The Day the Games Died

It was a weekday morning. I slept in, meaning that I woke up at six to play video games rather than five. It would be a shortened session, but my flames of passion for Skyrim were only burning at a comfortable simmer now that Jacqwhortz the dark elf owned a house and I considered the game won. I made my coffee and got together all of my traditional preparations for my morning session, and retrieved the controller from under the couch, next to the futon my son and I slept on. (It’s been a devilish hot June in Osaka, and we’ve all taken to sleeping in rooms our single air conditioner touches.)

The PS3 was already on. Apparently, my youngest son of 11 months, Louis, had handled (and mouthed) the controller the night before, and had managed to turn and leave the thing on all night. When I opened the front of the TV cabinet to change out the Kingdom Hearts disc for Skyrim’s, the air around the PS3 was incredibly hot, and that was not cool. But the game started up from the autoload and I found myself pushing the circle button on the controller repeatedly just to get through that damn autosave warning and title screen as fast as possible. The next thing I knew, I had started a new game, and the loading screen told me I was at level 1.

Well, that’s kind of fucked up, I thought, the cursor is always on ‘continue’ by default. I should be loading up my last game right now, and that number is about 35 levels off. I quit the game to get back to the title, and cannot tell you the horror of not seeing a ‘continue’ or even a ‘load’ option among the title screen options. “No,” I said aloud, realization dawning, “It’s gone.”

IT’S GONE, IT’S GONE, IT’S ALL FUCKING GONE!!!!! ALL MY SAVE DATA IS FUCKING GONE!

You can hear your heartbeat in your ears in the quiet calm of morning. Mine raced and pumped wildly as if to fill with blood the void left by the hundreds of hours of gaming that had simply vanished in the night. Gunter and Jacqwhortz were no more. I quickly switched discs back to Kingdom Hearts, hoping, praying, begging that maybe it was only the Skyrim saves that were missing, and that this disaster had left me and my son, Guy’s great adventure untouched..

This was when he woke up. He saw what I was doing and smiled at me. We were going to play some early morning Kingdom Hearts, just the two of us, in the secret hours of the morning. I looked back at him with my worried eyes, hoping not to see what I feared on the screen. “Guy,” I said, “My Skyrim saves… they’re all gone.”

“All gone?”

“Yeah. Totally gone.”

“You’re going to have to start from the beginning?”

“I guess so. If I ever play it again, that’s the only place I can start.”

“Why? What happened?”

“I don’t know… I just hope…”

And that’s when the game asked me if I would like to create a save file for this game called “Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD” which was being played for the first time.

“Oh no. Oh no, oh no, oh no. Guy… Our Kingdom Hearts saves are all gone, too.”

“WHY!!?”

“I don’t know! I don’t know! They were here last night – did anyone touch the controller last night?”

“No!” And then he thought what I had been thinking the whole time. “Oh, Louis did!”

“But how could Louis erase every save file on the PS3? It’s impossible!”

Guy started to cry, and I sat down on the futon with him and hugged him close to me, stroking his head, getting ready to cry right alongside him. I rocked him back and forth telling him that it was going to be all right. His eyes which look so much like mine leaked with the tears of a boy who understands, maybe for the first time, that he has lost something forever. But it wasn’t true, right? We still had the games, and we could still play them. We’d just have to start from the beginning, like he said. But I knew that we were both thinking about how far we had come together in Kingdom Hearts, and I knew just how close we had been to seeing the end of the game.

It was a moment for me that I knew would be crucial in my role as a father. I thought about my own father, who would never despair in front of his children. He was always a pillar of strength, and could be counted on to keep a cool head, even if the whole world were to dissolve into panic around him. I decided I would not lament the loss of these saves any further. GTAIV, Xillia, Orange Box, Fallout, Bioshock, Skyrim, L.A. Noire, Final Fantasy XIII (Oh dear god, not Final Fantasy XIII..) — the things that I accomplished and achieved for myself in these games were gone. I would accept that. The fact was that if I were to play these games again, it would be just as my son said: from the beginning. And yet, there were so many games in this world yet unplayed, that the beginning would be where we would have to start them anyway!

“Guy, do you want to start one of the other games on this disc? There’s Chain of Memories and..”

“Chain of Memories,” he said, sniffling.

“All right, then,” I said, “Chain of Memories it is.”

And so it was that on this dark morning that Guy and I began Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories on the PS3, our spirits determined not to be sundered by the mere loss of a few megabytes of data. And if my infant son was responsible, then I would not love him any less for it. Guy would learn to forgive him, too, and I would show him how.

The game opened with a montage of familiar scenes.

“Guy, they’re showing everything that happened in Kingdom Hearts One – there may be some serious spoilers here.” And there were. We got glimpses of the last boss and parts of the ending. God damn it, oh well. I guess we’d kind of have to know what happened in order to play the continuation.

I’m going to try to make this short so I can get to the main point of this whole sick episode. Chain of Memories’s tutorial is way too fucking long because the card system used to play the game is way too fucking stupid. I can guarantee that that game will be no fun. But luckily, we’re not bound to playing it. Here’s why.

When my wife woke up, I explained to her how we lost all of our save data. Ms. Epicuzi doesn’t even play games, but she immediately knew what a devastating loss it was for me, and had nothing by empathy for me and Guy, because she knew how hard we had worked at our game and what it meant to us. As we talked and walked through the steps of how Louis had gotten the controller, a possibility entered my head. It was not only entirely possible, but just like that stupid fucking razor theory, the most likely thing in the world that all of our saves were safe and sound!

I got excited and told everybody that everything was going to be okay. Just wait – you’ll see. I turned the PS3 off, and then on again, and this time made sure that I was logged in with my main account. I started up Kingdom Hearts and told Guy to load our game; for behold! All of our files were there. Everything was in its place, and not a single bit of data was missing from anywhere.

It turned out that Louis, in his wild bid to wield the PS3 controller had simply turned the machine on and logged into my alternate account that I use for the Japanese PSN. None of my disc games had been ever played on that account, which is why there were no saves for either of the games when they loaded up under it. My wife told me to apologize to Louis for doubting him, and I did. I apologized to him, my wife (hey, she had every motive to get rid of those files!), Guy (who I never really suspected, but as long as apologies were being dealt out..), and even God himself for ever thinking that they would destroy my goddamn fucking stupid retarded fuck-it fuck-it save files.

So there you have it. Faced with the possibility that I had lost something valuable, I saw through the dark turdwater and managed to see what I still had, and how valuable all that stuff was. It really is the moments like these that help you put your life and priorities in order, and I don’t care how cliche it sounds: it taught me a valuable lesson.

Nothing in this world is permanent. Always be prepared for not only the possible, but the inevitable loss of that which you hold dear. Also, keep the fucking controllers out of reach of babies.

@epicuziplayit

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