‘Stephen’s Sausage Roll’: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

I feel like a Vegan at a sausage fest when I play Stephen’s Sausage Roll. Being out of place isn’t unfamiliar. I’ve worked at a tech company surrounded by MIT and Harvard grads when I’ve […]

Written by M. Joshua Cauller

I feel like a Vegan at a sausage fest when I play Stephen’s Sausage Roll. Being out of place isn’t unfamiliar. I’ve worked at a tech company surrounded by MIT and Harvard grads when I’ve barely got through a local art school, but Stephen’s Sausage Roll questions my intellect at every juncture. I hammer my brain against its near-impossible puzzles, making almost no progress at all. It feels like a showdown against my old nemesis: Imposter Syndrome. He shouts me down at every step of the game, “You don’t belong here, dumbass!” That nasty old Imposter Syndrome isn’t going down without a fight, but I think I’m finally ready to give that old coot a swift kick to the sausage.

Fifteen minutes later, I’m ready to say uncle—again.

All I’ve got to do is grill sausage—and I only need the arrow keys. It shouldn’t be this hard.  Stephen’s Sausage Roll certainly doesn’t look like something I should bang my head against for hours on end, yet somehow with this limited verb set I’ve gotten stuck on every single puzzle I’ve played. It’s not like there’s a lot of moving parts: it’s just me on a square grid, pushing-around giant unappetizing rolls of sausage, trying to get them onto grills without burning the sausage or plopping it into the water. That’s it, yet somehow I pressed “restart” more than when I played Hotline Miami 2—and the “undo” button got hundreds of uses more than that.

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My brain liquidized and gushed out all over the floor after one puzzle involving two floppy rancid sausages. So I backed-out, took a quick hop across the overworld, and jumped into a scenario involving not two, but three fat ones. The new dilemma made me feel even dumber, but somehow this allowed my brain to heal just enough to jump back to the previous challenge and see the solution within seconds. I actually said, “I’m a genius!” out loud. It’s a fleeting moment as I walk right up to Mr. You Don’t Belong Here, who again tries to tell me I’m not smart enough to not be an imposter.

"I realized, it’s not a belonging problem. It’s a literacy problem—and I’m learning to speak the language twenty minutes at a time."
Stephen’s Sausage Roll feels like the most inhospitable game I’ve ever played, and yet I keep pressing “restart.” At first, every puzzles stumps me like a kindergartener trying to solve calculus, but the simplified rules show me clearly what I did wrong and assure me that I have the tools for success. It’s like a benevolent sensei who keeps slapping my wrist, while using his other open hand to tell me to “come.”

The brainpower showdown escalates. One-sausage conundrums rapidly upgrade to three-sausage stump-fests. When elevation comes into play, you suddenly realize that everything before that was crayon coloring books compared to these nasty modern art sculptures.

I’m ready to throw in the towel; yet, I’m not.

My head aches like I’m learning a language—because that’s exactly what Stephen’s Sausage Roll is doing: teaching me how to read its’ world. Duolingo helped me to understand why I could only make so much Sausage Roll progress before my brain shut down. Duolingo is this language-training app that helps you learn conversational Spanish and other languages. They have plans that range from five minutes to twenty minutes a day. They call twenty minutes a day the “Insane” plan. Twenty minutes a day is all I’ve been able to handle of Stephen’s Sausage Roll. My retention maxes-out and I just can’t make any more progress. Then I come back a day later and solve the first puzzle I start. This linguistic comparison unlocked the secret to kicking-off Mr. Imposter Syndrome’s tentacle grip on me: I realized, it’s not a belonging problem. It’s a literacy problem—and I’m learning to speak the language twenty minutes at a time.

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I now know how much Sausage I can handle: a single meal, once a day (twenty minutes). I can’t rush it more than that or I’ll get bloated and agitated. It’s the same for combating a sense of not-belonging—small doses of immersion.

Spending all of my time in uncomfortable new scenarios without retreat, comfort, and rest doesn’t add new life. It just frustrates. That instinctual drive to retreat is natural, essential to learning a new language and a new world. It’s the hand waving me back and saying “come” that readies me for another session of training. Stephen’s Sausage Rolls progressively unlocked that revelation of small doses of a new language. It reminds me that daily moderation is key—to overcoming a feeling of not belonging—and also to eating sausage.

  • April-Lyn

    Love this. Thanks for taking one for the team, dude. I’d try this out but the price is a steep for my taste for a puzzle game (and yes, I’m spoiled).

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  • http://mjoshua.com M. Joshua Cauller

    Aww. Yeah. I don’t feel ultra convinced that you’d enough it. But I can say that it was quite a fascinating thing to bang my head against for so little reward. I’m curious how this might fare in something like GameCell where everybody can help with ideas.