Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Can you live my life for me?

In the midst of my own rather desperate need to complete a game for a deadline for a Guide, a player emailed me with the following plea:

'Hi, I own harvest moon and I am very stressed out. Can you please play it for me until the part where you get the last sprite, Baby? So that I can do the rest? This is my 2 time starting over and I had only 25 more sprite to go! I saved the game in wrong slots and now, I accidantly turned it off while saving: now the data is lost. Please help me. Please. I can send you the game through the mail and so can you just simply mail it back? Please send your address so I can mail it to you. Please help me! You are my only hope since you are an expert!'

Well, almost any one who ever played a game has lost a file either by accident or through the corruption of game data. It is a terrible experience. In fact, such losses occur to individuals who never played a game, but who have been involved in any writing effort. It happens quite frequently, alas, to any one who owns or uses a computer. Even if your opus magnus is handwritten, it can be lost or destroyed...

How many of us, having put forth extraordinary effort for days, weeks or months, can confront the awful prospect of being forced to start again from the beginning? If reincarnation is a reality, it is a good thing that none of us remembers our previous attempts at the game of Life. We probably would feel much the same as any player who finds the slate wiped clean prematurely.

Actually, it happened to me quite recently when I could ill afford it. With a deadline looming that appeared impossible to meet even at that point, all my files were corrupted and I was forced to begin anew. There was a brief interval when my spirit rebelled and all I wished to do was MOURN.

I then realised it was an opportunity to play the 'perfect game' from the beginning, avoiding all previous errors, moving forward quickly without encountering any puzzles or obstacles. After all, I had solved the puzzles and eliminated the obstacles previously.

The man who watches his house burn to the ground and is able to see it as an opportunity to build a new house to his own specifications is a rare creature, but one must try to tranform tragedy into opportunity whenever possible. After all, what is the alternative?

The Harvest Moon player is begging me to play the game up to the point where all rewards can be enjoyed... I wonder what life would be like if we could ask some one else to do all the work for us. The surrogate would make all decisions and then implement them... but along the way, the surrogate would experience all the wonder and joy of his/her accomplishments. What is life but the Journey itself?

In this player's case, it is a matter of re-experiencing all the events and I can understand the impulse to try to persuade some one else to do it in the circumstances. One wonders if there is a career to be made out of this perhaps. In one sense, by writing guides for games, I am doing precisely that: I am playing the game for the player, solving the puzzles, overcoming the obstacles and making a happy ending possible.

There are cheat devices that input codes to allow events to 'occur' artificially. I won't use them myself, but many players do. In the sort of games I play, cheat codes usually would backfire in any case. When every action has a multitude of side-effects and ancillary results, inputting a code that ignores all of that is like trying to use a jackhammer to make a piece of intricate jewelry.

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