#mcm - Shovel Knight

The most noble of shovel-wielding knights is our man crush of the day. It's been quiet some time since a video game character of such chivalrous caliber has graced the indie-turned-mainstream gaming scene. If you haven't played the game, you're really missing out on something special. Shovel Knight harkens back to a simpler, more pixelated time in gaming that brought us classics like Mega Man, Castlevania, and Duck Tales the game. Born from a successful Kickstarter campaign (like us), the game first launched as a Nintendo exclusive on Wii U and 3DS. It has since been released on Steam and in a few days, it will be coming to all Sony platforms! Everyone who's been manning their respective play stations will have a chance to dig in. Sorry. You just can't write about Shovel Knight without shovel puns.

As much as we love the game, we've selected Shovel Knight as our man crush for a very special reason. As I'm sure you're garnered by now, we are always on the lookout for what real life lessons these fictional characters can teach us about bettering ourselves. Shovel Knight is about a guy who comes out of a long, sad hiatus from adventuring in order to save a dear friend of his against all odds. Or rather, against all Quarters. Throughout his quest, we picked up on one thing that stands out above everything else to us; something that we found to be undeniably relevant to today's day and age. Ladies and gentle knights, I give you...

Art by oddpenguin

Art by oddpenguin

Let us preface this by saying that 1) there are some spoilers in here and 2) this should not be taken as an excuse to pogo jump on people's heads with a shovel. That will likely land you in prison. Don't do it. What we aim to do here is take an in-depth (omg that one wasn't even intentional) look at how Shovel Knight interacts with several of the main and side bosses in the game. After all, he seems to have some kind of history with nearly every member of the Order of No Quarter and he has more than his fair share of unwarranted confrontations with strangers, including one eccentric hat shop owner/collector. In real life, we also encounter, *ahem, interesting people from time to time who attempt to cause us trouble for one reason or another. However, Shovel Knight, being the honorable knight that he is, always manages to treat his hecklers with fairness and respect, and that's why he's our man crush this week. Here are 3 tips we learned by playing Shovel Knight on how to be a better knight. And by knight, we mean gamer.

1. Raise Your Noble Shovel Higher

If it were up to him, there are several fights in this game that Shovel would not have fought. The most notable of these include his bouts with the Black Knight, Reize, Baz and Polar Knight. Black Knight stands out over the others for being the most intentionally hostile aggressor. In his encounters he mocks Shovel Knight, taunts him with talk of the Enchantress, belittles his quest and attempts to demoralize him from continuing at every turn. Shovel Knight remains focused on his task and largely immune Black Knight's jeers. After their last battle, Black Knight finally breaks and we learn that he and Shovel Knight shared the same goal, but had different methods.

Black Knight wanted to be the hero by any means necessary and didn't see Shovel Knight as being fit for the job, so he lashed out at him. Afterwards, Black Knight would become something of an ally to Shovel Knight. This is the outcome that we like to see in the real world. Sometimes it takes some work to uncover the truth; to get to the real reason behind someone's facade of hate and cruelty. Those of you who are familiar with Dragon Ball Z will recognize this same pattern with Goku and Vegeta. Here's a god-tier real world example from earlier this year. If only we all could demonstrate to that level of uncompromising endurance, we could make a real difference.

2. Remember Who The Enemy Isn't

Shovel Knight's battle with the young boomerang warrior, Reize, is an interesting one. Reize stumbles upon our hero and immediately mistakes him as "The knight with the shovel who's been... MENACING THE VILLAGE!" (You'll just have to imagine that all caps text wiggling). Shovel Knight tries to explain that he's done no such menacing but Reize won't listen and the battle ensues. This fight is pretty challenging in it's own right, so we have to give Reize some credit here for putting Shovel Knight through the ringer in the name of justice, misguided as he was. After Shovel Knight defeats Reize he finally gets a chance to speak his peace, communicating that he's not a threat and that he and Reize are fighting a common enemy. Keyword: common.

To the Dictionary! Good old dictionary.com defines the word "common" as:

  1. belonging equally to, or shared alike by, two or more or all in question:
    common property, common interests.
  2. pertaining or belonging equally to an entire community, nation, orculture; public:
    a common language or history; a common water-supply system.
  3.  joint; united:
    a common defense.

Gaming is something that we, as gamers, share in common with each other. Gaming belongs to all of us and we are united by our common love of gaming. If you have twitter, you may have seen the hashtag #GamersUnite. It was started by a friend of a friend of ours who goes by the handle, @RETR0JOE, for the self-explanatory purpose of uniting gamers on social media (go figure!). For all the common ground we share, we sure do bicker a lot. While our tastes in gaming may not always line up, our general enjoyment of games will, so we must do a better job remembering that just because someone games differently than us or not as much as us or what have you, that does not make them our enemy. Take Black Knight and Shovel Knight for example. They had the same goal, remember? Once they realized what they had in common, they opened the door to achieve more than they could by themselves. That's when knights are strongest. And remember, by knights, we mean gamers.

3. Lose The Game, Not Yourself.

Honorable mention to Polar Knight as we won't be covering his bout with our titular hero in today's post. It should be noted, however, that Polar Knight is the only member of the Order of No Quarter to have explicitly had history with Shovel Knight as a fellow honorable knight on the right side of the code. Having since fallen from grace and under the command of the Enchantress, that fight is particularly meaningful. Perhaps we'll get to it another time.

We'll leave you with this final thought. Gaming and nerd culture in general have the potential to evoke levels of passion and emotion that you would be hard pressed to find in other communities or forms of media. When it's done right, we get things like marathons for Extra Life and Child's Play, genuine new friendships, inspiration stories of courage and good will, and incredible memories at conventions and events. When it's done wrong, well, I'm sure you can think of something. Baz is a good example of how to do things the wrong way. When we encounter Baz, he is visibly upset about not being excepted into the Order of No Quarter despite having purchased the best gear money could buy. Sound familiar? It might if you're into competitive gaming at all. Despite the fancy new controller you bought, the hours you put in practicing your combos, all the money you spent on travel... You see what I mean. Sometimes, it's still not enough to win the tournament or even the match. One of the developers of the indie game Titan Souls once said (I'm paraphrasing here) that gaming is about failure, and through those failures, we are taught not only to win, but the value of winning. Some might even say that the lessons we learned from failure are greater than what we learn from winning. Winning feels good. Failure gives you the chance to grow. So the next time you lose a match and feel the rage coming out, I want you to visualize this image. Burn it deep into your mind's eye and take it with you whenever you are in a competitive situation:

If you haven't had the chance to play Shovel Knight yet, it's coming to PS4, PS3, and PS Vita tomorrow, April 21st, and will feature a boss fight with Kratos!