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Neon Rider World: Pick your path to procrastination

September 11, 2010

A few months ago a game was released that captured my attention, it was a hybrid of action puzzle and racing genres called Neon Rider and I enjoyed the game immensely and for a total of about 30 minutes. The basic premise of the game was you had a bike and you had to get to the end of the level. You could change the colour of your bike to ride along certain paths and the game required quick reflexes and the patience to try levels multiple times in order to complete them.

Now this game has been re-released with Neon Rider World, which allows players to create and share levels across the world, a feature that would have been excellent in the last version and best part of all you don’t need to create an account to rate and play levels!

This by itself makes the game very much worth a play, but combined with the brilliant neon design and the flowing transitions between screens you get a very smooth professional looking game here which always impresses the hell out of me.

Once a game manages to hook me (even if for only a few minutes) I start looking closely at the themes and motivations behind the game. A meta-theory begins to form, not about why the Neon Rider must get to his destination, but rather why the developers haven’t delineated or demarcated the goal zone at all. You’ll be happily riding along when all of a sudden, bang you’ve completed the level.

This always comes as a bit of a shock because whenever I finish a race be it in real life or in a game, there is always a line which one must cross that tells you, regardless of the result, that the race is over. You can stop now. However, in Neon Rider the line shifts, you can land in one spot and finish the game and then land in a different spot and still get the same result. It perplexed me to no end, but eventually I figured out why a solid unchanging line doesn’t exist in this game.

The first clue lay in the timing. Each game is timed, the lower your score the better, so the safest path you travel may not always be the quickest. The second clue came by the ability to do tricks and get power-ups, all which influence your final score. So moving from the start to the ethereal end point in a calm orderly manner may not be as efficient as riding like a bat out of hell with flips, jumps and popping wheelies like Tony Hawk on meth, all of which may yield you a substantially increased rewarding result.

I think that is the key here because when you look at the parallels in life, by taking the safe route, we often miss out on the most fun aspect of our lives. But Neon Rider takes this metaphor a few steps closer to reality and then infuses it with the sublime replay ability. And by closer to reality I mean the removal of the point of ending, which manifests in life almost exactly and I’m not talking about races and other sort of competition events in life but rather regular interactions with each other.

Now as an example, let’s say you’re having an argument with your significant other, it’s all about scoring points and trying to defeat your opponent. However, there will always come a time when you know that you’ve either lost or won the argument and that further conversation will no longer yield you anything positive. there is no line marking this point, no third party witness to hold up a flag and say “GAME OVER!” We all know that this point has been reached by retrospective view. And by that I mean, it’s never in the moment, you’re always reflecting that you’ve passed that point or to put it in the parlance of the scenario “you’ve crossed the line.”

This game mimics that reflective moment perfectly by never revealing exactly where the end point is. It’s always up to you and subsequent replays can see it shift dramatically depending on the actions you take.

And that brings me to my next point of replay. Earlier I mentioned that this game enters the sublime. It does this by allowing us to replay the level until we’ve reached a satisfactory conclusion. Imagine if we could do that in life, how many scenes or interactions of your life would you replay? Especially armed with the knowledge of how the previous one played out. This is the point of the sublime, not just the ability to replay events, but also the memory of how those events panned out the first time.

Look at it this way, if you replay the scenes of your life, without any knowledge of how they played out at first, then they will play out exactly the same way they did at first.

Now I know you’re all screaming Saul Kripke and his damn possible worlds scenario of a coin toss, perhaps it could go another way. But it wont, because without prior knowledge that coin will always land where it does and only then can a comparison be made.

Now Neon Rider, gives you that ability to travel back in time, or to other possible worlds and relive that scenario, armed with the knowledge of how it was. This is one of the abilities of the sublime. Somehow, the game has manifested this quality allowing us, perhaps for a singular perfect moment to be gods.

Play the game or replay it here.

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