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Games are ruthless things, designed to be overcome. They are mountains to be scaled. Opponents to be fought. Foes to be stomped.

But do they have to be?

Kirby's Dream Land seems like an easy, unassuming game, but is a title that upended what the medium was about. It was an experience built so that all players would feel welcome in gaming, designed to teach people how to play and how to enjoy their time within the world of games regardless of skill level. It turned up its nose at the perception that games had to be hard to be valuable, instead showing the power to be found in allowing all to feel the joy of playing games.

Pleasant Dreams: The Welcoming Play of Kirby's Dream Land offers an unofficial in-depth analysis of the elements of Kirby's Dream Land's design that opened it up to players who might not be traditionally "skilled" at games, as well as the writer's own story of finally feeling like games were something he could enjoy. Peppered with discussions and fond memories from developers and game journalists who grew up with Kirby, it looks to examine the attitudes around difficulty in games, the elements that made Kirby's Dream Land more than just an "easy" game, and how accepting yourself (with help from a cheerful puffball) can help you finally find the ability to grow.

StatusReleased
CategoryBook
Rating
Rated 5.0 out of 5 stars
(6 total ratings)
AuthorJoel Couture
TagsGame Boy, Game Design

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(-1)

Loved your complete analysis, it helped me feel better with not always being strong enough in games (although im still on the journey of accepting it !)

I started reading this book without any expectations at all... And I was very pleased I did so.

This book is, essentially, a long-form review of a game from three decades ago, but it's filled with charming personal anecdotes about the author's childhood and how Kirby's Dreamland's easily approachable gameplay had a lasting impact on his life.

I had never played Kirby's Dreamland prior to reading, so I just booted it up on my SD2SNES and (without any childhood nostalgia at all) I can say that Joel's main thesis holds up.

 And I can't wait to introduce my 4 & 6 y.o. kids to this game tomorrow. When they're older, I'll give them my copy of this book to read, too.

I'd recommend this book to parents looking to get their young children interested in old-school gaming, anyone nostalgic for the 8-bit era, and for any fans of ludology (the study of games).

(1 edit) (+1)

This was an absolute joy to read and I loved the personal aspects and how you spoke about how the game affected your own confidence and ability to feel free to experience and enjoy games for the sake of playing them. I have similar experiences myself, and I feel like the emergence of the wholesome games movement speaks to the message that I am not alone in feeling this way. Maybe Kirby was the voice that needed to begin this movement, but now it is kept alive by the creativity of the many indie developers who give new life to it every day.

(+2)

This book was such a joy to read. I’m not a huge gamer, but I am a big Kirby fan and have played many of the Kirby games in the franchise. The author makes wonderful points about gaming, and specifically about Kirby’s Dream Land, that I hadn’t realized. There was a lot of learning about life, social interactions, gaming, and Kirby! There was some repetition in the book, but the repetition builds on itself and the themes in the chapter. 

Something that I would have liked, moreso because it is personal preference, is if the chapters of the books had titles to let me know what the main topic was, especially given some of the repetition, though, the quotes at the beginning of each chapter does provide that context. I’m grateful to have been able to read about one of my favorite characters and get more insight about this game, but also about gaming and self development.

This was a really nice read! I played Kirby's Dream Land in the Kirby 20th Anniversary Collection when I was still fairly new to games and although my memories of that period are sparse, I do remember feeling at ease with the game compared to struggling at other games like Mega Man or the Mario DS games. This in-depth exploration of the design behind that atmosphere was very enjoyable and it makes me want to pick up the game again.