Confessions Of A Save Scummer

The current game is not saved.
Do you want to save the game before you load another game?

No.

Save scumming is where something happens in a game that you don’t like as a result of your actions, and so you load an earlier save for a chance to undo it. It’s cheating, in other words – and depending on who you ask, mainly cheating yourself.

I can sympathise with that viewpoint. What do games matter if you’re simply going to keep your fingers between the pages and flick back any time you don’t like the consequences? There are a lot of games I love specifically because of the cascading failures your incorrect decisions create – whether it’s losing beloved soldiers in XCOM or dying in a puddle in NEO Scavenger.

But there are other games, too. Games which turn me into the storyteller from Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, where something goes wrong and I think, “Hang on, wait, that’s not right.”

For years, the Championship Manager series was one of those games. You don’t directly control your players during matches, but set up tactics and match plans and then watch the results play out, taking into account your decisions, your opponent’s decisions, and a certain amount of natural random chance.

Just like real world football, the results are therefore occasionally infuriating, with unlikely upsets and freak comebacks. Even if nothing out of the ordinary does happen, it’s often hard to tell how the decisions you made beforehand – to play a 3-4-2-1, or to focus on possession, or to drop your captain – actually affected the outcome. There’s too much happening to trace causality.

In this situation, I can’t help myself. A result goes wrong and I reach for that load game button. Earlier versions of Championship Manager were fine with this, while later editions started forcing you to save before loading – which in turn prompted me to simply start alt-F4ing to force quit the program instead of giving in. Today, in series continuation Football Manager, you’re given the option mentioned above. Do you want to save the game before you load another game? The answer is still, usually, no.

Am I cheating myself? I don’t think so. I don’t even feel like I’m cheating.

When I play games, it’s very rarely about testing my mettle against the machine. I’ve little interest in overcoming prescribed challenges set for me, and even less so overcoming obtuse systems for the mere sake of achieving higher numbers than an opponent. My interest in playing games is mostly for the stories I get out of it; anecdotes I can share with friends, write about on here, or simply tell myself out of a sense of comfort.

When I’m playing Football Manager I’m in cahoots with the game to tell myself a story, and I have a particular story in mind I want to tell. It tends to involve years-long careers spent developing youth teams into international superstars, re-living a youth spent watching Manchester United’s own once youthful, homegrown team. That’s a hard story to tell if you’re being sacked for being rubbish. The incentive is therefore there to wipe away certain losses and to re-play particular games till I massage my tactics into something that works. It doesn’t mean I cut loss away completely – I’ll let the occasional cup final go astray, and allow my side to drop a few league places, so long as the overall narrative remains and I can continue fiddling with the parts of the systems I most enjoy, like scouting and regens.

In the games I play without save scumming – which is all of the others I play, really – I surrender more control to the machine because I trust it more to generate stories that I’ll enjoy. In Football Manager I suspect I’m more likely to be baffled and frustrated.

As an experiment however, I decided in my current Football Manager 2015 career that I wouldn’t save scum. Not even when I got defeated by Luton in the FA Cup and I was Manchester United. Not even when I followed a successful first season (3rd position in the league) with a disastrous second (17th by November). Not even when I was sacked.

The result is certainly a more varied experience. I’m now into the fourth season and the manager of Bayern Munich. They hired me after they were inexplicably “flattered” by my desperate, unemployed job application. Their decision paid off at least as I’ve just won the Bundesliga in my first season, and reached the finals (and lost the finals) of the Champions Cup and the German Cup. I’m feeling things I don’t normally get from the game: regret at decisions made, loss at the young players I signed and left behind, and a sense that the world the game simulates is larger than I am, as it now exists separate from me. Also: schadenfreude, as Laurent Blanc, who replaced me as manager at Man Utd, was sacked also at the end of his first full season.

Is this better than it was before? I’m not so sure.

My experiences are arguably more authentic, because I’m not acting as a script doctor at every turn, and am embracing fully the systems the designers have created for me. It’s certainly taken me to places that I would not have gone of my own accord.

On the other hand, I’m not enjoying the game anymore than I did before. That I won the Bundesliga legitimately doesn’t improve my enjoyment of the story that I’m crafting. It’s different, not better.

Sometimes different is a good thing. I’m going to continue this career in the same fashion and see what successes and losses, firings and hirings, come my way. But I’ll probably also start another career soon, and I’m betting the answer to the question up top will be the same as before: no.

This article was first published as part of, and thanks to, The RPS Supporter Program.

67 Comments

  1. thedosbox says:

    One of the things I liked about Life is Strange is that you could explore each choice to see what the short term consequences were – and the game actively encourages you to. This helped tamp down the “what if” paralysis I often experience in games that use checkpoints.

