So last week the release date for The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth was announced. Here’s my relationship with the original Binding of Isaac: over 300 hours of game time, every single thing that could be unlocked unlocked. Isaac was my obsession in grad school, the game I turned to when I had a few spare minutes in between my rushing around doing research or teaching labs. Honestly, it’s a perfect game for short play - you’ll die early and often and you don’t have to feel bad about it. But I got better.
I got better and game lengths got longer and it was still an obsession. I’d stay up way too late because I already got home way too late and I couldn’t bear to go to sleep without doing something other than pluck snail egg cases from mesh or try and feed crabs without getting pinched all day. Eventually the game opened up to me and I hit milestone after milestone. I love that game, dearly and truly.
I was thinking about it, wondering if I could love Rebirth as much. Not because I deride the idea of a remake - even if there wasn’t a whole slew of new content I wouldn’t be against the new art style or it running better. No, I think that Isaac (much like the Evil Dead) came into my life at just the right time to become an enduring obsession.
My grad school time was hard - I lacked help, guidance, a support system that wasn’t also mired in trying to survive a master’s degree. The game takes a boy who is out of his depth, completely lost, hunted and hurt by the people he trusted to keep him safe. Hell, his weapon is literally the tears that he cannot stop. As someone who cried a whole fuckton in those two years that mechanic speaks to me. Wouldn’t it be nice if my own tears could solve my problems? They didn’t, of course, but the outlet of this game doubtlessly helped me make my own way.
So yeah it’s a crude game, a goofy game, a dark game, but it helped keep me together. I am in a much better place now, out of grad school and with a job in my major. So will Rebirth hit me as hard? I’m sure the game will still be fun, and the joy of discovery will still be there, but I don’t know if I’ll stay up as late, think about it as much. I don’t know if I can quite be there with Isaac in that basement anymore.