Editorial: Gaming Incompetence

After realizing that I have now been gaming for exactly half of my life, I find it all the more appalling that I am genuinely terrible at games. Not all genres, mind you, but certainly all of the ones which require skill. This incompetence has not stopped me from playing such games, and failing miserably at most of them, for much of the last two decades. (In fact, it was only due to an apparent lapse in judgement that our esteemed Editor-in-Chief even agreed to consider my application, and my current status as an active staff member deeply confuses me.)

Or proves how worthless we are.
Failure builds character.

It is fair to question my failure to improve as a gamer in all of this time, and wonder if I might be suffering from some sort of learning disability. It is a valid concern, and while I am not qualified to speculate on any physical or mental condition, there is undoubtedly something wrong with me. For instance, I have played very few platform games, and fewer still of the classic “Metroidvania” variety. Over the past summer I purchased Axiom Verge, a recent release in the genre that pays homage to the golden era of gaming, and though I really liked it, the game’s increasing difficulty started to become too much for me by around the third boss fight. Not content with this failure, I then tried playing the original Castlevania for NES, and its PlayStation followup, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and my floundering attempts resulted only in an startling number of deaths, and being stuck very early in both games. My troubles are not limited to Metroidvania games, however, as I have utterly failed at (and spent very little time with) one of the most popular genres of all: the first-person shooter (FPS).

Adding to my obvious lack of skill in most games, I have battled motion sickness whenever attempting to play an FPS. (The reader is encouraged to seek out and punch Sebastian at this point, repeatedly, and as hard as possible.) I genuinely feel sick after just minutes of staring down a gun barrel, and have avoided these games as a result. When I have trudged through an FPS in spite of this weakness, I have spent more time being killed than shooting anything, and in general I am so unskilled as to reject the genre outright. The one exception is Metal Gear Solid, which (for the few who may not know) combines 3rd-person movement with 1st-person shooting. My introduction to the series was Metal Gear Solid 2 (MGS2) for the PlayStation 2, and I have played this particular game on three systems over the years (thanks to a later PS3 HD remake and PS Vita release, both of which I own). And as much as I love the game, and as many hours as I have played MGS2 across multiple platforms and over more than a decade of time, I have not completed the game. Not once. (Lusipurr, I understand that my position has been eliminated. I thank you for this opportunity, and I hope you will consider the return of my eternal soul.)

I have wasted my life.
Video games were meant to be played, not displayed.

It is valid to question whether or not I have completed any games at all, or if I simply enjoy lining my shelves with them, as some enjoy surrounding themselves with books they have not – and will never – read. At least the book collector probably knows how to read the books they purchase, but I have proven to myself time and again that I simply do not possess the skill to complete most of the games I own, many of which I have not even begun to play. But I have in fact completed a few games in my life. My first system was a Nintendo 64, and as I did not own it until I was seventeen years of age, I entered the 3D era of video games with no prior experience, and no skill whatsoever. (The reason for my late entry into gaming is related to parental disapproval of video games in general, combined with a lack of personal finance which prevented a console purchase until shortly after attaining employment for the first time.) I will not use such a late entry as an excuse, though I hope it might foster leniency. However, the number of games I have owned (and still own), along with the amount of time I have had to improve, negate my tale of juvenile game deprivation woe.

On the Nintendo 64 I did complete a few games: Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and… Well, those may be the only two. A year into my Nintendo 64 ownership, however, I purchased a Sony PlayStation and three “greatest hits” games. And of those budget titles, one introduced me to new genre – and one with which I could actually succeed! The game was Final Fantasy VII, but I was terrible at that in the beginning as well. (I could not win the first boss fight for whatever reason, and playing to that point repeatedly was frustrating.) Even so, there was something about the game which made me play it again and again, even if I could not progress very far. Soon after, upon visiting a friend who was playing through Final Fantasy VIII, I was able to learn the mechanics of turn-based combat and how items worked. Unfortunately, I was learning FFVIII, and (even worse) I decided to buy my own copy. 80 hours of gameplay later, I had meandered through my first Final Fantasy game, and I loved it. Chrono Cross followed, and I actually finished that game twice before moving on Final Fantasy Tactics and then to Final Fantasy IX (which I never finished). Where is Final Fantasy VII? I did not revisit that game until later, but once started I quickly devoted all available spare time to completing the RPG that got me interested in the genre in the first place.

