Top 6 Most Stressful Times in Gaming (2014)
I often see gaming being described as a ‘relaxing’ pastime – some sort of carefree pursuit where you can just sit down of a balmy Sunday afternoon and feel all of your troubles wash away as you indulge in a pleasant, non-taxing game. Right? Doesn’t that miss the point somewhat? Just as every story needs its conflict, every game too needs its challenge to keep things interesting. But again and again, you find yourself in these special kind of situations that absolutely nobody enjoys ploughing through.
I’m not simply talking about a dastardly water level, or running out of ammo, not those kinda easily-manageable, ‘shut up and get on with it’ situations. I’m talking about scenarios that sadistic game designers just love to put us in, because they know it ain’t easy for us unwilling gamers to get through – stressful situations, in other words. Here are six of THE most stressful situations you can find yourself in, those truly fubar situations which you’ll recognise at once, because they crop up all the time in all manner of games. Please do enjoy!
6. STATUS EFFECTS (or “WOULD YE FECKING BELIEVE IT, MY LAD’S AFTER TURNING INTO STONE THERE”)
Battles in RPGs would be so much more refreshing and leisurely if it was just two sides hitting each other with bigger numbers until one side gets wiped out. But when you get zombies and plants (or is that plants versus zombies?) and other enemies doing strange things to your character, it becomes a little bit unfair. You’ve put every single one of your Power Tabs into Crono, or you’ve done all of your EV training with… I don’t know, who’s good these days, Blaziken? And you see them cut down by some silly little status change that sees them set on fire on encased in ice or turned into a diamond or something. It’s like when you see a heavyweight boxing match stopped because someone got headbutted – a real gyp.
The worst thing about status effects happening to your characters is that it’s more or less one way; yes, you could probably inflict Sleep on the slightly rabid rat you encounter outside the first town in an RPG, but what’s the point? The poor little rodent isn’t gonna last longer than 2 turns against your mega-sword wielding silent broody protagonist anyway, so why bother? You reckon “alright, I’ll save my secret weapons for the bosses, like in any other game”. Then you realise that the bosses are almost always immune to your piddly poison attacks! Some games, Final Fantasy games in particular, often have their boss outfitted with a fatal weakness to certain status effects, but good luck getting access to this knowledge without a guide! You’ll be worrying about getting petrified all the way through. The stress!
5. TIMED MISSIONS (or “SURE C’MERE I CAN’T EVEN PRESS PAUSE COS THE FECKING TIMER’S STILL GOING”)
DIE HARD TRILOGY’S DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE SEGMENT – OR SHOULD THAT BE BOMB BOMB WITH A BOMBOMB. BOMB BOMB BOMB AHHHHHH-!!!!
You feel rushed a lot of the time in life. Wake up late, rush to the bus-stop, rush to get the bus before it drives by and you miss it (but not rushing too much that you look undignified), rush to get into work, rush to get your shit done in case anyone snoops on you, rush home for some leeeisure… rinse, repeat. It’s a right slog, so the last thing you need is your favourite hobby rushing you as well. Hang on, game, this is what I do to unwind! My books and films don’t rush me, so what makes you think you can?!
Ahh, but such is the essence of the timed mission. They’ve been around since… gosh, the beginning of time in gaming itself. Anything from bombs being detonated to buildings falling down to entire planets ending, sometimes your biggest enemy is a simple timer. Who needs that? We all like to explore the nuances of a game, now you’re telling us we can’t even do that? What must the developers who put their heart and soul into that particular facet of the game think?! Some games thrive off time limits, like Pikmin, classic Prince of Persia and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (although at least something can be done about that one) – they all have their die-hard fans, and they’re all good games. But just know what you’re getting into!
4. BEING A GOD (or “BEJAYSUS ALL THESE FECKERS ARE GIVING OUT TO ME OVER POLLUTION”)
YEAH, THAT’S ALL WE NEED – BOWSER ON GODDAM WHEELS
It’s fun to play as just one character or maybe a smaller party of characters and get invested in them, but why stop there? Why not control a whole population? Or at least, a whole household of dysfunctional, gibberish-talking rat finks, if you’re a fan of The Sims. Or you might control the entire fates of dozens to millions people in games like The Sims, Sim City, Civilization… even Pikmin and Lemmings. But looking after all the little people can get pretty old, pretty fast.
It’s tough at the top of course, but even more pertinent is that wonderful phrase of eaten bread being soon forgotten. So yes, you might have given a wonderful commune to your little Sim people, full of employment and schools and transport links (and all tax-free if you’re cheating) – but you needn’t think that’ll stop them coming at you with their quibbles about minor issues like pollution, crime, and there being no funding for the Fire Department to deal with the hellacious blaze that’s taken over your entire downtown area. Hey, you might have even given them the gift of life itself, if you’re Captain Olimar or one of those mad fellas, but that’s a self-defeating activity in itself – you’ll delegate every one of your menial tasks to these little people, who you quickly deem expendable. But then you send them into battle or some dangerous terrain and they do the worst thing that these little people can do – they die bravely, they make you feel bad, they make you guilty, and they break your bloody heart! No, who needs that kind of responsibility? I’d rather be a mook.