    I still prefer games provide multiple “save anywhere” slots though, if only to avoid the need to replay the same tedious section multiple times because of a poorly placed checkpoint.

  2. Oakreef says:

    I’ve been playing Valkyria Chronicles and so far three of my soldiers have died: Vyse, Juno and Nancy. When I say this online there’s some people who are flabbergasted that I didn’t reload the mission and keep everyone alive. But I’m flabbergasted at the idea of doing that. Going back and undoing mistakes to avoid the consequences just seems so boring to me. One of the beautiful things of games as a medium is to have a unique, dynamic and personal story based on how things work out based on your actions (or luck). Or you can save scum and experience the exact same stories to tell as everyone else who save scummed.

    (Not that VC actually delivers on that aspect to be honest as the main characters can’t die anyway and the rest aren’t even given backround roles in cutscenes but it’s the spirit of the thing in this instance)

    • MrUnimport says:

      Well, I’m a little flabbergasted that you managed to let corpses lie on the ground for three whole turns without being able to make it to them and call a medic, but otherwise I commend your dedication.

      And at least it wasn’t Dallas ‘Man Hater’ Wyatt or Nadine the master’s in literature.

      • Oakreef says:

        Most (possibly all) were killed in the same move they were downed in, usually by the unit that had just shot them three seconds earlier. E.g. Vyse was killed in the first mission Jaeger shows up in where he was mortar’d and run over by Jaeger’s tank in a single enemy move.

    • Hieronymusgoa says:

      I got asked that about the last mission in Mass Effect 2. I said “X and y died when I played that.” and some friends were like “What you didn’t try until everyone survived?!” And I said “No, it’s a roleplaying game. Why would I? It’s about a story not achievments.” But when the shit hits the fan in Civ 5 and I know i could turn it around perhaps with 10 rounds earlier building more military, then I often do that.

  3. JamesTheNumberless says:

    The problem I always found with save-scumming in FM was that if you did it too often it actually made the game harder and more frustrating. If you replay that away game against West Ham (the one that there’s absolutely no way your lineup of mismatched superstars that you bought with the cash you injected into your Spurs team through the editor before starting should be losing) often enough, eventually you’ll win 5-0.

    You end up not being able to accept anything less that success in future matches never really learn what it was you were doing wrong, or fix it. You just keep trying the same thing any being frustrated and bewildered when it only works 2 out of every 5 rolls of the dice.

    Actually, wait, that’s the authentic experience of being Tottenham manager.

    • iucounu says:

      This, though, is exactly the way I’ve always played FM – inject millions into Spurs via the editor, then save-scum my way to absurd quintuples. I really enjoy it. God knows it’s more enjoyable than watching Spurs. (Oh did we lose the cup final? How very surprising.)

    • MartinWisse says:

      You also have that frustration of spending night after night not losing to Bolton or something similar just because you can’t accept the mighty Southampton falling to such a lowly side and it all seems like the usual FM baloony.

  4. daver4470 says:

    The thing with FM (as you pointed out somewhat) is that (a) it’s essentially a black box, in that the underlying mechanics of the game are relatively opaque to you — compared to, say, Super Mario Brothers 3, where you always know “I jump on mushrooms and try to get all the way to the right to grab the flag,” and (b) THE GAME WILL FIRE YOU IF YOU FAIL TOO MUCH. (Which, back in my early days of playing FM, was a source of great amusement to my friends. “So… your computer…. FIRED you?” )

    Ergo, I don’t see save scumming as “cheating”. It’s leveling the playing field.

  5. tehfish says:

    Depends on the game really.

    I’ve done it a lot in xcom for example, because the game can be brutally unfair sometimes, particularly at the very beginning on the harder modes (yay lets insta-kill two soldiers via critical hits at extreme range who were hiding behind full cover)

    I try to do it as little as possible really, but as long as you’re still enjoying yourself playing the game it’s fine IMHO.

    • Premium User Badge

      Andy_Panthro says:

      One of the things that vastly differentiated new XCOM from old UFO:EU was my need to reload far more often. The older game was very allowing of failure, your soldiers and equipement are generally easy to replace. In the newer game, every failure ramps up the difficulty as the difference between raw recruits and experienced soldiers can be massive. If you actually fail a mission it can be a massive setback in XCOM, whereas running away to fight another day is a legitimate tactic in UFO:EU.

    • mathead says:

      It is true. XCOM is actually the only game where I regularily abused save-scumming because the consequences of some failures can be so absurdly serious. Nevertheless, this is also the game where I learned to be more careful about my decisions, in an attempt to play as staight as possible. Learning to accept defeat is learning to win.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      I did save scum (for a laugh) one game where I was planning on making a single soldier save the entire planey single handed!

