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It's all about follow through


I've never been the most athletic of men. I live in a country where the national dish is often believed to be "deep-fried anything", my local fish and chip shop had a "if you bring us some food we'll put it in the deep fat frier for you for next to nothing" policy and our weather varies between pissing it down with rain to pissing it down with rain while the wind tries to knock you over. This, as you can imagine, is hardly conducive to any sport that involves braving the elements. Despite this, I did give a few sports a shot. One of them was golf. When I wasn't golfing the most athletic I got was bowling. Yeah, I was a regular athlete. I didn't really learn much from either of these exercises in frustration. In fact I probably only learned one thing. It's all about follow through. That's what my golf coach always said, and coincidentally it's what the creepy old man who owned the bowling alley said as well. If I'd taken their advice to heart then I might have become a slightly better golfer and bowler. I also might have finished more video games. Ah ha, I hear you cry. This rambling paragraph finally starts to make sense. It's all about video games.

I couldn't begin to count the number of games I've started, yet failed to complete. Even games I really enjoyed. It's odd, because other things I like, masturbation for instance, I always finish to completion. I never used to think about this much. I thought it was completely normal. Especially when I was a wayward child. Those unrepentant imps have famously short attention spans. It wasn't until I started to live with other gamers that I started to recognise I might need to start working on this issue. Over the years I've lived with five people who loved to game, while we all had our favourite genres and didn't always like the same games, we had enough in common so that we often split the cost of new releases. We were students, it was a smart move. Without fail, these dedicated men and women would complete whatever game we had just purchased in one foul swoop. OK, that's a bit dramatic and slightly untrue. But they would always complete the game before moving on to something else. I rarely followed suit and they started to notice. More often than not, I'd simply get another game and start investing time in that, leaving my unconquered purchases to lesser men. I wish I could say that it ended in an epic intervention, with my friends and family confronting me, making me cry and then solving all the worlds tiny problems. Instead they just laughed at my inability to finish anything and left me to my foibles.

It wasn't a simple matter of being physically unable to finish these games. Other than Demon's Souls and Super Meat Boy I haven't been especially challenged by a video game in years. It wasn't because I didn't like the games either, sure, there were some that I didn't enjoy, but for the most part that wasn't what stopped me from finishing them. I think that the main problem was that I found many games to be very disposable. There was simply no reason for me to finish them. I don't care about achievements or trophies and I certainly don't care about bragging rights. Even if the game was very fun there's always another fun game out there for me to try and unless I'm genuinely invested in a game, especially the characters, then I would move on to the next game.

Now, this is not to say that I never complete a game. I spend a huge amount of time gaming and a significant amount of money on gaming purchases, if I've only completed 10% of the games I've owned that's still a vast amount of games, but it's not great. I need a good reason to get to the end. I've completed every single Bioware game, other than the Sonic DS one. They always have great characters and interesting setting even when the stories aren't the best. In general I tend to complete most western RPGs actually. More recently I completed Red Dead Redemption (I also completed Red Dead Revolver, but it was as short as it was awesome, so that's not exactly an achievement) in a couple of sittings. I adored John Marston, I'm a whore for Sergio Leone and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I also managed to get 100% in Assassins Creed II a wee while ago. Now, while I enjoyed that game immensely, my reason for forcing myself to get full completion had little to do with the game itself. My flatmate had managed to get 99% or there about, he ended up getting sick of looking for the last feather and gave up. When he told me this, something odd happened. I got competitive. I'm not naturally like that, my flatmate is the alpha male in our abode, not me. But for once I wanted to be the boss. I know, what the hell? I'm an odd chap. It's hardly the most masculine way to assert my dominance either. My victory was pretty hollow, though. He certainly didn't care. That was hard to accept. I got pretty huffy. Upon getting all of the feathers I got a new cloak which was completely pointless (not just because I'd already finished the game) and a trophy that I couldn't care less about. While I had enjoyed the game and I was actually happy about finishing it, I was not happy about wasting my time completing every aspect of it. Now every time I look back on it and remember the fun I had, I also remember the boredom of hunting down some stupid feathers for Ezio's depressed mother. Ugh.

I have, however, changed my tune. It has nothing to do with the time wasting feather hunt of Assassins Creed II though. I love Steam. I'm not randomly inserting that statement into my post just because I want to express my delight in Valve's digital distribution service. Although I do, and I am. I have 113 games on Steam (actually I have more like 120, but some of them are bundled together, like the Space Quest series). Almost all of them were bought due to sales that I could not turn down, I do love a good bargain, it's the frugal Scot in me. Every time I load it up they sit there mocking me. I've completed very few of them, and I simply can't ignore this fact. Whenever I want to play one, all the others peer right into my soul and make me cry. At least I'm able to hide all of my Wii games, none of which I've completed (maybe my worst crime), not so with my Steam games. So I decided to take action. I dyed my body blue, much like my ancestors before they went to beat up some other angry blokes, spiked up my hair in a terrifying fashion and then started to shout and scream at my PC. After a little while I realised that this wasn't making much of a dent in my game library. So I started playing them with one goal: To complete every single game in my Steam library. Even the ones that aren't very good, I'm looking at you Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena (to be fair the remake of Butcher Bay was quite good). That's about 90 games, though a few of them are MMOs or games like Civ, so they can never be finished. When I need to take a break I go and sit on my comfortable seat and fire up one of my consoles to tackle those games as well. This might be my last year on Earth, I have no doubt that trying to complete so many games in quick succession will end me, but you know what? I'm ok with that. It needs to be done. Because I discovered follow through.

Not my ancestor

In hindsight making this post was a rookie mistake, I'm trying to play Alpha Protocol today, and it needs all my resolve, because, frankly, it's sort of shite. I'd much rather be playing Bully, like Conrad Zimmerman in his valiant attempt to get through his own backlog.
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About Fraser Brownone of us since 2:44 PM on 07.16.2010

Fraser Brown is that bearded, bespectacled Scotsman that covers PC gaming who is not Alasdair Duncan.

Got a splinter stuck in his hand nineteen years ago and just left it in there. True story.

He lives with this thorny burden in Edinburgh, Scotland, drinking a lot of whisky and playing a lot of video games to soothe the pain.

He has sexual feelings for strategy games, adventure games, and has been known to dabble in the murky world of MMOs.