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On Not Being Defeated

No, it's fine, I can do this

Almost the first thing I did when our family bought a PC was to break it. I can’t remember quite what I did, but I was probably attempting to customise something to be more to my liking or to speed something up, and as a result I mangled the Windows 3.1 installation on the very day that this 25MHz 486 SX arrived. The next thing I did was to fix it. Pre-internet, this meant hours of research, and still more hours of trial and error to establish what I’d done and how to undo it. I edited .bat files, I backed things up, I retrieved missing files from compressed directories, I tried and tried and I won. Oh, the perseverance of youth.

As well as this being what made me a PC gamer – I’m able to take most technical complexities in my stride, whereas my friends who grew up with consoles tend to freak out if they have to do anything more than put a disc in a drive – it also made me stubborn as all hell. If a game doesn’t work, or something displays wrong, or there’s a performance issue, I cannot even countenance the idea of giving up. I will spend hours and sometimes days trying to resolve the issue myself, even at times when it’s blindingly obvious that the fault lies with the game, and the game needs an update. I will not be defeated. I will not rely on anybody else to fix things for me. Well, other than anonymous people on forums who I never actually communicate with.

GTA V’s a good case in point. I didn’t even particularly want to play it again, having bounced hard off its uninspired obnoxiousness and mid-life crisis (and do I mean the characters of the developers? Oh ho, I’m not saying) machismo when playing it on console, but I did want to see how Los Santos looked on at 1440p with proper anti-aliasing and all that nerdly good stuff. I was distraught when the damn thing wouldn’t load. I didn’t intend to spend more than half an hour with it, but that half an hour had to be right now and I just could not believe that I couldn’t have that.

I’ve never read so many pages on the Steam forum in my life. I tried so many suggestions: manual installation of the resoundingly pointless Rockstar Social Club, any number of driver reinstallations and scrubber programs, safe mode, creating new Administrator accounts, disabling my graphics card in Device Manager, and redownloading 30-something gigabytes of GTA V three times over. Nothing worked. It was clear that nothing would work until Rockstar patched the damn thing. But I couldn’t give up. I checked the forum again and again, I retried solutions which had already failed again and again, I alt-tabbed to Steam dozens of times over the course of the day to see if there’d been a patch. I had wasted so much time, and all for a game I didn’t even especially want to play. But I couldn’t give up.

I got there in the end. It turned out that the damnable Rockstar Social Club didn’t like Mactype, an application which makes fonts look a little less horrendous in Windows. It’s not a particularly well-know problem, so frankly it’s a miracle that someone else ran into the same issue and that said someone thought to uninstall a program which has, to the best of my knowledge, never caused an issue with any other game. (I recommend it highly, in fact, though I’ve yet to reinstall it and see if the GTA problem is fixed).

After so many hours and so many attempted fixes, GTA damn well worked because I removed that one little font program, and I doubt any human was as overjoyed as I was to see the needless drek that is the Social Club app appear on their screen. I didn’t care about playing the game. I only played it for a couple of minutes to check it worked. What I cared about was that I could play the game, and that I had not been defeated.

This is not an isolated incident. Similar has happened again and again, and I have wasted hundreds of hours on trying to make games work. The solutions have been absurd at times – disable some of my CPU cores to play Risen 3, having to change the sample rate of my sound card to launch Skyrim… PC games, why you gotta be so weird? Sometimes my desperation to fix the problem as soon as possible, even when a patch is clearly en route, has even lead to spending money: I bought a new graphics card to play Rage, just because it didn’t play nice with AMD cards at launch. Time, energy, money – so much of it gone, because I can’t wait and I won’t be defeated. Every time I’ve found a fix, it’s been worth it. Every time I’ve failed, I’ve been an inconsolable grump.

It’s stupid. It’s a disease. I have so many games I could or should play, but it’s only ever the one which I can’t that I want to.

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Alec Meer

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

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