In Super Metroid there is a trick that allows you to somersault across a room with great speed. When you take damage from the environment, the game’s natural reaction is to “eject” you from the situation before you lose all your HP. This can throw you awkwardly around the room and lead to more problems. However, you can also benefit from this mechanic if you learn how to control it. If you hold the jump button and a direction, you’ll go flying backwards in the direction you’re NOT facing. This means tapping left to face away, holding jump at the right time, then holding right to fly. It’s hard to pull off but when you get it right during a speedrun, it feels amazing. It’s faster than normal movement and allows you to reach some places normal jumps can’t.
A Damage Boost could be the most effective way to get out of a bad situation. For example, losing a job or ending a bad relationship might take away some of your health, but you can use the momentum of the ejection to find yourself in a better place you could not reach before, with better people. It’s just not worth struggling in those flower traps when you can take a quick spike to the head.
After bouncing across a room of spikes, you need to look for resources to restore this health immediately. Your eyes change and you start to see more of the world, with different layers revealing themselves. A big room of enemies is suddenly a farm. You become better at making choices, and you see opportunities you normally wouldn’t need. Health management is not immediately evident to casual speedrunners, viewers, or people without problems, but it is an essential part of going fast. Super Metroid is a difficult game even without tricks, with unforgiving boss fights and death traps, but with every bit of pain you learn something. You get used to those sleepless nights and know exactly how much coffee you need the next day.
You could consider “upgrades” as the safe, logical way to progress, but not everybody has the perfect script to their life. We can play a videogame perfectly but we can’t play life perfectly, and that is why I think the concept of Damage Boosting is applicable to every day life as a way of keeping your head up. Not in a violent sense, but an opportunistic one. Life has its own way of ejecting you out of situations and you may as well use that speed to fly in the right direction.
Damage Boosting is very hard to do, and the difficulty and impracticality means most people will overlook it. Who’s gonna take damage on purpose, right? Well, people who have to. People who made a few bad choices. People without all the upgrades. People who just want to go fast. You can spend 5 years getting the grapple beam, or learn how to do a quick shine spark. I’ve spent hours practicing Damage Boosts in Super Metroid and still can’t do them consistently. It feels great when it works though, soaring over your troubles. As I sit here jumping into spikes in Super Metroid, I realise I’ve been doing this my whole life. I’ve spent my whole life practicing Damage Boosting, just by working jobs I didn’t like, festering bad habits, and ending up nowhere. That’s not failure though, it’s practice. I might be a screw-up but I feel like I’ve become very good at fucking things up, and pretty soon I’ll be able to land wherever I want.