When you consider what an incredibly basic feature it is, it’s difficult to believe there was once an era in gaming in which the ability to save was a novelty. Because of the technical limitations at the time, developers sought to make simple experiences that weren’t really meant to be completed in the traditional sense, but rather played like a game of pinball wherein you kept going until you expended all of your lives. When console gaming truly took off, however, the idea of playing a game in multiple sessions became mainstream after being pioneered in the PC gaming scene for a number of years.
Considering how long the ability to save has been around, one might think there’s nothing to the process anymore, but you would be surprised how easy it is to mess up.
One of the games that brought my attention to the strategy RPG genre was Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. I picked it up around the same time I discovered Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade. Although I enjoyed both games back in the mid-2000s, I ultimately feel The Blazing Blade has held up better by virtue of having a story that doesn’t crumble when you the minute you consider its implications.
One year after I got the game, I wanted to do a second playthrough of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. This proved a little problematic because the game only features two save slots. I wanted to keep my original playthrough while experiencing the game from the beginning in a different way. Unfortunately, the fact that I saved in the second slot ended up being my undoing. Eventually, out of force of habit, I eventually ended up overwriting the data in the first save slot, erasing all of the hard work I put into that file.
One of my childhood favorites was a game by the name of NHL ’94. I ended up learning a lot about hockey through playing that game, and it is still a game I like to revisit every now and again. Those familiar with the game may be wondering why I’m bothering mentioning it in an article about saving. After all, NHL ’94 features passwords, not save slots. Even so, I assure you there is painful, saving-related memory to be had with this game. You see, rather than saving your progress via an internal battery, this game makes you write down decidedly lengthy passwords. I remember making it fairly far into the playoffs only to realize – to my horror – that I had recorded the password incorrectly. This was long before smart phones or capture cards were around, meaning that I had no way of taking a snapshot of the screen itself to ensure I recorded it properly. If I didn’t, that was the end of it.
Although not quite an example of inopportune saving, I do have one weird story regarding Super Mario 64. I remember one time in which all of my save files were inexplicably missing. I was annoyed, but I decided to start the game over from the beginning. However, before I obtained a single Power Star, the game froze. Upon resetting, all my previous saves were restored. As odd as it may sound, the exact same thing occurred a number of years later with my Goldeneye cartridge.
This last story is technically a near-miss rather than an actual saving failure, but it’s too strange not to include. It tangentially involves BioShock 2. However, this has nothing to do with my playthrough of said game, but rather what happened as I was writing up my review of it. You see, sometime last year, I decided that my review of BioShock Infinite wasn’t that good. I ended up making a very amateurish mistake when reviewing it because my argument as for why it was good boiled down to “because I said so”. It was a common approach many prominent gaming critics such as Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw and Bob Chipman adopted, and when I gained more experience writing, I realized what a debilitating flaw that is.
Anyway, after making the decision to rereview it, I took down the original review and started over from the beginning of the series. After discussing BioShock, I set my sights on BioShock 2, which I had recently completed. I find it difficult to concentrate on writing reviews at home, so I took my laptop with me to work on it outside of the house. That morning, I made the active decision not to back up my work, reasoning that I was running short on time when I finally remembered. “What could possibly go wrong?” I thought.
I ended up getting my answer after putting the finishing touches on my review when the building I was in caught fire and I had to evacuate immediately. Naturally, I had to leave my laptop behind. Fun fact: this marked the very first time I ever called 911. Once the fire was put out, I asked one of the firefighters if they could bring back my backpack, and they did after deeming it unimportant to the investigation. Thankfully, nobody was killed and those who were injured are expected to make a full recovery.
So now it’s your turn.
Have you ever made a gigantic mistake through the simple act of saving? Or actively choosing not to save as the case may be?