A Life Without Quicksave

I take a deep breath. My teeth are clenched. I work my jaw back and forth and try to relax as the familiar door appears in front of me. I unsheathe my sword. Okay, I think, let's try this again.

The door opens and I burst into the room. The first guard is sitting down, staring straight ahead. As always, he seems surprised to see me. I greet him with the usual kick to the face.

He topples backwards in his chair, crushing it. He sprawls amongst the debris, coughing and groaning. I spin around to find his partner, who for the last five attempts has taken to running up behind me and ruining my fun. Sidestepping his clumsy advance, I wind up for my counter-attack.

In an astonishing twist my first strike sends his head careening wildly from his shoulders, a high sickle arc of blood spiraling behind it. I'm surprised, and more than a little pleased with myself.

"Woah," I say, "That's never happened before."

Next there is the archer at the opposite end of the room, who by now will have heard the ruckus and begin pelting me with arrows, unless I get to him quick enough to--wait, what's going on? Is somebody hitting me?

The other guard has gotten up. He's slashing at my back, no doubt wreaking his petty revenge for making him crush his favorite chair, and also decapitating his partner.

Well this won't do at all.

I hit the F9 key. The screen goes black, and then says "Loading Quicksave". I take a deep breath. The door appears again.


"Wait, what's it called?" she asks. It's Friday night. The bar is loud and bustling; she must not have heard me the first time. Still, I hate repeating myself.

"DARK MESSIAH of MIGHT and MAGIC," I say deliberately.

She frowns a little. "Sorry," she says. I feel sheepish.

It's been a stressful week. All she wants to do is have a little fun before she hunkers down to study for her midterm, so we've come to this bar to eat and be merry. But I'm in a strange mood, and it certainly isn't merry. My head is still buzzing with the worries of the past week--missed assignments, failed tests, the slow steady slide back into the hole--so I'm quiet and uneasy. I try to make an effort.

"It's really a ridiculous game," I mumble.

She blinks. "Why's that?"

"Well," I say, "at times it makes me feel like I'm thirteen. I mean its premise, its setting, the plot and characters"… it all seems so juvenile. It's a little embarrassing at times."

She takes a contemplative sip of her drink. I can't help but notice she does not seem too engaged by the conversation.

"So why are you playing it all the time?" she asks.

"Because the gameplay is so damned good," I say. "That's what's so frustrating about it! I keep reloading scenes to play them over again and I never get anywhere. It's like I'm caught in an infinite loop. What I can't fathom is how the intellectual ambition needed to create that sort of gameplay didn't transfer to the writing. It's like a marriage of the best and worst parts of gaming."

She doesn't seem too interested, which makes me acutely self-conscious. I fold myself up, and suddenly I've nothing left to say. All I can do is sit and stare at the people around us. As the silence becomes more awkward, and she becomes more upset, I start to wish this night could be attempted again.


I open the door. I have by now distilled each coming action to its essence. The next few moments have become a martial dance, a bullet point list.

Enter. Kick face. Parry. Parry. Thrust. Chop.

While I feel a twinge of disappointment that I do not trigger another spectacular decapitation, I do remember to refocus my attention on the first guard. He is brazenly attempting to stand. This goes against my wishes, so I kick him once again, and then thrust my sword into him for good measure. Looking good so far"…

I grunt as an arrow hits me. I glare across the room. The archer stands alone, looking at me, perhaps taking a moment to consider the tragic folly of his actions. My vision blazes as adrenaline sets my body aflame. The archer seems to shrink. He begins to backpedal. I sprint across the room, and with a single apocalyptic stroke I cleave him neatly in twain.

I sigh, and press F9.


We're sitting in her car, and she is quietly crying. I'm uncertain as to when I lost my grip, but this night has gone completely out of my control. She wanted a few moments to relax after a difficult week, and I gave her half an hour of uncomfortable silence. The evening is ruined--and all I want is to try it over again. Of its own volition, my finger reaches for a quicksave button which isn't there.

But it wouldn't be enough just to try this night over. I'd need to redo the entire week, the entire month, the year"… I'd have to start from the beginning, systematically change every unsatisfactory thing about my personality since birth, replay my entire life until I got it "right". These are the difficulties of a life without quicksave--you're stuck with what you've done, and you're stuck with who you are.

I might be able to fix things, to change with time, but this doesn't comfort me now. Later I may be forgiven, but now she is crying, and now I am wishing that I was someone else.


Once again I stand at center stage amidst the remnants, surveying my work. That was pretty good, I think.

Pretty good--but not perfect. Although I have no idea what "perfect" is I am certain that I'll know it when I see it. I just have to keep playing until I do.

Perhaps I'm the problem. Maybe I can't get it perfect because I'm imperfect.

Of course--it's obvious, really. I'm not doing enough damage. I should have put those skill points in strength instead of endurance. If only I were different in just that regard, I'm certain this would be perfect, and I could stop playing it over and over again, and I could move on with the rest of the game.

At least now my course is clear. I just need to be someone else. I load up an earlier saved game to make the adjustments to my character. It means playing through an even larger portion of the game a second time, but this is a small price to pay for perfection. I'll get back to this door eventually, and when I do I'll get it right, and then won't I be glad I have so many quicksaves? After all, life would be so much more complicated without them.