      I did get a bit bored after the first mission or so… might go back to it (did fraps some of it too, made them look rather OP taking down everything at every turn).

    • PikaBot says:

      I generally try to avoid save scumming in XCOM, but last night I had an experience that made me reach for the load game button over and over: it was a Covert Extraction mission where my squad started off ALREADY IN VISUAL RANGE of the big enemy pod, and my operative started off too far from the nearest relay to hit it, even with run and gun. The mission was so patently unfair that I savescummed furiously until I got a first turn I could live with.

    • jfultz says:

      I’m not at all above save-scumming XCOM. But one battle gave me serious pause on this. It’s early in the Chryssalid reveal, when they’re still wicked hard. And I’ve got Floaters bagging two of my guys who are just being completely useless in their own defense, forcing me to draw out other forces I’d much rather be working on knocking down the Chryssalids. And so I temporarily split my forces to put a little more firepower to defend the two bozos, and it happens. I’ve been outflanked and one of my team is surrounded by two Chryssalids…one partially damaged and one full strength. And he’s going down THIS TURN (so, make that *three* Chryssalids) if I don’t do something.

      He can defend himself against one, maybe. Everyone else is pinned down. Except for Heavy with a rocket launcher. My most leveled-up soldier. She’s got a rocket launcher, and an angle shot which might catch both Chryssalids in the blast. But if she takes the shot, she remains completely uncovered from the Floater who just appeared in her six, and will probably push daisies this turn. I thought about save-scumming right then. But I decided to try my luck. And she did it. Brilliantly. She couldn’t even see the Chryssalids, but is able to skim the corner of a building and nail a shot which catches both Chryssalids in the blast radius while leaving the endangered soldier just outside the blast zone. One Chryssalid goes down, and the endangered soldier takes the other out. And the Floater has her for lunch.

      That woman was a hero. I couldn’t take that away from her, even if I did just lose my best soldier. So I kept playing. And leveled those two useless bozos until they were the badasses defending everyone else, in her honor. That narrative enriched the game for me, and I’m so happy I didn’t save-scum that one time.

    • varangian says:

      XCOM is a good example of the kind of game where I don’t feel at all guilty about hitting the save/load menu when needed. XCOM wasn’t too unstable but it would crash from time to time so ironman games were pretty much a waste of time unless I wanted to quit/save after every mission, which was just tedious.

      But mainly I value save games for those occasions when it wasn’t my fault things went wrong. Losing troopers to my own dumb decisions I could live with but there’d be occasions when what I intended to do and what actually happened (and it’s disastrous result) were far apart. Often this would be down to a trooper not going where intended as the display could get a bit messy when multiple levels were involved. So the guy I thought I’d told to run upstairs and take cover would instead stay on ground level and go stand next to a couple of mutoids. Loading game….

      • Slazer says:

        Ironman continously autosaves your progress to prevent Alt+F4 trickery, so if the game crashes you rarely lose any progress

        • varangian says:

          Ah, never new that, when I tried it the game decided to crash pretty quickly one time and I ended up back at where I’d re-started so assumed it was working on a quit-and-save basis. I’ll have to give it another go sometime.

    • Highstorm says:

      I’ve been fighting really hard (and mostly failing) to break my save scumming habits in XCOM. I have no issue reloading when the game itself freaks out with bullshit line-of-sight issues, or the odd teleporting enemy glitch. But the problem is I’ll extend that into the regular actions I’m taking. I’ll think I’m far enough back to avoid an overwatch shot when I make a move, find out I was wrong, lose the soldier, and instead of just accepting that I made a bad decision and learning from it, I reload the game.

      It’s so, so hard to break those habits, but I believe it is rewarding when I can. Just recently I had a mission where 3 pods of enemies all activated in a giant clump. My squad was fairly green, but I did have a mid-level officer leading them (playing with Long War). I’d flashbanged all of the grouped enemies, and was suppressing the largest threat with that officer. On the alien turn, the very first thin man took a shot at her, and tho he missed, he blew away the wall she was using for cover. For the next 30 seconds, I was biting my nails as 1, 2, 3, 4 shots were taken at her exposed position, and each missed… until the last one. It crit, and she was instantly dead.

      How unfair that the game randomly blew apart her cover, I thought, as I reached for the “Load Game” button. But I stopped myself. I reasoned it was unfair, sure, but legitimate. I finished the mission and suffered the loss, which was pretty bad as she was one of only a few top-ranked soldiers. But as I thought about it more, I realized that I now had an actual story to tell – as I’m doing right now. If I’d save-scummed the encounter, I’d have nothing to talk about, and would have given up the opportunity to commiserate with other players and their similar stories.

      Immediately after that event, a new group of recruits arrived, and one of them just happened to have the same last name as my fallen officer. I instantly imagined she was a sister, joined up to seek vengeance for her fallen sibling! Save scumming doesn’t give you stories like that.

