Games are fickle things at times. What can start off as a wonderful and joyous experience may quickly turn sour as the hours go on. There are those moments when a game may overstay its welcome, become repetitive or just cannot live up to the promise it first set out. However, there are those instances where it is not the game that forces a harsh shift in enjoyment, but the player themselves.
Thus we come to the question: have you have ever ruined a playthrough or a game for yourself? It might sound silly at first but there are numerous manners by which an entire game can be hindered through bad decisions. Be it our own internal need to get everything out of a game, cheating our way through or just making one dialogue choice that will bite us somewhere along the line, we can always botch a playthrough.
The completionist burnout
While this is a more niche issue, there is no denying that anyone who has ever gone for 100% completion or those savoury achievements has likely hit this wall. Getting full completion of a game can be a monumental task depending on the genre. All the collectables, side quests and extra content can add significant lifespan to a game but it can also lead to a burnout on players when they are not managing their time well.
This can be the death knell for many genres but it is often the expansive worlds that tend to drag on. The main quest is always there, waiting for you, the player, to finally get their act together but that is not where the goodness lies. Thus, a game can be ruined because the player cannot accept that there is a story and exploring is not going to cut it.
Maybe after a few dozen hours of levelling, that ends up with the main quest being a cakewalk. It could come through weapons only meant for late game to the character being too strong. Although the more common element of this ruination comes from the player just getting what they can until boredom sets in, getting everything may come at the cost of actually enjoying your time.
Excalibur II will go down as one of the only ultimate weapons to make players get very annoyed although Zodiac Spear deserves a shout out.
There are of course the trophies/achievements that may drag us down. There is often a trophy that will require some feat of strength that requires preparation. Playing a game around trophies is never a good idea but sometimes we take up the challenge. That quest for a virtual medal may just lead to the game taking a very bad turn.
Finding yourself stuck with a bad selection
The notion of “Role Playing” from the RPG genre stems from the tabletop phenomenon of Dungeons & Dragons. Players take on the role of a character and act them out. These roles don’t only extend to gender, races and backstory, but to the most crucial choice of all: class.
At the start of most RPGs, players are given a lot of choices at once. In some earlier CRPGs, it can be a bit overwhelming. While some games like Bethesda’s modern RPGs have made it simpler, even today there are games that can bite you for not picking well. The problem always lies in that those early choices are permanent for the most part. Going a few hours in only to realise the play style is not for you can be a real bummer and a quick way to make every encounter a head-meets-desk experience.
Make sure you get it right because after 12 hours, your only choice is to start all over again for a new character.
This goes further to just bad decisions later on when that spur of the moment level happens and the player may blow a point. While this is for many the joy of the game, it can lead to late game headaches because somehow you thought getting that hacking ability would help in the long run. Maybe focusing on more charismatic and intellectual character options will place a burden on you when combat finally comes calling. While there may be instances of the game being vague, those decisions early on can still creep up and make everything a greater chore than it ever needed to be.
Many people threw away the shield at the start of Kingdom Hearts. Those people suffered.
My own destruction of enjoyment
Over my years of playing games, there were many that I completely messed up with my own eagerness and lack of understanding. Button mashing through menus would lead me to confusion later down the line, missing crucial gameplay elements or just plain screwing myself outside the first dungeon. While I have learnt from my mistakes early on, the biggest example of a game I absolutely ruined for myself comes just three years ago at the tail end of 2015. I let myself fall too deep into the perfectionist trap and let one of my most anticipated games of all time become a waking nightmare. I destroyed Yakuza 5 for myself.
When Yakuza 5 finally came out after an agonising wait accompanied by little hope of localisation, I hopped in ready to make this the final hurrah of my PS3. I adored the Yakuza franchise since the third entry and it became a staple of pride to get that 100% on the menu. So cue Yakuza 5 and I was ready to make this a special moment.
The manzai minigame from Yakuza 5 drove me to anger as it took so much time to get perfect.
What ended up happening was me blowing dozens of hours that led to the game becoming a sore point. To put it into perspective, my game sits at 30% completion over 100 hours while the story is only about halfway. I wanted everything to be perfect and refused to use a guide. I did the minigames as a core focus and would spend hours on just completing one of them. When a sidestory didn’t get the best result, I would quit the game and restart. At one point a 10-minute sidestory spiralled into a three-hour-long screaming session. Needless to say those 100 hours were mostly my own pride getting in the way of my enjoyment.
I did learn a valuable lesson from this: I would never let the need for completion take over my playthrough again. With Yakuza 0 (my game of the year 2017), I was able to separate my 100% goal while still going along the story to keep my interest. Even with older games I never take the completion too seriously and focus on just the joy I can get. Never be consumed by pride.
So what was your playthrough that you ruined by your own hand? Did you learn anything from it or has every game just been perfect? Let us know in the comments below.