Dealing with Disappointment in ECHO

For Madeline, playing through ECHO provided a much needed parable on how to deal with disappointment. This is required reading for those who hated The Last Jedi.

Written by Madeline Turnipseed / Published on January 2, 2018

I don’t have to tell you about disappointment. You’ve experienced that before. This Thing was going to be Best Thing because The Internet and Everyone said so. Then you see/play/get the Thing. It is not Best Thing.

Now imagine, if you will, that the Thing you are setting every hope on, the Thing that will deliver you from your present turmoil, the Thing you have been bred and trained for, is not Best Thing. It’s not even mildly helpful. In fact, it’s actively trying to kill you.

"Sometimes we feel our gut reaction is our consolation prize for our disappointment…"
Enter the world of ECHO with En and her snarky ship’s AI, London. En was raised in a cult called the Resourcefuls to be the best at everything—physical combat, game theory, endurance, manipulation—in order to be worthy of the Palace, a destination where they can finally conquer death itself. En wasn’t interested in that. She would rather live life outside her cloistered cult and make those skills work for her in the real world. But the death of Foster, who was instrumental in helping En free herself from the Resourcefuls, brings En to the very place she had no interest in coming. She has come to the Palace to resurrect Foster.

The training of the Resourcefuls is closer to Hunger Games than anything else. Everything was a competition and if you weren’t the best you died. En grew up in an environment where this is normal, where keeping your place meant someone else dying. And yet, she is somehow surprised when the legendary Palace grows clones (Echoes) of her that learn her abilities to try to kill her.

Similarly, I came to the game expecting puzzles that made me think and mechanics that would adapt to the way I played. To an extent, they did. I was hoping to make more use of the stealth vs. shooting adaptations, but it turned out to be more efficient just to run most of the time and shove down Echoes that weren’t quite as fast as me. The more I played, I realized that every level had just added more—whether that be space, Echoes, orbs to collect to open doors, or items with which to distract Echoes.

The question then becomes, “What do I do with that disappointment?” En knows that even though everything in the Palace is out for her life, she still has a chance at achieving her goal, and buckles down to make it happen. I resigned myself to grinding through four more hours of what amounted to the same level again and again, only bigger each time, because I wanted to finish the game. But what do we do in life when the Thing we were looking forward to is not everything we wanted?

It’s easy for me, as someone outside En’s world, to think she should have expected what she got. That it was telegraphed from the beginning. En has been telling herself stories about the Palace all her life. Ending those stories with “but that’s not for me,” they exemplify something we all do. We all look forward to things, even as we hedge our bets. And we respond with gut reactions when we’re disappointed; whether that be me irritated that a game is wasting my time, or people you might have seen on the internet saying everything imaginable about a little franchize called Star Wars.

En doesn’t waste time on the Echoes that stand in her way. She has an objective and she pursues it. I would posit we should do the same. What, precisely, did you think you would love about the Thing? Are you out for that? Or are you out to throw a fit that you didn’t get Best Thing, that the world didn’t align itself to your will, and that People who don’t agree with you are Wrong and you’re Right?

Sometimes we feel our gut reaction is our consolation prize for our disappointment, and that if we don’t get Best Thing, we should get Biggest Fit. But I’m not here for that. I’ve got a to-be-played list a mile long, so I’ll catch you when there’s something awesome to share.

About the Author:

Madeline lives in Texas where she takes care of people, plays games, reads, writes, and makes things. You can follow her on twitter @mad_seed or on her blog that she might update someday at