We’ve all been there.
There, in the Nth hour of playing [insert game title here] ever when you finally get to a particularly difficult trial, be it a stage or a boss. Your nerves are already slightly frazzled after playing for so long, and maybe you’re a little tired, too. But you press on unheeded into battle …where you are subsequently defeated over and over and over again. You keep going despite whatever your brain is telling you (i.e. Stop! Put down the controller! It’s just a game!), but victory never comes. First you get mad. And then you get really angry. And then…the rage breaks. Eventually reach a point of anger so intense that you’re pretty sure you’re going to hurt something or someone if you don’t stop. So you do. You finally stop. And you turn off the game.
Days (Weeks? Months?) later, you return to the same game. No matter your current state of mind, you know what’s on the horizon – that big, bad boss/level/anger-inducing moment. You start up the game and get to that same point where the rage overtook you last time and…and! You beat the boss. Easily. So easily. (Too easily?) In a matter of mere minutes, you’re past the boss and moving on with your game.
What is that, exactly? What is the phenomenon whereupon some days a battle within a game is the absolute hardest thing ever, and some days, the same battle is a piece of cake? I don’t know what it is, but it must have a name. A name for science! We have a name for the angry first part: rage-quitting. But what about the more docile second part? Hmmm. Maybe that’s simply game-playing.
One of the hallmarks that sets apart rage-quitting from just quitting is that rage-quitting is usually driven by a single, stressful moment in a game. It’s not that the game itself is overly difficult, bad, or invokes anger on its own; it’s that it contains irrevocable challenges that must be overcome in order for the player to progress. Put too many of those in a game and they’d likely cause players to flat-out quit and never return. But spice up a game with just a few hard-won obstacles, and you’ve got yourself a situation where quitting becomes more psychological than physical. Players know they can succeed. They know how to succeed. They know progression is possible. And when it seems that the game prevents this in a heated moment, should one’s emotions allow for it, rage-quitting may ensue. But rage-quitting is usually temporary. In the backs of their minds, players know they will return to the game.
I bring up all this pseudo-psychology because of Assassin’s Creed II, which I recently started playing for the first time. And I have to say, I’m really enjoying it! I know that the series has had its detractors – I’ve been among them myself – but the game has been loads of fun. Having only played part of the original Assassin’s Creed and just the bland intro of Assassin’s Creed III, I wasn’t so sure about picking up the reins with the series’ second installment. But I’m glad that I did, because things are working out…so far.
I say that because of Assassin’s Creed, which was a rage-quit-turned-just-quit experience. Now, I’ve rage-quit plenty of games before. (Too many, probably, if I’m being honest.) In most cases, I’ve return to the “problem” games without issue, easily beating the stages that gave me problems. In some cases, as with Metroid Prime and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, it’s taken me months, even years to get past a rage-quit incident. But Assassin’s Creed was a very different beast. I don’t consider myself an angry person, but Assassin’s Creed made me think otherwise, if only for a terrifying moment.
Okay, that’s overstating things a little, truly. But the embarrassing scene, which was only witnessed by my cat many years ago, remains so fresh in mind that I can’t suppress it as I attempt to make my way through Renaissance Italy in the second game.
And it was such a little thing that set it off, too. I was simply chasing an assassination target who, when finally captured (it took me several tries), turned out to be a decoy. Sure, it sounds innocuous when I type it out now, but in that single moment, after hours upon hours of play in which I thought I had built up enough of a relationship with the game to understand it well enough, my psyche cracked. The person I captured should have been the right target. That was to be my reward after I had dedicated a large part of my precious free time to becoming the best assassin ever. I thought I understood the game. I thought I knew what was going on.
But the game had other ideas. And I didn’t like that. Not one bit.
I had never been so angry at a game, and I’ve never been as angry at a game since. I can still see myself yelling manically at the TV, and at my cat, who I had annoyingly woken from a peaceful slumber. I must have looked quite the sight. I hate that I can remember it so clearly. But I’m also okay with it, because it reminds me of the ugliness of unbound and, frankly, unwarranted anger.
But I’m not okay with it while playing Assassin’s Creed II, because it continually makes me worry that I’m going to hit a similar spot in the game. A singular spot that I simply can’t defeat. A moment that’s going to turn me into a raving lunatic. When you really think about, it’s a weird thing to have to overcome. But it’s a gamer thing.
I never returned to Assassin’s Creed, and I have no plans to. I have no qualms with the game itself, but I know it’d make me revisit that rage-quit experience even stronger than I am now with Assassin’s Creed II. I actually hope that the game with help put that memory to rest for good. And if it does make me rage-quit, that moment won’t make me just quit. Instead I’ll be able to return to the game with a refreshed spirit, like gamers do, and easily progress.
I hope that’s the case, anyway. Because, y’know, as the old saying goes, “you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” I know I don’t.
Now it’s your turn! Share in the comments your rage-quit experiences and how you over came them (or didn’t).