Playing video games is a largely enjoyable affair meant to liven up time spent between responsibilities—except for when it’s not.
What sets video games apart from other mediums is their interactive nature. Unlike a movie or an album, it’s impossible to passively partake in the fun. The player must be fully engaged at all times to progress.
That’s why it’s so incredibly frustrating for me when I can’t seem to push past a specific portion of a given video game due solely to my own inability. How much time should I pour down the drain—how much mental strain should I endure—before I finally throw in the towel and call the entire game a wash?
I most recently experienced this frustration when playing the “Arnhem Heights” mission in Medal of Honor: Frontline for the PlayStation 2. I burned through four consecutive hours trying in vain to best the level, only to give up when I realized I wasn’t going to secure victory that afternoon. I felt utterly defeated.
The next day, I returned to the mission and completed it in only two tries. A newfound sense of relief washed over the previous day’s defeat. Still, I hated tossing out all those hours to a single sequence. No part of that was fun.
The last time I can remember falling into this trap was with Ratchet and Clank, also on my faithful PS2. After trudging through the entire campaign, I finally reached the final boss, Drek. I thought I’d be able to knock him out in one or two tries—until I didn’t. I was so unsuccessful that I didn’t return to the challenge for a year.
After that lengthy sabbatical, I was able to best the battle in one go, which was, again, extremely rewarding. My only regret is not seeing it through sooner. Sometimes, video games really kick my rear end.
That being said, I’ll take an excruciating yet linear challenge over literally getting lost in an environment any day. I’ve never enjoyed exploration in video games because I have a tendency to eventually lose my way, not getting back on track until I consult a walkthrough.
This is the reason I’ve never completed Metroid: Samus Returns in the more than three years I’ve owned it. I plowed through a good chunk of the map, but eventually, I just plain couldn’t figure out what to do next. Because I value my time and sanity, I decided not to mess with the confounded thing anymore.
Oh, and don’t even get me started on The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which all but forced me to lean on walkthroughs to get through the first half of the game. I don’t remember why, but I took a short break after reaching that point. When I returned, I was as lost as last year’s Easter egg. I have yet to complete Link’s story.
The feeling of displacement is so much more devastating to me than even the most daunting of trials. At least in the latter case, there’s a foreseeable end in sight. If I fall off the beaten path, I’m at the mercy of my own spatial awareness, which is admittedly quite limited. I’d much rather rely on my motor skills.
Of course, every gamer has his or her preference. Some people adore exploration and the feeling of uncertainty that comes with it. Others are like me and want to master any mission thrown their way. Both perspectives are totally valid.
Either way, that’s my spiel on the universal struggle that is getting stuck in a video game. As much as I love tough tasks—and recognize the importance of putting in effort—there are some instances in which I must draw the proverbial line.
How do you feel when your virtual progression comes to a screeching halt? Tell me all about it on Twitter or Discord. Until next time, I’m out.