Bob Dunn | Game On: Unfinished games not a failure, but an attempt


The pile of shame.

Every gamer has one. Whether they'll admit to it is another matter (the word "shame" is right in the name, after all.)

For the layperson, a pile of shame refers to the accumulation of unplayed and/or abandoned games in one's library.

A truly next-level pile is comprised of games still in the shrink-wrap.

There are all sorts of ways a game can go from highly-anticipated, must-have purchase to "Yeah, I really should get around to playing that."

Often, it's a lack of time to invest. Other times, it's too daunting of a task to return to a game from which you've stepped away long enough to forget the game's mechanics and control scheme and don't have time or enthusiasm to re-learn all of that or to throw in the towel and start over.

So, one by one, those games go on the shelf, right behind the little wicker basket stuffed with all manner of USB cables accumulated over the years.

Taking a recent look through my collection, I found about seven games that comprise the bulk of my pile and in the interest of owning that shame and moving on, I thought I'd unburden myself of some of it here.

Fallout 4

Oh, Fallout. Where did we go wrong? I was a big fan of Fallout 3 (which I did finish) and couldn't wait to dive into 4 and get lost in that post-apocalyptic world.

I took a fair amount of time, crafting my character, whom I named "Mungo Jerry" and fashioned into a grizzled Sam Elliot look-alike and couldn't wait to indulge in the game's role-playing mechanics.

I was going to set up supply chains, indulge in all of the side-quests I could find and take full advantage of the game's base-building options. I was going to create a thriving community in the middle of the wasteland.

Then, I tried the base-building.

Early in the game, you're introduced to the mechanism by which you're supposed to be able to construct shelter and defenses. It's a fairly elaborate system and those with patience that I simply don't have were able to produce some pretty impressive bases.

I gave up after spending far too much time fighting with the game's controls to try to run electricity from a generator to a lamp inside my base. The only thing more frustrating would have been to try to run real electricity from an actual generator while wearing oven mitts and a blindfold.

Picking up from that point doesn't hold a lot of interest, nor does the prospect of starting over.

Rest in virtual peace, Mungo Jerry.

Watch Dogs 2

This is entirely a case of sowing the seeds of my own downfall.

There is a lot to like about Watch Dogs 2, a game in which you "hack" increasingly sophisticated targets to neutralize enemies or clear obstacles.

There are any number of ways to accomplish your goals, but the most straightforward and the one that most limits your exposure (and the most fun, honestly) is to simply "call in" a gang hit or police bust against your targets.

Your duped supplicants will do the heavy lifting for you and remove whomever is in your way.

You can actually progress pretty far in the game, relying heavily on that technique.

Right up until the end.

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The Watch Dogs 2's endgame really requires the player to have developed a well-rounded strategy, employing all the skills and devices the player is supposed to have accumulated throughout.

Not having done that, I wind up just being some dummy standing outside a heavily-fortified building, trying to solicit armed thugs to clear the way, with little to no effect.

Taking the most expedient path through most of the game, did not prepare me for what the game was going to require of me.

I'm sure there's a lesson there somewhere.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

This one hurts. No pun intended.

I was (and still am) a huge fan of Hideo Kojima's 1998 masterpiece, Metal Gear Solid for the original Playstation.

I played and replayed that game until I could speed-run through it with the unlockable stealth-suit that prevented you from being detected.

I've had more complicated relationships with the games that followed.

But then came The Phantom Pain, Kojima's swan song as his final Metal Gear game, with its promises of a vast game-world in which the player has the freedom to accomplish their goals in whatever way they see fit.

And, the game does that, for sure, but one of the ongoing problems for me regarding most of the Metal Gear games, is that freedom is paralyzing in a way.

Somehow, I always feel like I'm playing Metal Gear "wrong."

My goal is always to approach each task in the most stealthy manner possible, but I invariably get spotted, which then leads to me running around like an idiot, trying to shoot my way out of a calamity created out of my own ineptitude.

The game's opening 10 minutes or so is a surreal escape from a hospital under attack by unknown enemies while you hide and play dead and try to make your way out of the building.

Oh and a flaming horse and rider show up for some reason.

It's beautiful and weird and represents Kojima's aesthetic and the rest of the game is nothing like it.

I don't think the game is bad, mind you (honestly, I haven't played enough to make a judgment on its overall quality), but after trying and failing to effectively accomplish the first real mission in the way the game seems to suggest is the best way and faced with the prospect of 50 or more hours ahead of me of being spotted creeping in the bushes surrounding any number of military bases, incurring the wrath of countless and heavily-armed guards over and again, I put it aside and have yet to get back to it.

So, there they sit, on the shelf along with probably at least a half-dozen other physical disc, and a score or more of games stored digitally on a hard drive, that just remind me how little time I have and how easily frustrated I can get sometimes.

But the self-imposed "shame" of not finishing every game one starts is especially pointless, considering its a hobby and an art from that is supposed to be enjoyable, albeit challenging.

There's nothing to be gained from slogging through something that isn't clicking with you, nor beating yourself up for not hitting some imagined and arbitrary quota in order to secure some perceived level of credibility.

Maybe we should all stop thinking about it as a pile of shame and instead, a stack of noble attempts.

Games are long, life is short. No point playing the game you have only in the hopes that, by doing so, it will turn into the game you want.

And, you can always go back. That's what save files are for.

Game on.


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