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A completist's frustration: the reckoning

  • Published at 14:15:46 PT
  • Reported by Ziyad Khesbak
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EDITORIAL - Folks, I have an issue, and it's become a serious problem. No, it's not an addiction to teenage pornography, as some of you might suspect; farbeit for me to incriminate myself. Nor do I stalk the dark alleys of Compton, nails digging deep into my skin, in search of that effervescent crack cocaine--my rehabilitation has placed me far above such petty desires. The truth is, I like to finish things. It’s true, I derive a special enjoyment from completing assignments, tubes of toothpaste, and one-ply rolls of toilet paper dangling precariously in public restroom stalls. Yet, when it comes to my favorite gaming hobby, my completist inclinations take a turn for the worse. Very recently, this combination led to unmitigated disaster and my clutching a shuddering body in the fetal position in the dead of night. What could have possibly gone wrong?

It was a warm summer morning when my mind began to wander to thoughts of Steiner and Freya. Eight years ago I had purchased a Playstation 2 and the first title obtained for my next-gen revalry was, in fact, Final Fantasy IX. A little pixilated? Maybe. Still, I recalled enjoying it enough to withdraw my copy from the bottomless abyss that is my gaming horde and slink it into my PS2 for another run. I was shocked to find that it was, in a word, amazing. Perhaps my angst-ridden teenage mind hadn’t found much admiration in Zidane’s upbeat attitude when compared with Squall’s downbeat indifference and cataclysmic power (read: Lionheart), but now everything seemed different, more charming. For the first time in a long time, I lost the restraint I had formed over a solid decade of gripping a controller in hand: I couldn’t stop. So it was that somewhere between scaling the trunk of Cleyra and munching frogs at Qu’s Marsh, I said to myself, “I’m going to do it. I’m going to go for a perfect game.”

If there’s one place where earning everything is difficult, it’s an RPG. It’s not your standard adventure fare, where you collect tokens of various shapes and are told very explicitly whether or not you did, indeed, obtain all fifty of fifty Walaboobip Idols of Power. Instead, you find yourself gripping a FAQ close in hand, following every letter as closely as possible, hoping to God you don’t miss a flag or worse, forget to steal an item. The goal is ethereal at best and unattainable at worst. This mannerism is so obsessive that I have outright forbidden myself from playing through a game using any kind of FAQ unless completely and miserably stuck. Anything else sucks enjoyment of story and characters quite dry.

But this wasn’t my first time with FFIX. I knew what was going to happen; who would say what, attack whom, dance vivaciously around an Oglop, and so forth. So it didn’t seem too far-fetched an idea to filter through gameFAQs and latch on to the largest file to follow its walkthrough. Largest means most complete, of course? Of course. For no fewer than thirty hours, I trekked across the farther reaches of Gaia, seeking out every treasure, item, and reward I could fathom at any given point in the game. Then the unthinkable happened: the FAQ writer didn’t check his work, didn’t follow his own guide, didn’t think it much to paste a paragraph where he assumed a flag would still trigger. I, of course, followed his words to the letter, and then saved. Damnation. By the time I realized what had transpired, it was too late, and I found myself deep in the stages of grief.

Denial: “Hmm, that’s odd, he’s supposed to be right there. Well, I can’t have missed it, it says right there. What does this other guide say? Oh, fuck.”

Anger: “That bastard! Check your own guide! You can’t just haphazardly paste shit everywhere! ‘The hell is wrong with you!? Arrgghh! Dammit! [Profuse obscenity of four languages follows]”

Bargaining: “No, no, no…I can fix this! There has to be some way. Maybe if I go back? No!? Dammit! I must have misread. But it says right there! Let me do it again—damn these random encounters! There has to be some way to fix this! Arrrghhh!”

Saddness: “Thirty hours! I can’t believe this! What am I supposed to do now? I spent all that time! Does this even count anymore? What’s my standard of a perfect game? I’ll never make it—I have to restart now. Just my luck.”

Acceptance: “Well, I guess I am just going to miss one Ribbon. And I guess that as long as I still get a Ribbon, I ought to be okay. This still really sucks.”

Hope: “Okay, fuck this shit. I’m going to play Grandia III. No FAQs, no nonsense. Let me just enjoy it.”

What’s the moral here? Being a completist just isn’t worth it. Unless your self-esteem is reprehensibly linked to the number of perfect files which fill your memory card, the path of perfectionism is paved with frustration and profound loss of fun. More practically, isn’t the time you spend bulking up your file just time you’re taking away from your enjoyment of other, equally as wonderful, titles? Don’t fill your mind with senseless item locations and conditions. Instead, fill it with new plotlines, exciting battle systems, and innovative ideas. Stagnating on a single game is stagnating a mind, and as gamers, can we really afford any more of that?

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What a sad, pitiable tale of gaming pedantry. Thank you for sharing your horrible affliction with us and making me feel better about myself. May god have mercy on you, Ziyad.
Everyone, could we please have a moment of silence for Ziyad's Memory Card.
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