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Finishing the Game: A Study in Laziness

I spent the better part of a week trying to figure out how I wanted to approach this new series, in between other projects that I have been working on and a recent seminar on implementing technology in the classroom. I knew what I wanted to talk about and how it was going to be an ongoing series, but not quite how to frame it for you, dear reader. So, after several rewrites to the first few paragraphs, I have decided to just start at the beginning and work up from there. So if you would be follow me, keep your arms and legs inside of the DeLorean, and keep an eye out for stray phone booths and police boxes, then we can get underway.

Image Credit: Square Enix and Nintendo 2012

Image Credit: Square Enix and Nintendo 2012

Way back in January of 2005 along with Nintendo emulator I discovered they had remade the first two Final Fantasy games and packaged them together in a single cartridge for the Gameboy Advanced. At the time I had just discovered the webcomic 8-Bit Theater and the now classic 8-Bit D&D, which I found to be uproariously funny. Naturally, I felt like I needed the game more than life itself. I was lucky enough to have some money on hand at the time, left over from the Christmas season, and didn’t have to wait a month for my birthday to roll around. So I got myself over to the store and picked up a copy. You see, I had only ever played Final Fantasy X at that point and I had never finished as I had run into some difficulty with the level up part of the game; I was simply miserable with the sphere grid. The idea of a simpler retro JRPG really appealed to the younger me, who was more interested in adventure than graphics. I took it home and I started it up, the familiar ding of my Gameboy Advanced filling me with sheer giddy joy.

The next four hours went by as a blur, starting with the creation of my party—Fighter, Thief, Red Mage, Black Mage. Like I said, I had been reading 8-Bit Theater—and ending with the death of the Earth Fiend. With every level earned, every monster slain, and every new treasure came pure childish joy. I felt powerful playing the game, because I had been grinding monsters for a good chunk of it and making sure I had all the stuff I needed to make the game practically easy mode. I figured I would have everything wrapped up by the end of the week at the rate I was going. I was already plotting some sort of odd party that made use of the Black Belt and White Mage or nothing but four Red Mages for my next go around, because why the hell not?

So that night I went to bed thinking about what I was going to do next and how I couldn’t wait to face the next Fiend. About how I really needed to save up my Gil to get the next set of equipment upgrades and all of those powerful new spells. Poor Red Mage was kind of lagging in the healing department and I was banking on the next tier being just what he needed to get good at patching everybody up like he used to. Of course I had school the next day, so I would have to wait until after I got home to play, but that really wasn’t going to be too bad.

I drifted off to sleep thinking about magic swords and powerful magics and conquering great evil. I woke up the next morning thinking about battered textbooks and overdue assignments and conquering math class. (Which is really much the same thing, I am sure you’ll agree.) To top it off, the day was slow. I mean it was agonizingly slow. A snail inching along a salt maze would have been in less pain. I tried to focus on getting through to lunch and then, from there, on waiting out eight period and going home. And when I did? I didn’t pick up the game like I had planned. The boredom of the day had knocked the thought of grand adventure right out of my bloody head!

Four months went by before I played Dawn of Souls again, but it had been so long that I really wasn’t sure where I had left off. As experience I am sure most of you are familiar with. If it isn’t Final Fantasy, it is Pokemon or something like that. Where you were deep in the middle of some dungeon and then you lost the game for a while, brushed under the bed because mom was demanding that at least make your floor visible. When I turned the game on, I found myself in Elfheim after having used the mystic key to open up the chests scattered through the starting area and without a clue what I should do next.

So I started a second game, replacing the Red Mage with a White Mage because all I could remember was wanting a better healer. Honestly, I was hoping to get back on track so that I could hop over to my first game and pick up where I had left off. Sadly, that game lasted for two hours and ended with my getting the ship and massacring sharks and sahaguin to get cash and experience points. Then I went off to dinner and promptly forgot about the Warriors of Light and both of my sacred missions to free the land from the four Fiends. Way to leave everybody hanging, am I right? I had technically screwed over two worlds who were looking for someone to save them.