    • WarKiel says:

      I tend to treat XCOM like a puzzle game. The random seed is not reset between loads by default, so I just see what can I do to make the best out of the current situation with the rolls I’ve got.

  6. Colthor says:

    I wish I could save-scum Dominions 4. The battle system is so arcane that, without being able to repeat fights to test things, I don’t know if I’ll ever understand whether outcomes are because of planning, overwhelming odds, or just luck.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Wisq says:

    It’s not savescumming per se, but I had an interesting experience with trying to ironman Kerbal Space Program (and thus avoid the savescumming-style approach their interface encourages).

    When I first started playing, I did it like most people do. Launch, oops, that didn’t work, revert to editor. Launch, nope, still not right, revert to editor. (repeat repeat) Launch, almost there, just didn’t do it quite right, revert to launch. Launch, oh hey, I’m in space, we’re done. Now save and try something in space and load if it doesn’t go quite right …

    The next thing I tried was ironman with simulations. There are at least two mods that let you simulate launches, or simulate ships in different environments (teleport yourself to the Mun and see if your rover works there, say), and force you to load at the end so you’ve nothing gained. Then you go and do the real mission.

    The result: actually worse! I was simulating everything over and over and over, and then the final run was supposed to be exciting — “if I do anything wrong, they’re cooked!” — but the reality was, I had practiced so much, and was so aware of where the margins were, that nothing really could go wrong. Plus I was spending about 5x to 10x as much time running sims as actually getting anything done.

    The final solution, that I’m working on now, was to just avoid career mode — thus getting rid of cash and reputation — and just throw ships and Kerbals at the wall and see what stuck. It still takes me dozens of launches (with maybe 50% to 75% failure rate) to get big projects done, but every one of those launches was tense, and ended with a legitimate abort and parachuting to safety. I’ve got safety systems out the wazoo, including escape pods and personal parachutes if things go really wrong, and I’ve had close calls.

    But it also forced me to play to my highest standard, to the extent that we didn’t lose a single crew until our first botched Mun landing last night — and that was a real event, and I just sat there in stunned silence for a while. And then, instead of trying to load and get it right with the crappy ship I had made, over and over, I just went back to the editor and improved the ship, and we tried again, and succeeded.

    I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten less and less interested in the “save, do it, load unless perfect, repeat” cycle. I’m willing to change the game parameters to make things easier and more forgiving, so that it gives me enough slack that I can play through without loading. Ideally, things are still tense in places, and I can still lose if I screw up badly — but in most reasonably successful cases, I should be able to make my way to success, even if it’s not via the perfectly direct path.

    I’ve also been playing Sunless Sea, and of course, doing it no-scumming style. The issue that bothers me the most? There’s no ability to save at the inheritance screen. If I die, I either have to generate a new character then and there — choosing background, goal, name and picture — or I have to just quit, and when I come back, i’ll be at the last port I was at, prior to dying. Ugh! So when I come back, I go right back out and faithfully mimic my previous death, then generate my new character.

    I guess what I’m saying is, I never had a moral problem with save-scumming — although I would never share or brag about a high score I achieved via it — but I’ve just naturally turned away from it as time goes on. I might use it for a practice run, if a game is so punishingly harsh that I can’t get past the early stages and I want to at least have some practice in the later stages for the few times I make it through, but never in “real” runs.

    Frankly, I prefer the variety of starting fresh each time. I prefer going into the same situation with a different state — the next time, either I’ll be underprepared and will just try to avoid it, or I’ll be overprepared and will thus succeed on my own merits, not on rolling the right number on the dice.

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      Oh, and also (sorry, edit function seems to be broken):

      Part of the challenge of trying to play games without loading is that so many of them have been playtested and balanced on the assumption that you’ll load.

      I’m not sure how to get around that. I guess all you can really do is either offer a difficulty option … or be a roguelike where no-loading is the default unless hacked around. Which I guess is part of why I enjoy playing roguelikes, since they’re balanced on the assumption that you won’t load.

      • jrodman says:

        I think the presumption of reloading was historically stronger. I tried playing System Shock 2 recently and was surprised at the quick game over experience after all of that elaborate character introduction segment.

        • Chaoslord AJ says:

          It’s definitely not meant to play “roguelike” however you usually cheat death with the quantum device chamber with a cost so that’s an alternative to reloading.

        • Premium User Badge

          Wisq says:

          Yeah, I’m not specifically talking about quick game-overs — but rather, the sorts of games where even if you survive, you might feel you should go back and reload because you spent too many resources while surviving, and you won’t have enough for later.

