These are my personal Edwin Droods. Stories that I’ve failed to finish, for one reason or another, and that are left suspended. In the manner of somebody reversing out of a relationship like a heavy goods vehicle, trundling slowly and beeping nonchalantly, I’d like to say to the games included: “It’s not you, it’s me.”
I was inspired to write this after talking to my sister over the weekend. She just bought a new PC and told me she’d finished transferring her Sims 2 neighbourhood across. She’s been playing with that same set of families since the game came out 11 years ago.
When she finally leaves it behind, I hope that the save file exists forever, although the idea of revisiting it one day when we’re both ancient and not long for this world is too sad to contemplate. And what are the chances it’ll be compatible with whatever passes for a computer a few decades from now anyhow? Slim. Although I might be able to play it on the phone that is also my eye.
Game: Civilization IV
When I quit playing: As soon as someone declares war on me.
Reason for abandonment: Wars require so much micromanagement.
I have started approximately fourteen million games of Civ IV and I’ve finished maybe six of them. The vast majority of the civilisations I build are peaceful creations and I tend to think of armies as busywork. Science and culture are based around the choices I make, as is settlement, but as soon as war breaks out I make the same old build queues and then direct my troops toward the nearest or weakest enemy city. At least that’s how it feels.
Game: Final Fantasy VII
When I quit playing: Junon Underwater Reactor
Reason for abandonment: Learned what ‘grinding’ meant.
Carry Armor. I just had to look up the name of the boss that forced me to quit Final Fantasy VII. I didn’t think I’d ever play the game again, though I’ve finished it since that first attempt. Cloud’s daft soon-to-be-remade adventure was my first JRPG experience and I spent the first hour wondering when the story stuff would end and the RPG bit would start. I thought I was playing through a very drawn out introductory sequence and soon I’d be free to explore a little.
A couple of weeks later I’d reached the underwater reactor and I found that my party were incapable of beating the Carry Armor, which can neutralise two characters leaving the remaining member to fight alone. It’s entirely possible that I could have won but repeated failures convinced me that I should have spent more time levelling up earlier in the game, so I quit.
Game: Crusader Kings II
When I quit playing: Around 1240.
Reason for abandonment: My son was the absolute worst.
I had one good son. If that hadn’t been the case maybe the disappointment wouldn’t have been all-consuming. This was the ultimate CKII game, the one in which I’d taken on all-comers and become a legend in my own lifetime. As ruler of (almost) everything from the eastern edge of modern day France to the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula and the borders of a Scandinavian threat that had trickled south and started to encroach on Hungary, I was the most powerful man in the world.
My heir wasn’t fit to rule; he was fit to be locked in a dungeon. Physically and emotionally broken for no reason that I could discern – perhaps being the son of the most powerful man in the world is stressful in and of itself? – he couldn’t have commanded the respect of a puppy. When his elder brother died due to an infected wound, he took his place as next in line to the throne. His father died when the idiot heir had turned 31 without achieving anything of note in his life.
I normally enjoy the fall more than the rise in CKII but this time my efforts had taken a lot out of me. It’s the only time I’ve ever played the game to win, as it were, and I couldn’t stand to watch the end of my empire. One day I’ll go back.
Game: The Ritual on Weylyn Island
When I quit playing: About ten feet from where the game begins. Almost.
Reason for abandonment: I couldn’t open the door to leave the first building in the game.
This was last night. I play a lot of games that I don’t end up writing about. Digging through recent releases, particularly obscure horror games, is a hobby of mine, and it’s how I unearth occasional diamonds in the rough. The Ritual on Weylyn Island is not a diamond. I ran into two nasty bugs within two minutes of starting the game: the first left me unable to move without spinning around as I did so and the second left me unable to open doors or pick up objects. The latter bug occurred after I’d entered a cabin and the door had closed behind me, so I was unable to leave.
Reloading didn’t help but I did manage to progress by controlling everything with mouse and keyboard except the button to activate doors or pick up objects, which was mapped to the right trigger on my 360 pad. I played like that for a while, unable to use just one control method at a time because the joypad mapping means that the left and right bumpers make the character turn around (left makes her turn right and right makes her turn left, of course) and the right stick’s x-axis makes her look up and down (left is up, right is down). The left stick is the only sensible one – pushing it forward moves the character forward.
I eventually quit because even though I managed to kick my Uncle Brian in the face, a jump scare kept killing me in the next scene.
Game: Amnesia: The Dark Descent
When I quit playing: The Prison level.
Reason for Abandonment: I was too scared to leave the room.
Went into a dark room, closed the door, hid behind some crates. Something started banging on the door and then burst into the room. I paused, saved and reloaded several times over the next few days but always quit before the thing could see me. Eventually reverted to a previous save and carried on from there. I like to think that character has made a home behind those crates, refusing to ever leave.
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