by Alex Krefetz
Late Friday night, I was preparing to download the new Super Smash Brothers game for Nintendo 3DS (a review is on the way). I realized there wasn’t enough room on my card for the download, and my brother offered up a spare eight gigabyte memory card. While my brother backed up my data on his computer, I occupied myself across the room.
“Uh oh,” he called “I might have deleted something by accident.” I thought it no problem, since everything was downloadable from the store again. I couldn’t think of anything files on the card that were that irreplaceable. Except…my Animal Crossing: New Leaf town data. In an instant, all the fossils I had collected were gone. The house I had spent hours upgrading and arranging was nothing, the villagers I had grown friends with deleted. From where there once was a digital life, there was now nothing. My brother, the destroyer of worlds.
Games have come a long way since I was a kid. Many early games I had didn’t have any type of save capability, and in the best scenarios offered long passwords to regain your progress. I still have my crib notes stashed in my house somewhere of the various passwords for levels in Aladin for the Super Nintendo. I remember when my brother and I first rented a Playstation 1 and a copy of Final Fantasy 7 with no memory card, pleading with our parents to let us keep on the console for days so that we didn’t lose our progress.
Nowadays, it seems like it’s much easier to save our games. Most modern games have an auto-save option or let you save at anytime in an unlimited number of files. With larger storage devices and cloud storage, it seems like nothing we do will ever be forgotten in games. It takes a rare occurrence of losing one’s data to see how far we’ve come technologically, and what files you care about.
Nowadays, I don’t have much time for massive video games. I keep up with many of the AAA titles that come out, but usually avoid massive RPG’s or MMO’s. I also rarely go back to completed games to replay or try to complete every single challenge. Before yesterday, I couldn’t think of a game that would really upset me if I lost my data. I’d put over 30 hours into my Animal Crossing town, and even though there are more “hardcore” games out there that may take four times as much playtime to complete, I think this loss stung me the most.
Games are usually about progressing down a path, even in open-world games. There’s an ending or goal somewhere, and starting anew still puts you on that same path. I’ve also been playing Final Fantasy X HD and have close to the same amount of time clocked in, maybe close to halfway done the quest. With Animal Crossing, there was no goal: just a world to live in. It was shaped each day, with random events and variables extending the story of my town and villager. I could play the game for another 500 hours and never have the same experience as the town I’ve lost.
Take this post as a cautionary tale, and remember to back-up that save. But also take some time to think about the value you get from a game. I’ve heard people judge the value of a game based on how much playtime you get out of it. Sometimes, it’s not the amount of time you spend but how that time is spent that judges how good a game is to you.