          That’s particularly true of strategy games where your assets carry over from one mission to the next. I get why the mechanic is nifty and puts pressure on you to succeed as best you can, but it also strongly encourages the “repeat mission over and over” (or save-reload if the game has no official “repeat mission” option).

          But the same goes for, say, an FPS where ammunition, health, and/or other resources are limited, and you just know that spending too much on an early fight means you won’t have enough for a later one — or worse, you don’t know whether that’s the case, and you end up carefully save-load min-maxing every fight, until you discover that you’ve finished the last boss and still have a ridiculous amount of supplies left over.

  8. April March says:

    The thing with savescumming as ‘cheating yourself’ is, if you’re not playing a game that aknowledges your death, and you’re not playing a game that has a certain degree of randomness, replaying a level until you get it right without savescumming is no different from savescumming, since you have only been able to complete it because you’ve played it several times and know where the threats and secrets are. If you want to reflect your own ability, you must stop playing when you die.

  9. The King K says:

    FM is one of the few games where I do this as well. I’ve finally managed to limited it to important matches*, especially when I am trying to get promoted to a new league and it’s “wait another 36+ games” for actual progress if I fail in the last few/last game. At least when you in the upper league, fourth place still means you achieved something. In the lower leagues I play, it doesn’t matter much.
    I do appreciate games which give you an ironman option.

    * first time I ever won a title in a football manager game (Anstoss 3), I noticed later that I had simply reloaded every time I had lost. A glorious season that was.

  10. drewski says:

    I used to savescum until I started actually writing the stories of my seasons on a forum. Up until then I was only interested in how unlikely my victory was – winning the Champions League with obscure teams, for example – but after I started actually writing the stories, I realise the narrative was much more compelling when it wasn’t as forced. The dips and dives and horror stories made for a much more interesting tale.

    Since then I’ve stopped savescumming at all and just take the losses in the same way I would a succession of 1s in a board game. Luck be a fickle mistress.

    On the other hand, I still savescum in Blood Bowl because I have no idea what I’m doing and messing up as bad as I occasionally do means I feel like I have no chance of ever beating my competition.

  11. Catchcart says:

    This is very reflective of my CK1 vs. CK2 experience. In the latter I’ve stuck to ironman ever since I learned the game mecahnics properly. Ideally it should work to make me more accepting of life’s ups and downs, live with my decisions, good and bad. In reality I just throw a hissy fit and quit as opposed to reloading.

    If ironmaning has taught me one thing, though, it’s this: I make terrible decisions after 2 AM. Go to bed already!

  12. jrodman says:

    I savescummed the hell out of Angband until I won the first time.
    Later I played some games with savescumming, and some without it; both had their pleasures. I perhaps had an automatic sweet spot though, because failure with savescumming meant hours of lost progress, and different random play replacing those lost.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      I ascended in Nethack without savescumming (though it took me 13 years) but I couldn’t win ADOM even with scumming.

      Not sure what that signifies, but there you go.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I’ve started savescumming DCSS and I finally have some runes.

      It’s a way to casualify the game so I can see some of the later content, because I am never going to play it in a dedicated enough fashion to do it “properly”.

      • jrodman says:

        Dungeon Crawl was short enough that save scumming always felt awkward to me. I casualified it by giving myself some mechanics that allowed successful play to slowly make the game easier over repeated plays, making it feel like overall I was progressing via success even with the capricious failures or failures via lack of knowlege. That really made the experience profoundly satisfying for me, even if it undermines the core intended roguelike experience a bit.

      • Captain Joyless says:

        Not meaning to offend… but… really? You should be able to get a 3-rune win in DCSS by picking MiFi and blindly alternating tab/o.

      • elderman says:

        DCSS has wizard mode. That replaces save scumming for me, when I want to see the later levels.

  13. tetracycloide says:

    Aye, save scumming is cheating. Just like restarting the game because you died. Wouldn’t want a full or partial game reset allowing the correction of mistakes after all. That’s why no matter what game I’m playing I play once and if I die before the game ends, well tough luck guess the game is over for me…

    • Y2Kafka says:

      I feel the same way, but I’m a little less harsh on myself. After breaking the game disk / Flushing the cartage down the toilet / Melting my hardrive in a furnace. I usually allow myself to re-purshase the game. That’s why I was so excited for The Castle Doctrine when they announced perma-perma-death which follows the same procedure. I’m actually also a fan of Lose/Lose which does sort of the same thing. (You shoot aliens which are actual files on your hard drive and every time you kill an alien it deletes that file from your computer, and if you lose the game deletes itself.) So ya… I’m a big fan of REALISTIC permadeath instead of in game deaths where you can just reload a save.

