the story of Pandora’s box, the first human woman Pandora inadvertently brought ruin to the world by opening a jar. The jar held all the inescapable sources of suffering we now have in the world such as death and disease.
But one thing remained in that jar: hope. It’s the same thing that Zagreus carries in his heart as you take him through dozens of deaths and failed attempts.
Hades is the 2020 game to lead us into 2021
2020 was a brutal Pandora’s box that contained the COVID-19 pandemic, racial injustice, mass unemployment and economic instability. Many of us may be looking back on this year feeling like they failed something. Maybe we didn’t get the job we wanted or we lost a connection with someone or the goals we set in 2019 didn’t come true.
But as Hades teaches us, “winning” is rarely about victory. Just because you failed doesn’t mean you did something wrong.
We can all learn a lot from Zagreus. With each “failure,” he confided with his close friends and opened up about his struggle. He took time to reflect and learn something from each attempt. When he was overwhelmed, he went easy on himself and rested.
For these reasons, Hades is my pick for the best video game of 2020. I wholeheartedly endorse this game to everyone.
As we leave 2020, let’s enter 2021 with the same hope that Zagreus taught us to carry in our hearts.
If you liked this article, check out these 3 video games that tackle mental health and illnesses.
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