How long would you try and fail at something until you gave up? How about 1,143 days and nearly 2,500 hours hours? Would you take it as a sign you should move on?
Last August, Braden Moor sent me an email. It was update on his progress through Trials of Death, a twisted creation of his own making in Super Mario Maker, a nightmare that chews through Mario’s lives and the neverending patience of its singular player, Moor. (Super Mario Maker, cleverly, requires creators to beat the levels they’ve constructed before others can play them.) Trials of Death needs every second of the game’s eight minute timer to finish. He still hasn’t seen the end.
Here a small sample of the platformer purgatory he’s been dealing with:
“Reached the final section of the level!” he said then, a sense of optimism rippling through, as I wished him luck. I figured Moor would get back in touch soon-ish.
But months went by without any news, and no news is bad news. It meant Trials of Death remained undefeated, and Moor was still streaming his (so far fruitless) attempts on Twitch. I’ve written about Moor several times before, hoping the next update will bring some resolution. In September 2016, he’d clocked 385 hours. In July 2017, it was 1,500 hours. By January 2018, that number had risen to just under 2,000 hours. A year later, we’re at almost 2,500 hours, which is more than 104 days spent trying to tackle a single, undefeated Super Mario Maker level.
"I'm still not setting any deadlines for myself,” he told me in a year ago, “but I do have high hopes for 2018.”
I have a reminder on my phone to check Moor's Twitch every few months, because I’ve fully expected Moor to quietly, without fanfare, stop trying to beat Trials of Death. Every time I check, there’s a new video. Maybe a few days, or even a week, goes by—recently, he was waiting on a new computer—but he always returns.
“Feeling as confident as always,” he told me recently. “Ended up reaching the final section for the third time early December, and to date, I've been to the last four sections 28 times. Hoping my fourth visit to the last section will be the clear!”
Again, always the optimist. Moor doesn’t allow the endless failures to get in his way. He keeps pushing forward, figuring that at some point, the stars (and his fingers), will align.
“Sometimes it can be tough to find the motivation to start a session,” he said, “but once I'm a few minutes into it, I'm good to go. It really has become a routine.”
Super Mario Maker doesn't have a massively active community anymore, either. People are still playing it, but most have packed up their Wii Us in favor of Switches, waiting for the inevitable sequel. If Moor does beat Trials of Death, not many will be around to play it.
Moor’s streams are usually around two hours—sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. There’s no facecam, and he doesn’t talk. The sounds of Super Mario Maker are swapped for music, often heavy metal. Moor does interact with chat, but not in the usual way streamers do. Every once and awhile, he’ll type into the chat room. The people who are still showing up to these streams know what they’re in for.
When the session is over, he doesn’t ask them to like, comment, and subscribe. It ends.
Every so often, Moor nears the finish line, the end of his quest. If he dies, it’s back to square one. So much has to go right between the start and finish for Moor to reach this.
“Honestly, it's so much of a rush that it becomes a blur,” he said. “There's always that thought in the back of my mind that thinks ‘this could really be it.’ On the other hand, part of me doesn't realize the magnitude of the run I'm on until after it comes to an end. People tend to think it must be devastating to come so close only to barely fall short, but it's really the opposite. It's exciting and motivating.”
If you say so, Braden. If you say so. Onward into 2019.