So I Just Gave Up

So there I am, frantically waggling in the hopes that it’ll all pay off in a moment when…

Ugh. Nevermind. Okay, I’ll level with you; I had an introduction planned in which I was going to make it sound like I was chugging one out, only to reveal I was actually taking all the skin off my hand trying to do the rotation mini-games in the original Mario Party, thus making you all seem rather perverted for thinking it was the other thing. Problem was that it was too difficult to think of a convincing way to do it, so I just gave up.

Unfortunately, those last five words are ones I find increasingly haunting me of late, that dull admission of defeat getting in the way of any potential gaming-related stories I have; it won’t matter how much I was looking forward to a game, how much time I spent agonising over whether or not to buy it, or whether I bought it in the middle of a sale and never got round to finishing it, I’d wager that, more often than not, I can summarise half of my current gaming experiences with that five word suffix.

I was pretty excited for Metroid: Other M. I’d played a preview of it and got very excited about the way they were attempting to make a more story-focused adventure akin to the amazing Metroid Fusion. The moment I had the money I bought a copy, chucked it in the Wii and prepared for an amazing adventure. Then the cut-scenes started. Instead of an intelligent story full of intrigue and tension, Samus was being voiced by someone who sounded like she’d recently taken a spade to the head and had only just discovered what reading was. Suddenly, Samus Aran was no longer the most dangerous force the galaxy had to offer, but a timid, scared woman with both surrogate baby and surrogate daddy issues. I tried to persevere, I really did, right up until the cut-scene where her stern father figure insists that if she wants to help then she can turn off all of the power ups she has earned in Super Metroid (which Other M starts moments after). When the formerly-great bounty hunter actually agreed, I couldn’t stand how stupid everything had suddenly become within the first bloody hour and only dreaded what would follow, so I just gave up.

On some occasions, it’s the intention of conquering fears and letting them get the best of me. I was playing ZombiU and was barely out of the tutorial when I saw a dead body on the floor. I’d been trained by Dead Space – another title I’ve given up on – to note that any visible bodies on the ground are almost certainly going to rise up the moment I’m not looking and murder the living daylights out of me. With that in mind, I grabbed my trusty cricket bat – a stereotype as lazy as suggesting a sequel set in Paris would see you wielding baguettes – and attempted to bash its skull in before it could get the drop on me. Instead, the physics took a nosedive into the realm of doolally and the zombie jolted up, each limb jolting and jerking, only to then react by flying miles into the distance. I was so scared that I turned off the Wii U and haven’t played the game since.

Do I regret purchasing it because I spent loads of money on a game that I’ll now never play? I’d like to plead the fifth on that, because it’s probably how many times I had to wash my underwear before the stains left. No matter how classic or well-revered a game is, I’ll probably find some excuse to stop playing halfway through. Final Fantasy VII? Played it when I should have been revising for GCSEs and ended up getting lower grades than I would’ve had I chose to actually learn instead. Even then, I didn’t even get to my last exam before giving up on the first disc some time after Sid shows up. If anyone asks though, I’ve always resented that I basically screwed myself out of better results, so I blame the iconic RPG instead, hence why I stopped playing it.

I’d not been especially looking forward to Grand Theft Auto V, for some reason, and honestly I couldn’t put my finger on why. Then, when it finally released, Saints Row 4 had already happened – I know that they’re different series and there’s no point trying to compare them, but after spending several weeks flying around, setting people on fire and unleashing dub-stepped hell upon my enemies, GTAV never ended up clicking for me, and I was one of those people who loved the one with Niko in it. Instead of dismantling nuclear weaponry to the industry’s greatest use of Aerosmith ever, I was engaging in yet another bloody street race. Instead of being able to make a play-list and blast the Safety Dance whenever I wanted, I was tediously scrolling through radio stations hoping either Queen’s One Vision or Eddie Murphy’s Party All The Time would play so I didn’t have to turn the radio off instead.

