I recently purchased Demon’s Souls for my PS3. For those of you not familiar with the game, it’s a Japanese action-RPG that simulates torture. In Tokyo, I’m sure you could simply buy a ticket out of a vending machine to a club where someone would repeatedly burn you with cigarettes, but in the United States we have to make due with what is imported to us.
After repeated sessions of total screaming frustration, I realized that what makes this game so infamously “hardcore” is not its complexity or even its level of difficulty, but simply the total lack of any checkpoints within levels. And that’s when it dawned on me. Over the past few years, checkpoint systems have turned everyone into a bunch of pussies.
So everyone remembers Donkey Kong, right? Long before the days of E3 announcements, when it was just an ape throwing barrels at a mouth-less immigrant, there was a serious challenge involved. Then that mouth-less immigrant and his gangrenous brother took a psychedelic trip down a pipe and there was only one checkpoint per level. It was called “halfway”. We didn’t complain about that. It was just how things were and we accepted it. If you fell down a bottomless pit, it was because you had inferior motor skills, which is why you were also picked last in kickball. Then along came The Legend of Zelda and it turned things a bit sideways by allowing you to save your progress via battery backup. But guess what? When you loaded that game, Link still started right back at the beginning of whatever level he was on. This ushered in a new era of accessibility, by being able to save and walk away from the game without starting completely from scratch. Then Mega Man 2 came along with a grid of arbitrary dots that set us back 5 years as a people.
Over the coming years, more elaborate checkpoint systems were invented, under the guise of “better game play” or “more pussability” which was later changed to “more playability”. The ability to save a game is fine when it comes to an RPG. I don’t want to kill the same four hundred blobs or listen to an androgynous girl laugh about kittens twenty times over. However, when it comes to action games, there needs to be a challenge, and these checkpoints are sending us in the wrong direction. Thanks to the nightly news, we all know that games Gears of War and Modern Warfare are elaborate murderer training tools. How are our kids supposed to become lethal killing machines if they are spoon-fed the ability to restart a mission from the spot where they were shot five seconds before?
There will be no second chances in the Japanese Android Wars of 2033...
Developers are clearly at the center of this issue. You may think they are helping you by making the game flow more smoothly, and not interrupting the narrative by forcing you play the same level over and over again, but there is a hidden message in all of this. What they are really doing is saying “Hey weakling, thanks for buying this game we made just for you and your scrawny friends. We put all these checkpoints in because we know you’re too inept and pathetic to beat our original vision of it. If you want your $60 back, come and get it because frankly you’re less frightening to us than a box of kittens.” I can’t believe you just let them say that to you! Not to mention they took all your med kits away and made your health regenerate on it’s own. They must think you’re a real dotard.
Because I am always here to help, I have created a plan to help get you back in fighting shape and off the shame train to Vagina Town before it derails. I have included a point system to help encourage you towards reaching your new goals of becoming a badass, and also because I like point systems.
Week 1. Get a copy of Super Mario Bros. (I don’t care how) and beat world 8. Go tell your jerk neighbor to shut his dog up. (+2 points)
If you play any games with a checkpoint system, listen to “Twilight: The Official Motion Picture Soundtrack” while you cry into your shirts frilly collar. (-5 points)
Week 2. Defeat Sinistar. Eat twenty six Clif bars. (+20 points)
If you play a game that has an autosave feature, use the bottle of Monostat that came with it to help clear up that problem. (-35 points)
Week 3. Beat Lode Runner. Write your initials in the living room wall with punches. (+50 points)
If you rent/play a game meant for kids simply to raise your Trophy Rank or GamerScore, go write in your journal about how you wish your wife would allow you to put Vagina Monologues in the Netflix queue. (-100 points)
Week 4. Complete Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link in one sitting. Fire an automatic weapon into the air. (+200 points)
If you even look at a copy of Super Mario Galaxy, sign up for an interpretive dance class. (-800 points)
Week 5. Defeat Ninja Gaiden Black on “Master Ninja” difficulty. Bench press your girlfriend.