metzomagic.com Editorial

The Single Save Game

By Rosemary Young (January, 1996)

I don't know a single game player who likes them!

To my knowledge, not a single one of my adventuring friends arrives home with their brand new game and starts playing only to exclaim: 'oh goodie, a single save game!'

It simply doesn't happen.

Why not? Because the single save game signals two basic things, and both are very bad news.

Firstly it means that there is going to be less opportunity for experimentation. There simply won't be any chance of trying different strategies.

If you take the plunge and save your game, the single save game slot means that you can never go back and try a different approach to that last puzzle. You tossed up whether to throw your precious water onto the fire to retrieve that irresistible blackened chain, but what about your pouch of fine black soil? Maybe you should have used that! Your water supply is running dangerously low. So was it the right thing to do? Are you now condemned to die of thirst?

Yes, these are the kinds of questions you will be constantly asking yourself after that last precarious save. Maybe you'll never know if you do it. But then again, the game is probably designed so you can't make a mistake (sigh -- what a challenge) so what's the point anyway?

Still ... you can't help but wonder.

And I can't help but wonder why game designers are including this 'feature' in their games. It seems to me that they simply don't know how we play. They don't know that we want to experiment and to think for ourselves. That we might like to return to a past game and try something different -- or even pick up a clue we may have missed. That some of us might even prefer the privilege of making a mistake! Surely we should be credited with more curiosity and more courage. After all, we are adventurers -- we have been adventurous enough to step into the 'frightening' world of computer games, maybe we are also adventurous enough to want to take our chances.

And speaking of game designers not really knowing how we play our games, this brings me along to the second dose of bad news that a single save game holds in store, and that is it essentially means that only one game can be in progress at any one time.

So is this the ideal? Have game designers really thought about it? Do they only want one person to play at a time? Or maybe they imagine that their games are so uninteresting that only one person per household may want to play.

It seems to me that it's time for a little more thought to be put into this subject. The 'powers that be' should dare to hope that just maybe several members of a household may be interested in their game -- both Jack and Jill might want to solve the murder -- and not necessarily in unison. Mum or Dad might want join in the fun and play whilst the kids are in bed -- how can this be managed with only one save?

Or maybe Nanna has just found the dragon's lair and 3 year old Jane wants to look around. How can she? She can't if that last save game is 'IT', unless Nanna is willing to start over in the case of a fatal error. Unfortunately, Jane is a child of the technological age, she's not afraid of computers, and she's even quite adept at 'saving'. Maybe she should be warned 'hands off'. After all, she might grow to love playing computer games and even buy them when she gets older -- why not nip this habit in the bud?

Seriously, I know of many households -- and their numbers are growing all the time -- where several generations enjoy playing computer games. Gone are the days when Johnny huddled in his bedroom and no one took a blind bit of notice of what he was doing. Believe me, lots of family members want to experiment and get in on the action -- so why not invite them to join in?

Providing more than one save game is one way of doing this. In fact, whatever happened to the good old days when saved games could be stored in different directories? That's even better. It would go a long way to keeping the peace between Jack and Jill, and Jill might even get on and do her homework if she knew that Jack wasn't busily destroying all the hard work she put in to solving that last puzzle.

Copyright © Rosemary Young 1996. All rights reserved.