    • horrorgasm says:

      Sounds like an incredibly un-fun and wasteful playstyle that probably gets you more confused laughs than impressed compliments, but if that’s what floats your boat…

  14. zarnywoop says:

    Some games are set up to allow you to play in it. I’m thinking of some FPS that aren’t corridor shooters, like Farcry or Crysis, for example, or Max Payne. I tend to roleplay the game to a degree, and I like to “play” the game, i tried something, it didnt work, i reload and try again, for instance, can you imagine how a rambo style movie would be if Stallone chucked a grenade and it exploded in the wrong place, no, reload, try again, watch the five enemies fly through the air as the barrel of oil and the car next to it explode in a huge fireball. Much more fun.

    • Gammro says:

      I recommend watching Edge of Tomorrow. It has the idea of redoing everything until something works.

  15. Chiron says:

    Civ4 is my weak spot, can’t help it, just to often I get 95% chances to win or withdraw and find my 10xp warlord dying like a little bitch.

  16. ibdoomed says:

    Depends on the game. Some games, like timber and stone, are basically 20 hours of work gone if you get ambushed.

  17. Gothnak says:

    This is my experience of FM 15 Classic Mode…

    Start game as Woking, start ok, 50/50 win ratio, then hit a losing streak which i cannot get out of, get fired.
    Start managing the mighty Hednesford Town, do ok, around a 60/40 win ratio, hit a losing streak and then get fired due to not making the playoffs (still end up witha 50/50 win).
    Take over at the even more impressive Maidenhead Utd, am told i just need to not get relegated. Go on a crazy winning streak until i am 3rd in the league, morale is through the roof, i have odds of 1-9 of winning the next match. Lose 2 matches, my odds are now 50/50, lose 2 more matches, now, even though i am 4th in the League, i am 9-1 outsiders against the team at the bottom, try to get out of it and lose around 7 games in a row for no reason. It seems when you hit a streak, you are completely screwed, so even after getting fired twice, i save scummed :(… I then won 1 match and now morale is back to reasonable levels and i am winning 50/50 again.

    I don’t mind losing, i don’t mind getting fired, i DO mind losing 2-3 matches and then the game basically informing me i will now lose every match until the end of time with the same players who are at the top of the league.

  18. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    I do tend to run a rolling set of saves for say 5 turns in games like Civ and Total War, so if something blindsides me I can work back a little bit and prepare for it. A bit lame maybe, but if I’m having fun I don’t see the problem. And I don’t always use them, sometimes I’ll fight the battle against that big army that just turned up, lose, but still feel I can turn the situation round. Or , instead of going back the full 5 turns, see if I can sort out the situation with just an extra turn or two’s preparation. Like Graham says, stories and anecdotes, and “I just stomped everything” isn’t that interesting a story.

    The main time I’ve got frustrated savescumming was attempting a full ghost, no kills playthrough of Dishonoured. I was saving after every guard successfully knocked out and stashed somewhere and reloading whenever the slightest thing went wrong, and generally getting mostly frustrated and not having any fun. So I gave up on that.

    • James says:

      Whilst I don’t savescum every time something goes wrong I do save every time before I declare war in Attila. and if it goes horrifically wrong straight off the bat then I reload that save and persue a more peaceful course. I like to think of it as testing the waters. I don’t reload saves after I lose a battle I probably could have won myself if I hadn’t let the auto-resolve fail in my stead. I was playing a lengthy war against the Eastern Romans as the Sassanids when a minor seperatist movement began, nothing problematic – my satraps crushed it for me – but the seperatists had managed to get the Geats, Eastern Roman Seperatists (who I just used as cannon fodder anyway) and the Alans to join them. It took a while to defeat them whilst defending against the Romans, who had a larger army than I thought. No savescumming required – I lost 3 cities as the Romans razed them in desperation but I just ran with it, the AI in Attila is cunning enough to make my victories hollow, and I like that added difficulty in my strategy games.

      • Jimbo says:

        The battles which fall in the massive chasm between ‘battles I would win easily manually’ and ‘battles auto-resolve can win at all’ drives me crazy. Sometimes I wish it just had a ‘Do you want to automatically win this battle?’ option so I didn’t have to choose between slogging through a (manually) trivial battle or watching auto-resolve lose it.

        Perhaps the best solution for me would be to forget that battles can be played manually at all and just go along with whatever auto-resolve decides.

  19. Havalynii says:

    I tend to not care. I have a real life and I’m not going to devote to playing games for achievements or with a completionist mentality. Very rarely, I’ll pick a game and play it that way (Raven Shield, the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight games, for some reason Far Cry 2, 3, and 4). Life’s too short for me to get hung up on playing games for anything else but some economical entertainment. Now BOARDgames, oh boy…those are my Achilles’ heel when it comes to spending time, money, and inordinate effort.

