This past weekend, I had the rare opportunity to spend a whopping three hours with video games! Not three hours broken into ten-minute segments. Not one hour in the morning, one hour in the afternoon, and one hour in the evening. But three consecutive hours, all in the stretch of a discretely lovely afternoon. It was a beautiful thing!
When that time period presented itself, my plan was to play several games. First I’d return to Metroid Prime for a bit. Then I’d catch up with Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, and then I’d hop onto the PC to see if I couldn’t finally complete LIMBO. Well let me tell you, those plans went right out the window when I started Metroid Prime.
Many of us know what it’s like to rage quit a game. You get to a certain point in a game where things get so dang frustrating, it takes every ounce of your being to maintain composure. But then, without warning, you crack. Maybe a controller gets thrown, maybe a console gets knocked over, and/or maybe you yell and scream a lot. However the rage quitting happens, the game that caused it is put into purgatory. Maybe it goes on the shelf to be internally mocked for awhile. Maybe it gets traded in for calmer pursuits. Or maybe, in the worst case, the game ends up destroyed, trashed, or otherwise maimed as to be rendered inoperable.
This is not where things stand with me and Metroid Prime. This game is a different kind of frustrating.
Going back to my three free hours, though I intended to play other games, I spent the whole time with Metroid Prime. In fact, I spent nearly all of the 180 minutes just trying to get to a single spot. (The Elite Quarters in the Phazon Mines with the Omega Pirate, for those familiar with the game.) Granted, I was a little rusty with the controls, so I died a lot in just the first hour. Once I got a handle on things, I got a little further towards my goal, only to be distracted by the fact that it is Metroid and there are secrets! My sidetracking adventures led me right back to my original save point, which meant [SIGH] I had to start over again in trying to get to the Elite Quarters. At that point, I saved the game (because why not) and I headed back to the home screen for a couple minutes. I wasn’t super angry or anything, I was simply upset at myself that I had just gone round in a big circle for nearly an hour, and I needed a moment.
After taking a few deep breaths, I started the game back up. This time I quickly made my way through the first stage of the three-level mine, taking down my enemies with ease. After consulting the map, I saw that there were two ways to get into the Elite Quarters, one of which I was vaguely familiar with. Or, at least according to the map, I had visited before. So I headed through the second level of the mine, cursing the game under my breath for its few-and-far-between save points, and eventually made my way to the third. The door I needed to get to was reachable…but it meant traversing a deadly, health-sapping floor. In a moment of yes, I’m almost there!, I scurried as fast as I could across the lethal ground, and eventually made it to a safe spot with little health left. Unfortunately, I was met by a immovable door through which I could see another, accessible door. After looking around and finding no way to open the first door, I went to the map and discovered that, which I’m sure you guessed by now, I had gone the wrong way. I had to go all the way back to the start of the mine (well, maybe not all the way back, but that’s what it felt like in the moment) to access to correct elevators to get to the other side of the Elite Quarters. With almost no health and no hope, I turned off the game completely. No rage quitting happened, I just turned it off, calmly and quietly. This time though, I was angry, and I was also tired of the game’s devious levels and their deceiving ways. Two hours gone and I had nothing to show for it.
As much as I despised Metroid Prime in the few moments that I sat there thinking about calling it a day, I also loved it, because something about the game steeled my resolve. I knew what I was doing, I knew where I had to go, I knew how to defeat all the space pirates, and I knew that I could get to the Elite Quarters if I just gave it another try. So I turned the game back, this time with determination. I let my frustration drive me initially, but it soon melted away leaving only confidence in its wake. And I made it! I made it past all the space pirates, down the three levels. I defeated a bunch of metroids (though I always hate having to kill them) and traveled through new spaces I had never seen before. And then, glory hallelujah! I found another save point! After doing a little happy dance while saving, I was ready to take down the Omega Pirate!
But this is no fairy tale. With my gaming time drawing to a close and having no clue as to how to defeat the Omega Pirate, I died after our first round together. As nice as it would have been to defeat him on the first go, that’s not what Metroid Prime is about. It’s about learning and progressing and becoming a better, smarter bounty hunter. It took me a long time to realize this, as I did rage quit Metroid Prime the first time I played it way back when. I don’t know that I’m any more level-headed now, but I know that I can beat Metroid Prime now. I know that no matter how angry I get with the game, it’s that frustration that will drive me to the finish line. That different kind of frustration that doesn’t make you want to quit; it makes you want to achieve.
What drives you to complete games? Is there more to the process than simply finishing? What games have you completed more out of frustration than enjoyment?