I believe in “CTRL+S”. It is not enough for me to trust my currently in-use application to auto-Save itself every five minutes, no, it is absolutely necessary to jab my pinky into the left control key and then flick the tip of my index finger into the ‘S’ key, thereby Saving my own work whenever I deem it necessary, or whenever the designers of my latest digital interactive tale allow me to. The application of this wondrous tool in video games, that mystical realm in which meshes and textures pile atop one another to form the blade that has, for its fifth time, cut my character down, is immeasurable when all goes black, and white words unfurl across my monitors, informing me that my session has ended, that I have been defeated: it is “Game Over.”
“Oh no,” I can smugly reply to the collection of coding lurking within my hard-drive that so tirelessly conspires against me, “I saved my game right before that boss.” In this brief moment of character death, both an instant and an age as the CPU whirs in its casing, my right hand removes itself from the mouse and mirrors the efforts of my left in pressing “CTRL+S” to play its own role in activating “CTRL+L”. A few seconds of loading, and then there is my character, exactly as he was before he readied his spear and charged his foe. This time, however, this sixth chance, I am not fool enough to repeat my mistakes. The spear is set aside, traded for the broadsword. Game Over. Reload. Long sword and shield; I block the strikes of my foe, return my own, and find victory in a cinematic, after which the game that had conspired against me not minutes before acknowledges its momentary defeat and performs and auto-save on my behalf.
Certainly, it can be reasonably inquired as to why I would not simply equip the proper tools the first time. The answer to this is simple: because if I did that, I would not know what would happen if I had done it a different way. For each video game I have ever played, I could have bought the strategy guide, read through it, and never have had to play the game; I could have been told the story of the game, including the plot twist after the third boss, could have been shown screenshots of the cinematic when the dragon burst forth from its icy prison – or, I could have growled and shouted and cursed through experiment after failed experiment until I finally lined up exactly what I needed to play through the story, to witness the cut-scenes, to earn the experience that the artists and coders and authors of the video game put so much of their own effort into creating for myself and the millions of others who partake of their product. That is what “CTRL+S” is: experimentation without consequence, the freedom to go through the life of a character in as many different ways as I choose, and that is a potent freedom.
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