Getting stuck in a lift with Commander Shepard and her non-human companions Liara and Wrex last night resulted in some introspection. And I came away with the knowledge that a decade and a half of gaming has taught me many lessons. Here are my five tips to gaming without losing your sanity and keeping your pride intact:
- Save often: The fact I don’t practise this regulary is why I have less hair than I should. As mentioned earlier, last night, Shepard and her landing party in Mass Effect got stuck in a lift thanks to a game bug. The lift doors wouldn’t shut and the damn thing refused to move. I had to reload the game and go back to a point a good 15 minutes earlier, and redo a lot of pointless (well, not pointless exactly, but certainly tedious) stuff, mostly to do with talking to people and running around here and there. This Being-So-Engrossed-That-I-Forgot-To-Save creature has bitten me in the butt many times—I’ve lost count of the times when a super-ugly toddler has sprouted in the Sims 3 and reloading the game has meant losing out on dozens of days; or when Agent 47’s cover has been busted on the verge of his completing a level and I have to go back and redo everything.
- Explore your world: Just as in real life, in gaming too patience is usually richly rewarded (unless you’re on a timed mission, when it would instead end up in your being blown up or the world ending [same thing, really])—yet another lesson that has been tough to learn. I’ve often stupidly missed out on rewards and goodies because I’ve been to much in a hurry to smash open that last crate, hack the final computer or decrypt yet another locker. And that reminds me…
- Talk to strangers: It usually pays to talk to strangers. It may give you intel you’d have to pay for otherwise; it could get you side missions with enviable rewards and invaluable experience points that weigh in when you meet the big boss; it may give you an easy way out of a situation you’d otherwise need to go about the hard way. And if you’re playing Sims, and on the lookout for rich townies to add to your family, chatting them up is a good way to find out if they’re The One.
- Play again and again: I love games with high replay value, and that doesn’t just mean open-ended games like the Sims series. I know that sounds a bit odd—especially to non-gamers—but in role-paying games (RPGs), where you can choose your class of character and their development, replaying in the shoes of a different protagonist can give a completely different experience. I haven’t even finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution and I’m already thinking about my next play through using a different strategy. I can’t count how many times I’ve replayed the Diablo games just to try my luck as a different character with a different skill set. I never get tired of Hitman because there are so many ways to complete an assignment. Even replaying at a higher difficulty setting makes for a new experience. Which leads me to the last tip…
- Don’t play at the lowest difficulty: This is not exactly a tip; in fact, it should be a law in the gamers’ universe. Because the easy setting is for wimps. No, I won’t take that back!