Brilliant piece.

I remember the looks I got when I compared the movie Lola Rennt to the savepoints in videogames: restart 'til you robbed the bank! Like I was from another planet

dejanzie wrote:

I remember the looks I got when I compared the movie Lola Rennt to the savepoints in videogames: restart 'til you robbed the bank! Like I was from another planet :D

How so very true. Same thing happened to me. And it was way before all this "gaming=mainstream" nonsense, which made it much worse. Especially here where I live.

Great piece Malacola.


Very cool piece!

Strikes a cord with me too but not in the same way. Although i do quicksave a lot i tend not to reload too often (only on death). However, when my girlfriend and I are arguing she will bring up the point as if i thought it were true:

"Darling, life isn't like a videogame you know. You can't just reload when something goes wrong. There's no reset button..."

Thing is i agree with her and (because it's a deadly mistake to first do something wrong to make her feel she has to say that and then make the situation worse by arguing philosophically over what she just said) let it go, as i really don't think like that at all.
I've tried to tell her. I'm not some sort of robot obsessive compulsive person who's oblivious to other's feelings or thinks that i can just treat anyone like a dialogue tree in a game (RPG of course), then reload if i don't like the outcome... I...just....like....playing....games.

So i don't talk to her about games... ever...

I feel that there is a LARGE barrier to communication and interaction between those people who play games casually or not at all and the hardcore (read: perpetual) gamer. There is some kind of lack of understanding on their part that they think one category defines us all. There are many types of hardcore gamer and many reasons why they exist.
Two of the main reasons are escape and control of life. Other's, like de-stressing or fun, are less addictive in their pursuit.

We are not all sick or ill... nor do we lack the compassion of "normal" people who have normal and accepted pasttimes such as golf or poker (though on some levels gambling is treated with the same disdain). Does the responsibility for this ignorance and hate lie at the media's door? Their demonising of anything that is different and not considered mainstream? Or are their actions just concentrations of humankind's own nature to ridicule and fear that which is unknown?

Stay tuned batfans...

Sorry for the long post... i guess it's a sore spot for me.

dejanzie wrote:

Brilliant piece.

I remember the looks I got when I compared the movie Lola Rennt to the savepoints in videogames: restart 'til you robbed the bank! Like I was from another planet :D

Absolutely great piece. And for those whos german is rusty Lola Rennt was released as Run Lola Run in english.

Really wonderful Mal, really great. Fabulous tone and pace. Brings me right in.

I've had an idea about writing a "checkpoint" article and now I'm glad I didn't.

This is really fantastic Mal. The duality of the evening that goes to peices and the game that you want to be perfect speaks volumes about gamer mentality.

I'm up there with rabbit, too. The pacing in this is wonderful.

Put in the F9 loop in "real life" but take away your control of it (i.e. something else determines when you "got it right") and you get Groundhog Day.

Wow, I really liked that one, Malacola. Very clever and well written, and not too long!
Keep it up

"Nice one, centurion, loved it, loved it!"

Man, I know this one. I've gotten a bit of a reputation (mostly undeserved, I think) for applying the Quickload button a bit too liberally. Some games do make it too easy though, and some of them can be very unforgiving. I recently played through Max Payne 2 on all three difficulty levels to see the alternate ending. It's very easy to smack that Quickload button if you take the slightest damage. I mostly got over that, being very aware by the third play through as to just how many painkillers there are. Of course, this was the hardest difficulty too, so the enemies were tougher, faster shots, and I think did more damage. Also, you only got 3 quicksaves on that setting.

Your best work yet, Mala. Well done.

Hi, my name is McChuck and I'm a recovering QuickSave-aholic.

My friend was showing me FFXII. His gambits weren't quite right at the time and his characters seemed to die often. He rezes them and continues on his way. It was like nails on a chalkboard. You're not going to reload and save those health potions and phoenix downs (or whatever they're called)?!? Apparently not and it was excruciating to watch. Okay, health potions are plentiful but one of your characters died! How can you allow that?

Croaker beat me to the Groundhog Day reference.

I loved this. There was a Ctrl+Alt+Del recently where Ethan put his foot in his mouth yet again, and his line is something like "This conversation needed a savepoint about two sentences back." I have that same thought every time I'm chewing on my mint-flavored sneakers.

This is pretty creepy.

momgamer wrote:

I have that same thought every time I'm chewing on my mint-flavored sneakers.

LOL, you'll have to put a link into your sig so that more people can buy them. Rubber doesn't taste so nice

Excellent Mal... I can only hope this is the start of a larger work. It begs for more background, a richer story. There are so many bits of symbolism that literate gamers could enjoy. Thanks for sharing.

Duoae wrote:
momgamer wrote:

I have that same thought every time I'm chewing on my mint-flavored sneakers.

LOL, you'll have to put a link into your sig so that more people can buy them. Rubber doesn't taste so nice ;)

The problem is when you do it too often in a single day and you get that sort of left-on-the-bedpost-overnight taste. That's just nasty.

Keep more of this coming. I also had a kind of quicksave-perfection encounter with this game. I just played the demo 20 times or so.