I really are sick, aren't I?
The slower the pace of play, the greater the odds of my success.

I have spent so much time in FFVII at this point that it is simply a part of my life. Leveling up my characters (and materia), exploring the world map, mastering the mini games (well, mastering is not the word, but I managed) to obtain prizes such as the inimitable Omnislash; the depth of gameplay is incredible, and battle system, story, artwork, and music are among my favorites in any game. And I am actually good at the game! But in reality, with patience and the ability to read, anyone can play a Final Fantasy game. Turn-based combat was the real reason I succeeded with the JRPGs I played, as I did not need to be coordinated or fast to win battles. FPS games require both, and this is why I fail miserably at them (along with the motion sickness, which I attribute to a tendency to look at the gun barrel and not the environment). However, I did discover another genre that I could actually succeed with, and it was on the PC: the real-time strategy game, or RTS. Command and Conquer: Tiberian Sun was my introduction to the genre, followed immediately by Warcraft 2, and then Warcraft 3. I finished all three of these games, taking my lifetime count (including three PS1-era Final Fantasy games, Chrono Cross, and the pair of N64 titles mentioned above) to…nine. Can this be accurate? Surely in the years since I began playing games I must have completed more than that! Sadly, I can not remember completing any others.

The fact that I can not recall finishing any other games is bothersome, and makes me feel ashamed. Oh, I have started dozens of games; even played them for weeks or months at a time. For example, on PlayStation I started playing Vagrant Story many, many times; on PlayStation 2 I played Final Fantasy X up to the end, and this summer I did the same thing again on my PS4, and I still have not entered the final battle in this game. I start Chrono Trigger on a regular basis, without ever completing it (that I can remember anyway, there may have been one time about 12 years ago). Clearly, finishing a game has proven to be an elusive goal. My current list of in-progress games spans many years, and I fear it will remain this way until I die (probably very soon, and horribly). I hope that these confessions can help someone suffering from gaming incompetence, like myself. Please seek help. Life is too short to be like me.


  1. I seldom complete games. I buy them, start something else halfway through, and then come back to them again later. Sometimes this means starting the game over. I Repeated this over many years and found I had a substantial backlog to finish, let alone those I’ve not yet begun.

    It doesn’t help that many games I play have no definite ‘end’, just a grind for better gear/items/money. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy an evening spent playing a loot grind with Lusipurr, but I have trouble trying to find balance with something else I could be playing. Something I can ‘complete’, like Dragon Quest VII.

  2. @Imitanis Your comment makes me feel much better. I have more enthusiasm than time (or skill), but that hasn’t stopped me from starting more games than I can think of. I’m particularly guilty of this on my handheld systems, where I currently have a stack of “in-progress” games.

  3. @Sebastian On my 3DS I am putting time into DQ7 currently, but I have Fire Emblem: Fates (special edition so I can play all three scenarios with no downloads), Project X Zone 2, and Yo-kai Watch ready to be started. I’ve started Persona Q, Etrian Mystery Dungeon, and Stella Glow. I still have Pokemon and 7th Dragon III Code: VFD to play when they are released later this year. I’m not even going to start on the number of downloaded titles I have on my PSVita that I bought a 64GB memory card for earlier this year…

  4. In retrospect, I should have written about game backlogs. @Imitanis has inspired me, and rather than write a “Backlog Epilogue”, if you will, this subject will instead be used for a future post.

    Or we could just talk about it here in the comments. BUT IS THAT ENOUGH??

  5. I’m with Imitanis, but I have a feeling when it comes down to it, we are no longer the target audience of Gaming Proper, and we have to deal with that. We do not have the same amount of disposable time we used to, having grown and acquired additional responsibilities beyond “do your homework and you can play games after.” I have to schedule time literally days in advance just to play a game myself, let alone with my kid, so having games like Diablo III or No Man’s Sky or, heck, even Neverwinter in my collection gives me some sense of continuity between these distant sessions. I do not have to do a lot of catching up when I return to these games after not playing them for two weeks, as I can just jump right in without much thought. Pokemon Leaf Green on my GBA SP has a reminder mechanic built in, so when I feel like playing that game I can watch a little movie approximating what I did in the game last time.

    Relevant comic for your motion sickness: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2016/10/14/dramamancer

  6. @Lusipurr: Is this true? Does SN really not ever finish anything? HE IS MY HERO.

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