I like words. I write a lot of them everyday in different contexts. I think I have a fairly good grasp of the English language and understand the difference between nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. My confidence in my grammatical abilities has occasionally wavered, but never did it so much as when I played Super Scribblenauts on the Nintendo DS.
Super Scribblenauts was released to favorable reviews in late 2010, and it was the last game I got for my DS before my departure from handheld (non-mobile) gaming. I was on something of a puzzle game kick at that point with Professor Layton and Picross 3D, and this game readily fell into that niche. I briefly debated on whether or not to play the first Scribblenauts game, but none of the reviews I read said that it was an absolute prerequisite. And with a sale and a couple coupons, I got Super Scribblenauts at a price comparable to the original.
Super Scribblenaut’s side-scrolling premise was pretty simple. You played as a little guy named Maxwell with a star on his shirt and a pencil in his hand. His goal was to collect “starites” by inputting words, mainly adjectives and nouns, to complete puzzles. You had to use your imagination to come up with the word or words to finish a puzzle and get the starites in each level.
From YouTube user GamesMediaPro.
Super Scribblenauts was super cute, and there seemed to be an almost endless combination of words and phrases that could be used to complete any given puzzle. There weren’t really any “right” answers (though the game did have a vocabulary), so long as your answers fit the puzzle’s parameters.
I’ll reiterate here that I like words; and I liked Super Scribblenauts until, that is, it revealed a very personal and very significant deficiency:
I have no imagination.
Yes indeed, Super Scribblenauts revealed the terrible fact that I take the world too literally. In those moments when I needed to create a hairy pink ladder or a giant electric fuzzy armadillo, I couldn’t. I simply couldn’t muster the necessary creativity. I progressed fine through levels where the answers were obvious; but I simply sunk when I had to come up with a magical string of words out of thin air. Ultimately, Super Scribblenauts made me feel old, inflexible, and terribly pedestrian.
Super Scribblenauts did not make me want to crawl under a rock and die (even though large parts of my imaginative childhood apparently had already). I mean, I did kinda hate myself for being so bad at this fun title (and it really is a fun game, if you have the mind for it), but it made me take a step back from my relationship not only with games but also with writing. I had fallen into something of a rut with both and decided to re-evaluate things, see if and how I could remove a few roadblocks. This was all during a period of transition, long commutes, moving, etc.; and while I don’t have the fondest memories of Super Scribblenauts, it came at a fortuitous time. It planted the seeds for this blog, in fact, as I thought then about ways to be more creative with my writing.
So while I look back upon Super Scribblenauts with notions of what could have been, I look forward with a bit of thankfulness. I’m glad that the game brought forth disappointment because it compelled me to expand, and it schooled me in ways no other game had before.