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Anything Not Saved Will Be Lost


Whenever I see that phrase upon exiting a game, I always feel like some evangelical is proselytizing me. Ok, I get it, we all know, the wages of sin are death, and the wages of not saving your game are frustratedly replaying thru a part of the game you don't wanna have to play thru again. Yes, we know the consequences of not saving your game. But, does saving your game also have consequences? Before I go any further tho, I want you to show me that you trust me. Go delete all your save files real quick, I'll explain why later. If you play an online game without save files, don't worry, just trash all your loot and delete all your characters. It's ok, I'll wait.

Well, now that that's done... Wait a minute. You didn't actually do it, did you? Where's the trust? You youngsters don't do anything your elders tell you these days. That's OK tho, I'm actually kinda grateful to you. See, I'm pretty sure it's you kids with your "Stranger Things" that somehow managed to resurrect the 80's. And for that I thank you. Now I see D&D sets on the shelf in target. Stores and dining establishments are playing so much new wave/post-punk that I feel like I'm in a John Hughes movie. And, most importantly, arcades are experiencing something of a renaissance. 

It's that last part that this story is concerned with. See, when I visited one of these arcades about a fortnight ago. No, not that game you kids play, back in my day that word meant "two weeks". Ahem. My point is that while playing some excellent games like Ms. Pac-Man, Tetris, and Tapper, I experienced unadulterated joy. It was sheer bliss. You can call it nostalgia if you like. You can even point out that this establishment served beer. But it was more than either of those two things. It was gaming without the BS.

Many people, myself included, like to say loot boxes, microtransactions, day one patches, servers that go offline, and other such shenanigans have ruined gaming. This can be traced back to the inclusion of network features in all seventh generation consoles. But what if the shenanigans have even earlier origins? What if the save game feature was the beginning of the end? (Or even passwords.) Did the very concept of persistent progress tarnish gaming forever? OK, I know, this sounds crazy, but bear with me just a little while longer, please?

I'll start with the obvious. Microtransactions would not flourish without persistent progress. But that isn't what I'm here to say. Microtransactions are one of the many tricks that play into a gamer's psychology. But they just built on a foundation that had already been hooking gamer's minds for years. The RPGification of gaming is very real. Virtually all games now feature some form of persistent progress, a concept that was originally nearly synonymous with RPGs. Don't get me wrong, RPGs are great... Or are they? Well, the truth is, some are, some aren't. But most of them tend to be addicting, whether or not they're actually good. And therein lies the problem.

How many times have you saved the game after a rather tedious segment and said to yourself, "Whew! Glad I don't ever have to play thru that again!" I've done it. A lot. If that happens only once during a game's playthru, oh well. But if it happens over, and over. Eventually one has to ask "Why am I playing this at all?".

What is the difference between liking something and being addicted to it? This should be easy to answer. For me, it isn't. Maybe I'm overly introspective. But I think if I call it "self mindfulness" it sure sounds like a positive thing now doesn't it? I'm ashamed to admit it, but, upon self-reflection, I find myself doing many things for dumb reasons. Like sometimes I listen to music because I have an idea in my head of the type of person I want to be being the type of person that listens to this music. Sometimes, I just have nostalgia for a time in my life, and listening to that music may just be a way of living in the past. I'm not always certain what I even like. Sometimes, I just delete all my liked videos and search history from YouTube so it will stop recommending the same damn ten songs to me and I can actually hear something different for a change! (I'm so glad the digital era means I don't have to sell CDs for pennies on the dollar and go broke buying a new CD collection every time such paradigm shifts hit nowadays!)

And sometimes, I delete all my save files. I've done this a few times, not actually recently, and I don't really want you to either. But I might do it soon. We'll see. Just keep your mind open to the idea. Know that it's an option. I think modern gamers are highly vulnerable to the sunk cost fallacy. We play games for the reason of making "progress" in them. And the more progress we make, the more time we have invested. Remember that putting down a game you have invested 50 hours in is not a waste of your time, but playing one more hour of any game you don't enjoy is. (Unless you're a pro gamer who is getting paid for it.) Think about it. What if all of your save files really were deleted? Which games would you happily begin anew? Those are the only ones worth your time.

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About Damien Quicksilverone of us since 8:25 PM on 12.22.2018

Near the beginning of the millennium, I wrote an opinion column titled "My Twenty-Five Cents" in a short lived zine titled "Classic Gamer Magazine" iirc. I used the pen name "Damien Quicksilver" at the time. I get thoughts about gaming that I feel the urge to write about from time to time, so this is something of a reprisal I suppose. If there is somehow anyone out there who remembers that zine, that would be amazing. It was made with a group of folks I met in rec.games.video.classic on Usenet. If there is somehow anyone out there who remembers what Usenet is, you're old. If you don't know what Usenet was, it was basically the cretaceous period equivalent of Reddit.