The Unfinisher- Tales of a Chronic Game Leaver

You didn't know how much, SEGA.

I have a problem. I don’t finish games.

It’s not that I don’t want to. No, believe me – I wish I could finish every game in my library. Part of the reason I keep all my old game systems and games is because I think “maybe I’ll go back and beat ‘Jurassic Park’ for the SEGA Genesis.” The problem, right now, is time.

It didn’t used to be that way. Well, I’ve never been good at finishing video games, but it used to be a chronic problem, rather than a problem of time. I blame SEGA and Nintendo for my plight. Ah, the 8-bit and 16-bit systems of yore. I was raised on a high level of difficulty in games, and I got chiseled and battle hardened. When I beat a game, it was a triumph. I probably ruined some circuits by leaving my Genesis on pause when mom called for dinner. However, I rarely ever beat games. Why? Lack of save features is the first culprit I can come up with. In those days, games didn’t save. They all ran like mini cartridge machines. If you died too many times, and had no continues, you lost and had to go back to the beginning. If your mom turned the system off because it was “using too much power,” you had to come back and start over. The easiest of games became incredibly difficult due to the sheer frustration of having to start over every single time. If you tracked the playtime on levels on my Sonic 2 cartridge, I’m sure that Emerald hill would have the vast majority.

These games trained me not to finish, and not to expect to finish, because I never had more than a few hours to sit down and really finish a game. Sonic 3 introduced the first Sonic Game to have save features, but I never bought that game as a kid for a variety of reasons. For some reason, it flew under my radar. I had somehow gotten Sonic and Knuckles from a friend who left it at my house and decided he didn’t want it anymore (sucker), but that game had that same idiotic lack of save features. Hell, Sonic didn’t even have password entry on levels, except for on the incredibly hard Sonic Spinball, that I will probably never finish.

More than that, though, I continued this downward spiral in gaming by getting into something bad. I got in with the wrong folks somewhere along the line, and I started…

…cheating.

That’s right. When I started getting tired of failing, and the internet came out, I discovered cheats. I still know the level select cheat on Sonic 2 by heart. My parents enabled my horrible

Me, after discovering cheats

addiction when I had my Nintendo 64, one fateful Christmas morn, by purchasing me a Gameshark. I was at 60 stars in Mario 64 and floundering, and I was two medallions up in the adult storyline of Ocarina of Time, and then the Gameshark came into the picture. I cheated on every game, save Super Smash Bros (at which I was an expert). Zelda became a glitchy mess of cheats, all items obtained, flying turned on so I could explore the oblivion past the graphics. In Mario 64 I used cheats in every level to get all the coins and the rest of the stars. Worse yet, I used these cheats on my original game saves, so I couldn’t go back to where I was in my original playthrough. When I realized my hubris, it was too late, and I stopped playing those games out of shame.

Years passed, and it started to become a problem of gusto to finish. When a game began to frustrate me, I stopped trying, put it down, and went to play another game that caught my fancy. If anything ever got too difficult, I would stop playing for months, if not years. I would become insanely obsessive about a game until I got to an especially tough boss, and then I would get frustrated and put it down.

Kingdom Hearts? Stopped at Ansem’s first form. Sonic 1? Usually stopped at Starlight Zone. Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, Windwaker, Sonic and Knuckles, Mario 64, Ace Combat 5, Cool Spot, Super Mario World, Splinter Cell, Return to Castle Wolfenstein, BLACK, Sonic CD… the list goes on and on.

Every now and then, I would in fact finish a game. In my High School Years I started finishing games, or nearly finishing them (like Kingdom Hearts). Still, I had the tendency to not sit down with a game and play it all the way through. When I did, it was usually on easy mode, and I rationalized that I just wanted to have fun or enjoy the story. This was partly true, but I was so afraid of getting ridiculously frustrated with a game, that I usually never tried anything on hard mode. That’s when Let’s Playing came into the picture. Off and on throughout college I thought of maybe running a blog completely about finishing games I had never finished, so I could beat every game in my collection. The idea came in and out of my consciousness, but never materialized into anything tangible or useful.

Last year, I discovered Let’s Plays. My best friend and Youtube comrade “Sweet Victory” introduced me to them, and said that he wanted to try it out, just for fun. I thought that was a pretty cool idea, and reminded me of my goal to beat the games in my library. I started with Sonic 1 on October 7th, 2010, and I haven’t looked back. On camera, for the whole world (or at least a small youtube audience) to see, I beat Sonic 1 for the first time in my life. Near the end it was incredibly frustrating, and I had to do multiple takes and I used saves merely because I couldn’t sit and record for that many hours, but I legitimately beat Sonic 1. No cheats. No tricks. It was all the more satisfying because I had been so frustrated. Years of tension from not beating that game was released, and I was liberated.

Luckily I don't do this to my games systems when I rage

Since then, I have yet to leave a game that I’ve started Let’s Playing. I only once ragequit, but I eventually came back and finished that game as well. Outside of Youtube, I have started to gain tenacity in games I otherwise would have quit. I played almost straight through Uncharted on my first sitting, and finished within a few weeks (mostly due to school obligations). Uncharted 2 I recently started, and have been playing obsessively on Hard Mode from the beginning. For some reason, I feel challenged rather than frustrated most of the time, and it feels more fun. I fully plan on starting a “Crushing” mode playthrough very soon.

Let’s Playing has finally taught me to finish games. I still have a long list to get back to – in fact, most of the games I mentioned above still remain unfinished. Now it has become an issue of time. I am a graduate student, and I simply don’t always have the time to play games, so when I do I like to play whatever catches my fancy at the time. When I play, I want to use my time wisely, so I try not to play too many different games at once – not to mention I have obligations to finish the games I’ve started on the Youtube channel.

But, I will finish them. For the first time, I know I will finish. I suppose it doesn’t hurt that games have save features now, though.

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One thought on “The Unfinisher- Tales of a Chronic Game Leaver

  1. In all fairness, no one has ever beaten Jurassic Park for Sega Genesis. Killing Grant at the end of the Raptor game is like trying to kill a god, and the volcano level in Grant’s game is basically a machine for extracting extra lives from in the same way scientists collected dino DNA from mosquitoes.

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