I loathed this screen. Really, I did. From the mid to late 90s it could cause a cursing storm that would jettison me from my chair and have me come crashing back down on my keyboard; hitting CTRL-ALT-DEL is now a natural response when my computer does not respond because I know Microsoft just made that screen invisible.
Spore has managed to finally put me off playing it (and I’m working up the stomach to get through the next leg of Deus Ex–by playing other games) because of a rather pernicious bug. Every time I go to my home planet and try to leave the atmosphere again, the game will crash. Pre-patch, this was fixed by selling off some turrets. Post-patch, one apparently has to sell off decorations that proliferate throughout your cities (which I never placed, I might add). I’d ignore my homeworld (and, indeed, it can never be conquered, but I can’t bring myself to metagame to that extent), but it gets attacked by religious zealots all the time. Sounds like my real life.
However, I began to wonder how other mediums get me to step away and just give up. Sure, I could overlook something or push my way through, but I have so many options that I rarely feel the need to stick to something. I mean, having started Don Quixote at the beginning of the summer and finished half of it, I don’t feel the need to press more than fifty pages in any given week.
In most other mediums, it becomes a choice. Sometimes one simply does not have that choice with games. I can warn you off the Diablo Sin War novels written by Richard A. Knaak (I love Blizzard, but that love does not extent to this hack of a writer), but I still was able to quickly zip through them and just as promptly move on to something that wasn’t plagued by double negatives and ellipses every second page (to build suspense or tension in lieu of actual writing style). I still recall being crammed into a small, Midwestern town’s movie theater to watch Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and noticing in one scene that Orlando Bloom forgot his blue contacts and Legolas was suddenly, inexplicably able to change his eye color between scenes.
Much like the voice acting I mentioned in an earlier post, this can detract me and suddenly force me back into the realization of what I’m actually doing, but it doesn’t halt the experience for me. Games may be the only medium where I have to become creative to actually force myself past an issue. I have become a veritable master of navigating Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness (even to this day), but that came through hours of scrounging through message boards; and later, when the option became available, of running DOSBox. As great as I found Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines, I had to quickly go to message boards to reach one of the final battles by entering a no-clip console command so as to get past a door which was not recognizing itself as such (look, have all the existential crises on your own time, not when I’m playing).
However, you know what’s great about this? Gamers are a community. We are inevitably strewn across multiple message boards, forums, and IM clients. When Spore kept crashing, I was able to just quickly Google the phrase ‘Spore homeworld crash’ and reach the relevant postings about the topic on any number of message boards. I recall doing the same for VTM: Bloodlines and multiple other titles. While I could wish that these bugs would magically disappear, I am, at the very least, thankful that I have such easy and quick access to learn how to bypass these issues. Now, whether or not I wish to go to the extremes sometimes required is another matter.
Yes, this shows that I am primarily a PC gamer at heart.