I wasn’t neatly skewering stealth and making jokes about how light-bulbs were filthy terrorists, I was slowly driving around a dock and taking pictures of things while my character made comments about trying to knob everything. I couldn’t even stay awake through that torture mission everyone seemed very eager to make op-eds about at the time; it was so rigidly structured and held your leash so tightly that you were basically just pressing X to hurt a man, with your character then going “that’s okay, I don’t believe in torture anyway!” as a thin justification to brush it all off afterwards. Then there was that series of missions. Anyone who’s played it will know what I mean, but everyone else should probably skip the next paragraph if they don’t want it spoiled for them.

After a low-key first heist, the second one features some of the most tediously dull missions I’ve ever played. As you can imagine, I was more than a bit annoyed that once you pull off that second heist all the characters go “No wait, maybe we should give it back” and then do, erasing the last several hours of progress while shrugging their shoulders and going “I mean, we’re not criminals, after all!”. It wasn’t exactly the final straw, but was one that killed any enthusiasm I had to keep playing, so I just gave up.

It’s a well-known and repeatedly-mentioned fact on this site that I love the The Legend of Zelda series, and it’s host to some of my all-time favourite games. What’s less common knowledge, however, is that I haven’t finished five of them. What? The first Legend of Zelda had a top-down view and I kept getting stuck trying to find different dungeon locations. I tried to start it about five times, never really got into it, gave up. Zelda II: Adventure of Link? Couldn’t hack the weird sideways combat. Tried it about three or four times, never again.

Someone gave me their copy of Majora’s Mask for free, my best friend cites it as his favourite game of all time and we’re forever discussing theories about it. I finished the second dungeon, got lost, forgot what I was meant to be doing and played something else instead. I’ve never gone back to it. Freshly-Picked Tingle’s Rosy Rupeeland? Okay, bit of a stretch, but I couldn’t remember how much money I needed to progress, couldn’t be arsed grinding and I don’t know where the cartridge is since I moved out of my parents’ house. Okay, that’s a lie, I know exactly where it is, but if I admit that then I’m out of an excuse.

Then, there’s Skyward Sword. This one is a unique case, as I’m wholly convinced that fate is conspiring to stop me playing it the moment I get a chance to. Whenever I’ve had free time to finally sit down and dedicate a day or two to playing it, something comes up. Friend-related emergencies, suddenly-appearing uni assignments and pressing review codes are just some of the excuses that have emerged over the years, but I’m still determined to eventually finish it. It’s not a case of giving up on playing it, but I’ve given up on trying to find the ideal time to give it a shot.

If there’s a game left in my to-play list, I can find you a reason why it’s yet to be touched or why I haven’t seen the end of it but, of late, those explanations are becoming less convincing and more like the plumber promising he’ll be round at one and showing up half-drunk at eight the next morning. Sometimes I feel like I deserve it. When I bought Hitman Absolution despite its wildly mixed reviews and my purist friends spitting blood over it, I only did so because it was ridiculously cheap in a Steam Sale – an excuse we’ve all trotted out time and again. I managed to get about two thirds of the way through before I kept getting stuck on the level that takes place during that controversial cut-scene where Agent 47 beats the shit out of some fetish nuns. I wasn’t even really stuck, per se, it’s just that I could never think of a convincing way to get past the second one without suddenly alerting everyone to my presence. Plus, uh, all of my podcasts had run out and I couldn’t be bothered finding something else to listen to, so I just gave up.

I can fob you off with reasons I haven’t finished a game like Stan can sell you previously-used boats, but part of me still wishes I could possess that grit and determination that younger me seemed full of back in the day. In the end, that’s what it all comes down to. I don’t know if it’s just laziness on my part, games getting worse or the fact that there’s more being released in a month than there used to be in a year, but I’m slowly reaching the point where I’m going to have to stockpile on white flags just to pre-empt the incoming tides. I look at everything in this article that I’ve given up on, and I remember when I’d never have stopped until I’d seen those credits roll, no matter what. I was a kid who played Wario Land 2, 3 and 4 so many times that I knew every single nook and cranny, unlocked all the bonus levels and could beat the bosses before the the battle had barely started. Nowadays I can’t even find my copy of Wario Land: The Shake Dimension, let alone finish it.

