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Quicksave-Fail: The Agony and The Ecstacy

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You know what I hate? Accidentally hitting quicksave when you meant to hit quickload, leaving yourself trapped in some ostensibly unwinnable situation and sobbing like a child about a terrible turn of events that you can blame no-one but yourself for.

You know what I love? Managing to win that unwinnable situation anyway: ultimate triumph in the face of self-made adversity.
Everyone’s done it. We gamers are rarely creatures of patience, and the usually reliable presence of one-button saving and loading has only exacerbated our desire for nownownow. We don’t let in-game failure sink in – we immediately want to try again. There are times when I swear I reach for Quickload before I’m conciously aware the situation’s gone belly-up. Something in me has already ascertained that I am about to lose my last scrap of health, or fall off a ledge, or fire my last rocket, or say the wrong thing. Something else in me feels that, if the final, fatal act doesn’t actually happen, I haven’t really failed. So I impatiently reach for quickload before the bitter end hits, and I try again.

The trouble is that the familiar upwards reach towards the central cluster of F5 keys is more muscle memory than concious act after all these years. Sometimes, I get it wrong. When it’s a game that thinks making the quickload/save keys adjacent is a smart idea, I get it wrong a bit too often. But I can’t blame just that – I’ve definitely hit F6 when I should have hit F9 in the past.

Whine, whine, whine. That’s not what I mean to post about though. Sometimes, a fudged quicksave means I’ve simply saved as my character dies, and that’s pretty miserable. Other times, it’s just before my character dies – when the straits are dire, when my window of opportunity is a fraction of a second. That’s not miserable. That’s a challenge.

My cludgy hands means this happens fairly often. Recently, I had a misjudged quicksave in Stalker that was milliseconds before a bloke with a shotgun unloaded both barrels into my face. Upon reloading, I died immediately. My last save was getting on for half an hour’s worth of progress back, and there was no way I wanted to repeat that. So, over the course of a couple of dozen attempts, I finally established the exact moment I could hit the crouch key as the loading screen dissipated, which took me safely beneath his deadly blast and able to spray his ankles with machinegun bullets before he let off a second shot. It took about 20 minutes and grueling trial and error, but I did it. It’ll never impress anyone, except me – because I beat my own failure.

The only such instance I was truly proud of, though, was Half-Life. I managed to hit quicksave just as the infamous Black Ops assassin ladies showed up for the first time. I meant to hit quickload, because at that point I had only 1% health and these super-speedy guys looked serious. So I reached up towards the saintly F keys and… oops. Yeah, those guys were serious. Especially when 99% of my health was missing.

I replayed that battle so very many times. I was a truly terrible FPS player at that point, so my hope of making it through on reflex and precision alone were non-existent. If they saw me, I was dead. My only hope was not to out-shoot them, but to out-smart them. Over the course of almost two hours, I constructed every satchel charge and trip mine traps in every variation I could think of. Of course, the damnably agile women rarely went the same direction twice, so I had to plan for multiple routes, elaborate networks of explosive roadblocks.

It seemed like a dream when I finally did it, my mind a mess of plans and counter-plans. I just remember the muted thud of the last tripmine, and then the silence. I’d done it. I’d beaten my own ineptitude. I celebrated with a quicksave.

It’s happened to you too. Share!

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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