© Looking Glass Studios and XBOX 2004

And this became the pattern for me. I would occasionally pick the game up and start a new file, play it for a few hours, and then wander off. There were at least a dozen different games over the course of seven years and I never did more than kill the Lich in any of them. It just couldn’t hold my attention for long enough despite my initial enthusiasm. The game was kind of boring now that I had replayed the first four hours so many times. Not to mention that we eventually got new games and consoles during that time. So the game sat and waited, until it made its way into the hands of the most unlikely of people. A hobbit named—wait… scratch that, my grand adventure is showing. The game just sat there waiting for me like a puppy in the rain and I never finished it.

So fast forward to last month. I was sitting around my room on the weekend, thinking about what I could write for my first article when I looked over and spotted by Gameboy on the other side of the room. Needing something to waste time, I wandered over and checked the back, only to find Final Fantasy in the slot. I flicked the power switch on and looked through the save files, none of them familiar. It made me think of all of the games that I had never really finished.

Pokemon: FireRed, Assassin’s Creed, Thief: Deadly Shadows, Batman Arkham Asylum, Spider-Man Shattered Dimensions, Final Fantasy: Dawn of Souls. Those are just a few of the titles that came most readily to mind. I had started them, getting through the opening or maybe almost to the end, before life got in the way. I went back and jumped back into bed, staring at the ceiling and marveling at my utter inability to commit to finishing so many different games. What the hell was wrong with me that I couldn’t finish a video game?

It couldn’t have been an issue of time. I finished movies, I finished books, and even finished my homework—and usually before the due date! But there is something about playing a video game, something where it needs to hook you in and not let you go, so that you make it all the way. It is something that so many games failed to do and usually through no fault of their own. Pokemon: FireRed suffered from the fact that I had beaten Pokemon: Red and Pokemon: Yellow over a decade ago and it was really just a pretty version of the original. Assassin’s Creed was left by the wayside when I got Batman Arkham Asylum, which was left to sit when I found out how disappointing the boss fight with Joker was going to be thanks to a lose lipped friend. Poor Bruce is still sitting around, polishing a batarang and wondering why we haven’t stopped Poison Ivy yet.

That is when I realized that I have a serious problem with video game commitment. I almost never followed through and I never had a really good reason for it. I just drifted away and never got around to finishing the job. And do you know what? That really pisses me off to no end, especially with the rising cost of games these days. I want to know why I never went all the way with the time I gave over to these games. So with that in mind, I have decided to go ahead and knock these suckers out.

Leaving behind a trail of half-finished titles just seems like a poor way to live. And because it struck me as an easy way to have a set theme for a half dozen or so articles, but don’t tell the boss that.

So if it is a game I that have played the first three hours of and never finished, then I will be giving it another go. This time the fun (or torment) doesn’t stop until the game is finished and I have at least made it through to the end. I don’t feel the need to get every achievement and find every secret, but I do want to beat the games. I will try to keep the use of guides and the like to a minimum, as a more authentic play through would be best. Though I can already tell you that Final Fantasy I required that I use a guide at a couple of points just so that I could figure out where in the world I was supposed to go next.

When I write these articles the focus is going to be on what the game does right and what it does wrong. I am going to try to zero in on what in the world let me get drawn away from it in the first place. Maybe I will find them to be a better experience now that I am older and more experienced. Or maybe I will just try myself to my chair and force myself to play through the game. And after I get through the major titles that I want to finish (which I will list below) I may even be open to suggestions for other games that I never played and should have, because what is a writer without his audience? An idiot typing at a wall, that’s what!

So bear with me as I claw through the games I missed the first time around. I am hoping for action and excitement. I am hoping that it is painless—or maybe I should pray that it is agonizing, because that seems to make for an entertaining article. And feel free to suggest a title, because if I haven’t played it then I can keep it in mind for later. If I have, then I will think about adding it to the list.

But for now, this is Liam signing off.

The Doom List (in no particular order)
Kingdom Hearts
Assassin’s Creed
Assassin’s Creed II
Batman Arkham Asylum
Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls (Both games!)
Final Fantasy X
Thief: Deadly Shadows
Golden Sun

About the Author
____________________________________________

Liam “the Wildonion” Cassidy is doing something inappropriate right now. Or maybe he’s just napping. Or writing, yeah he’s writing. Totally on topic right there. You believe me right? Of course you do, for I am the ever-present and ever-faithful narrator! So believe me when I say that Liam is writing right this very moment. And saving the world! Or something. Follow Liam on his Twitter as @wildonion13.

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