  20. Christo4 says:

    You never really save scummed, until you save scummed dark souls.
    I don’t really use save scum, unless there are some crappy decisions i made in story based games, like Mass Effect: after my crew got captured in ME2, i went and did all the remaining side missions, because i didn’t want to miss anything and i didn’t think it mattered when i went to save my crew. Well, it ended up with everyone on the normandy being turned to mush (except the squad members, but every other crew). So yeah, i save scummed and went back to when they got abducted and then immediately went to rescue them.

    • James says:

      I will confess that Mass Effect 2 was the only time I have ever savescummed in a story driven game. I’d saved the collector base but when I saw The Illusive Man giving a sinister grin with his soundtrack bellowing in the background I thought ‘I regret that, let’s go back and change that’.

    • His Divine Shadow says:

      Haha, I savescummed the hell out of DS. I don’t normally care about that kind of games, but I was getting tired of reading how massively amazing it was, so I just had to see it for myself. In the end, I thought it was quite shit. I suppose it *was* because I savescummed it. I don’t regret doing it a single bit, however, since I think it allowed me to see the game for what it actually was, not how it appears if you allow it go all 50 shades of gray over you and make you its bitch (which is what not allowing to save/load is in general, imo)

    • joe football says:

      what is the point of save scumming in dark souls?

      • derbefrier says:

        The better question is how are these people save scumming a game that has no quick save or quickload, uses checkpoints to save progress(camp fires) and there’s no reloading after you die.

    • His Divine Shadow says:

      same as everywhere else, really – to avoid replaying parts of the game, which you don’t think you should be forced to replay.

  21. gunslingerfry says:

    Really, the only difference between this “save scumming” and game over screens is imposing your own failure conditions. I don’t think that devalues the experience and the ability not to control how things turn out (within the constraints of the system) is maddening for me. I already have a story where I can’t save and load and have to deal with the consequences (my own) under which many things are out of my control. Why would I want to impose those same restrictions on myself in a virtual setting? Linear narrative games have largely moved into an autosave only mode, and I’m ok with that because I’m experiencing their story. If I’m playing a game in which I’m given choices though, I expect to have the ability to revert those choices and choose again.

    • qrter says:

      I’d add to your point, that one of the things that makes gaming unique when compared to other artforms or forms of entertainment, is exactly that you have the ability to ‘reverse time’ and make different choices. Why go to lengths to deny yourself this pleasure?

  22. Carra says:

    I used to do that in Europa Universalis 4. But the achievements in the game are only doable with the no reloading iron man mode. And I have to say, it’s a lot of fun to play that way. Before I could just go to war and if it fails? Well, reload and try again. Now I have to actually think if it’s a good idea to start it. It might end horribly but that’s part of the fun.

    • Premium User Badge

      Zamn10210 says:

      I went off Ironman on EUIV. I like that it makes you take your decisions a lot more seriously and forces you to accept that you won’t win every war, making it all the more satisfying when you win back territory you had lost.

      On the other hand, it can be just so damn unfair sometimes, like suddenly losing two kings in a row to find yourself in a PU under France. Maybe that’s an interesting challenge, or maybe it’s just going to ruin the next 100 years of your game.

      It can actually be even worse than that: I once declared war on Burgundy while allied to both France and Austria and called both in (both were going to accept), then France declared war on Austria at exactly the same time, meaning they can’t join my war. Austria can’t help me either because they’ve too busy fighting the French. Burgundy crushes and annexes me. Game over.

      After that I gave up on Ironman; it’s just too frustrating to have no recourse if the game just decides to fuck you over (as it often does). Now I rely on good old-fashioned willpower to avoid save-scumming.

  23. King in Winter says:

    I savescum now and then, but it often has to do with quirky game behavior or bugs.

    For example, back when EUIV had coalition formation tuned up to eleven. I warred an annexed a small country and suddenly a coalition is breathing down my neck. And again after another annex. And same thing happening in other save ‘m running. A quick check on forums confirms that recent patch had messed up coalitions… so scavescum both games and go with diploannexing instead.

    Or CKII. The regents have a tendency to cave in to nobility’s demans, and sidestep hard game limits when doing so. This can lead to hilarious results like your crown authority dropping three steps down to none during few years. And, since the law change was made during your rule (by your regent, but same difference) you can’t make changes after reaching adulthood, because you are restricted by the one authority change in lifetime limit. I consider regency a bugged feature and have a rule of immediate savescum when regency happens.

  24. GhostBoy says:

    I will quite shamelessly savescum in most games, though the impulse most often shows itself when the game is throwing me a curveball rather than as a result of deliberate action. Rimworld is the latest game to get the treatment. While being attacked is part of the experience, I will absolutely reload if a stray bullet manages to one-shot one of my colonists before they could get to shelter. It is one thing if I sent them out there myself, but random drop pods gibbing a person is not allowed in my games. Deus Ex: HR was another game that put me on the quicksave/quickload roundabout, as the pathing of enemies could be somewhat erratic, leading to them spotting you by suddenly turning around.