3. ESCORT MISSIONS (OR “NATALYA WILL YE HACK THE BLEEDIN GOLDENEYE FOR FECK SAKE”)
IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING THAT YOU CAN FORGET THIS DOZY MARE WITH DK MODE ON
Alright, it’s true, I’m not much of a team player. But if I’m controlling one character in gaming, I don’t want to have to be responsible for someone else’s safety all the time. If I should shoot them point-blank right in the canister and they die and I fail the mission, well, at least it’s my own fault. But when scores of mooks are trying to gun down the bullet-magnet under your care, it becomes a real problem. Probably one of the quintessential examples of this particular annoyance is the lovely Natalya from GoldenEye for the N64 (at least, she was lovely in the film – androgynous, polygonated blockheads don’t do it for me, strangely). She crops up in a fair few missions in GoldenEye – namely, Bunker 2, Statue, Archives, Train, Jungle, Control. To quickly run through them, she’s unarmed in the first three missions and the enemies don’t seem too intent on mowing her down – but the tight corridors of the Bunker and Archives coupled with the overall headless-chicken AI will mean she runs into your line of fire again and again! D’oh! Not to mention she runs from astonishing firefights at the drop of a hat (as you would, in all fairness), slowing our man Bond down.
She suddenly becomes a bit of a crackshot in Jungle before the mother of all escort missions shows up in Control. You don’t actually see her for very long, but it’s one of the most fiendish parts of the game – despite holding a weapon that’d humble Dirty Harry, she’s completely defenceless as she hacks into the GoldenEye satellite for the longest three minutes of your life. Guards come from everywhere, even through the glass walls, to blow her away. These missions are just the worst! Resident Evil 4, to its credit, wasn’t so bad with the lovely Ashley (assuming you weren’t too chivalrous to condemn her to a dumpster away from the marauding enemies). And then ICO went and made a whole game about it…
2. LACK OF SAVE POINTS (OR “OUT OF ME FECKIN’ MIND FOR WANT OF A SAVE POINT”)
BASK IN THE WARM, REFRESHING GLOW. NOW YOU’VE SAVED, YOU CAN GO OUTSIDE! RIGHT?
Autosaving systems in games nowadays probably don’t get the credit they deserve. Actually they can sometimes do more harm than good – in my infinite Neanderthalary, I’ve turned off games without saving, assuming that the game would save it all for me and I wouldn’t have to bother pressing a few more buttons. How’s that for laziness?! Still, it’s a far sight better than the days when you couldn’t even save, and even games when you didn’t even have the “luxury” of passwords. But then there’s the games where you can save – so long as you’re prepared to wait hours between saves, which is pretty stressful to say the least. To make matters even worse, sometimes we just want to take a break from the game or we have something else we want to do, but we can’t stop until we reach a save point, because you don’t want to just leave it there and risk it freezing and losing all of your work! Or a power cut, God forbid!
One of the great uses of this scarce save point skulduggery, and from a game released in the 21st century no less, is the Gamecube’s Metroid Prime. In this game, save points also how you restore all of your health. Two highly tense sections where you’re practically left begging for a save point (for some health if nothing else) in that game come courtesy of those wonderful Space Pirates: the first in the Phendrana Drifts, when Samus swags herself the Thermal Visor and then has to escape from the darkened Pirate Base, as Metroids are let loose. The second occurs when Samus first visits the Phazon Mines and has to make her way through what you’d have to scientifically describe as a shit-ton of tough enemies before finally facing an invisible drone and recovering the Power Bombs… phew! No checkpoints or autosaving for Samus there – just kill or be killed. Be sure to play Metroid Prime if you haven’t already, if even just for those sections – 2 of the finest set pieces in all of gaming history! A save point, a save point, my kingdom for a save point!
1. IMPENDING GAME OVER (OR “AHH BE THE HOLY JAYSUS I’M ON ME LAST LOIFE”)
HIT BY POOR GRAMMAR… AND YOU HAVE TO START THE GAME OVER! GAME OVER, GET IT?
Remember when lives meant something in gaming? It’s true, there’s not much point in having a lives counter anymore – the only recent games I could really tell you about that invoked the dreaded mortality of ‘lives’ are the last few Mario games. But even those games threw lives at you, probably more as an excuse to spread the famous image of the green 1-Up Mushroom than anything else! Still, in the 8-bit and 16-bit days in particular, multiple lives were needed because the games were sometimes brutally difficult – and the lives were scarce. Once you had just one spare guy left, you were really up against it – suddenly, your supreme, megapowerful character seems oh-so-mortal.
Most people were able to game themselves enough lives in the Mario games – you got quite a lot of them in Super Mario Bros 3, and the first Super Mario Bros contains that legendary Infinite 1-Up trick if you’re pushed. But you could find yourself in medium-sized trouble in Mega Man games if your life count ran low, and super-sized trouble in Sonic if you ran out of spare hedgehogs and never bothered picking up continues in the bonus stages. Passwords and level selects and glitches are often present for those who don’t fancy playing through all the previous levels again, but for the uninitiated, it was shit or bust. Get ready to play through the first level, ALL OVER AGAIN! The greatest stress of all in gaming – you don’t know true heart-pounding pressure until you’re on your very last life.