I used to be a child who reached the end of Final Fantasy IX so many times I could have written the sodding strategy guide, Book of Eli-style. I could find every jiggy in Banjo Kazooie with a hand tied behind my back, and I wouldn’t stop until the save file told me I’d unlocked everything. I wasn’t just able to one-hundred percent Ocarina of Time, I could do it while speed-running against my friends and still come out on top. I played over five seasons of Pro Evolution Soccer 3 and I don’t even like football.

I miss the days when someone could put a game in front of me and I wouldn’t stop until I’d mastered it. The last time I can consciously remember doing that was when Mario Kart Wii released – after three days of playing I decided to hit the time trials and didn’t stop until my friends couldn’t even get within ten seconds of me, let alone spitting distance. One morning I’d gone from waking up to being ninth in the world on Koopa Cape and third in Europe within three hours. In that same half-term I’d imported a copy of Smash Bros. Brawl and logged over a hundred hours of play-time, despite going outside at least twice. One of those days, I sacked both of them off and played Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door for seventeen straight hours, only stopping for pee breaks. There’s something to be said for too much excess though, and since then I haven’t even come close to that level of game-binging; I can’t even achieve a fraction of it without my brain forcing me to do something else.

One of my greatest achievements? That’d be Mario Party. Back when mini-games and videogames about board-games were both novel concepts, Mario Party was a fun, exciting romp through different lands that you could play alone or with your friends and family. However, it was also borne from a fiendish mind, and it seemed impossible to finish a single board without an argument starting over who screwed over whom. When it comes to that original effort, what people seem to forget the most were mini-games that required you to rotate the control-stick. The N64′s controller may have popularised the analogue stick long before Sony adopted the DualShock, but it was small and had multiple ridges in it. That detail will be important later.

The first time you attempted these mini-games, your first instinct would be to use your thumb to rotate the stick, except that you’d never be able to spin it around fast enough and you’d inevitably lose the moment you were up against a computer-controlled player. There was one way to win, however, but it wasn’t going to be pain-free. To best any foes that came your way, the optimum way to play was to rotate the analogue stick with the palm of your hand. Now, remember those ridges from earlier? Unsurprisingly, they wouldn’t react very well with the friction of your rapidly-spinning hand, and the end effect was that you’d lose most of the skin from the centre of your palm. This issue got so bad that Nintendo actually lost a class-action lawsuit over it and gave away free Mario Party gloves to anyone who sent them a proof of purchase.

Now, several years after it’d been released and my sisters had all long-refused to play with me ever again, I got it into my head that I was going to finish it one-hundred percent. I’d collected a hundred stars, finished the Eternal Star stage and unlocked every mini-game and collectable, but there was one thing I hadn’t done – win Mini-Game Island. For all intents and purposes, this was just the single-player mode, pitting you against every single mini-game and only giving you a limited amount of lives with which to succeed. This meant that over the course of the journey, you’d have to win every single one that required you to waggle the control-stick, and considering how hard some of these were, this was no mean feat.

Before too long I’d managed to take off most of the skin on my palm, leaving an almost-perfect circle where the flesh had been neatly shaved off, so this is where you’d imagine most people would call it a day and wait a week for their hand to recover and try again or, better yet, not bother any more. This time, however, I wasn’t going to let a lack of skin stop me. I saw the end in sight, readied my aching palm and continued. Despite my hand stinging something fierce, I couldn’t stop myself from playing.

Even though my hand was very visibly blistering and missing skin, I didn’t stop, I couldn’t stop until, suddenly, it was over. It was only when I realised I’d finally done absolutely everything the game had to offer that I turned off the N64, took the Mario Party cartridge out and calmly walked downstairs and asked for either a bandage or plaster to cover up my aching mitt. By the end of it all I was a broken mess and a shell of a man, but at least I never surrendered. It may have been physically painful and emotionally-scarring – not to mention actually idiotic – I did something that I wish I could claim as often as I could in my youth. On that day, I didn’t give up.

Last five articles by Edward


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