    It is a bit rarer that I deliberately plan for a save scum. It’s more a case of things going pearshaped and me thinking “Oh bugger, I hope I have a recent autosave” or kicking myself for forgetting to quicksave. As the article notes, it comes down to preserving the narrative I set out to tell myself with the game, and if the game isn’t playing along, I will happily force it to comply by initiating operation “Do Over”.

  25. mike2R says:

    I don’t tend to save scum all that much, but when I do it kind of similar to the football manager example. It’s when I’ve got a story in my mind of how the game is going to go, which gets screwed up by some event, and I decide that actually, I’d much prefer to play the story I had planned than the new one the game has provided me.

    Like my current CK2 game. King of Sicily whose father swore fealty to the Byzantine Emperor and converted his vassals to Orthodox, with the long-term plan of having his dynasty take over the Imperial crown. My son is a genius who’ll inherit a strong claim on the Empire from his mother, and is off being educated into being a Greek in the Emperor’s court.

    I know how I want this game to go, and if something dumb happens to stop it, I’ll definitely reload.

  26. Lagran says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever really save-scummed in a game, though I can see the appeal. Sometimes, for me, not save-scumming can lead to a more interesting outcome:

    Playing XCOM:EU on one of the early levels (with a lot of trains around). Low difficulty as I’m getting into the game, so I’m managing to take down a lot of Thin Men and Sectoids. I’ve got a range of classes in my squad, including a medic with a health pack. Everything’s going okay, and I’m down to the last two Sectoids.

    Unfortunately, one Sectoid gets a lucky shot off and knocks out one of my crew. I hurriedly scrabble around to find my medic, and…oh no. That’s my medic bleeding out on the ground, and no one else has a medpack to revive him. The rest of my squad is nearby, and I can maybe kill the Sectoids and finish the mission before he dies. I’m running under the assumption that a mission complete will mean any KO’d soldiers will survive.

    Aim at the Sectoids. First shot hits; second goes wide. Third kills a Sectoid — one down, one to go. The pattern of hits and misses continues on, until I’m down to the last turn to save my medic. I’m on my last shot — a hit will finish the mission and allowing me to pull my medic out still alive; a miss will mean he dies. I set up, check the odds of the shot making contact…cut-scene plays, Sectoid dies. Land back at base, medic pulled out of the heli, “you’re one lucky SOB”.

    (My husband got a nice running commentary on this, mostly consisting of my swearing and panicking when I saw that it was my medic who was down.)

  27. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    I will admit to save scumming in FTL (which involves quitting, copying the save files, and reloading) in order to get the crystal ship. Otherwise you have to wait for the the RNG to throw up two extremely unlikely events in one play through.
    Of course, after going to those lengths I got the right combination of events on the first run through.

  28. Slazer says:

    I think Jagged Alliance 2 on harder modes was basically impossible without save scumming as one bad move could kill your best mercenary right after you spent a week’s income to keep him under contract.

    Even with save scumming, I see killing 14 elites with a single M.E.R.C. guy as a pretty big archievement

  29. jenkins says:

    Great article! As an inveterate save scummer with a perverse appreciation for roguelikes, I understand entirely. The observation that save scumming is tied to the narrative is spot on. I will happily save scum while learning the mechanics of something new – time is valuable and I don’t like the feeling of having hours of work undone when blindsided by a new mechanic or not properly understanding an existing one.

    Banner Saga was a watershed moment – it was the first game that gave me an option to save scum that I willingly chose not to use, because I trusted the narrative. I felt I could trust the narrative to take me somewhere interesting instead of punishing me later on for not min/maxing in the present. I was not disappointed.

    Sunless Sea has been excellent in this regard as well – the fear of permadeath is spicy enough without the need for the brutal and uncaring RNG gods killing off any number of promising starts on a casual whim.

  30. specialsymbol says:

    Hear, hear. There’s a term for people who like to create their own story, often at the sacrifice of being efficient or sometimes even downright effective:

    those people are called Schönbauer.

    The ultimate goal is to create something that baffles you – that you like. Be it the most beautiful story / set of choices (Witcher, anyone?) / city (Anno?), or even the most efficient (Transport Tycoon and also Anno).

    You need savegames for this.

  31. RegisteredUser says:

    If reloading were cheating, using an eraser in a standardized test or striking out something to correct it would be cheating as well.
    They are not. Reloading is not cheating, it is merely correcting or optimizing gameplay. Pretending like saving and loading a game makes you scum is stupid and pretending a correction is a cheat is also stupid.

    Had. To. Be. (Said) Written.