It has been a tumultuous week to say the least but I find playing video games and writing about them soothing and so I press on with what I hope are interesting blogs. But admittedly, today I have resulted to pulling out a topic from my bag of blog ideas that I have classified as "quick and easy". We'll see if it turns out to be so, as many times I find once I commence exploring the topic it rages out of control and is anything but.

The issue at hand is the mechanism some video games use to save the game. I trust when I say "save the game" everybody knows what I mean. So let me ask this,

Have you ever been burned by the process a game uses to save your status?

It seems like, without fail and regardless of what game I am playing, I find a way to screw up my saved game data. To make matters worse, the grievous error always seems to be significant and a painful reminder of how careless I can be. Now, when I say I screw up my saved game data and being careless, I'm not referring to doing the unthinkable and turning power off to the console when the "save in progress" icon is flashing on screen or the hard drive activity lights are going blinky blinky. I'm also not referring to corrupt saved game files that inexplicably seem to occur from time to time. I've heard of this happening to others, but I have no recollection of ever losing saved game data because the file somehow managed to get corrupted.

No, I am only referring to the process of operating and maintaining saved game files that you can typically only perform by taking the following actions - load, save or delete. You might be able to copy or move them too but for the sake of this discussion I will limit it to load, save or delete.

Now, first and foremost, I want to make it very clear that I am not blaming the game, the developers and certainly not the publishers. Most games I play I find the save game component is more than adequate and any difficulty can usually, more times than not, be attributed to the single most common problem associated with the operation of any electronic equipment or computer system...

O. E.

Operator Error.

Operator Error is a politically correct way of saying, "Hey Idiot! You screwed this up because you (a) were in a hurry, (b) didn't know what you were doing, (c) didn't follow the instructions, (d) all the above.

While Answer D might seem the logical answer, realistically the most common reason I screw this up is I'm just in a hurry. I understand the how's and why's of what I'm doing and I don't need to read the instruction manual or on screen prompts to know how to do what I'm trying to do...I just flat out screw it up because I'm rushing the process and don't take my time to confirm what I'm really trying to do.

So the problem usually manifests itself in a few different instances that I will discuss in just a moment.

First and foremost, my personality, um...quirkiness...(not disorder) insists that I save as often as I can; not as often as practical or whenever it's has to be frequent, even if it means backtracking to an out of the way saved spot regardless of whether anything has transpired that's worth saving or not. I have even been known to make the daunting trek to a save point for the simple fact I feel too much time has transpired. If I didn't manage my saved game files as diligently as I do, I'm afraid to think of what my saved game archive would look like.

Since I do manage my frequent propensity to save games rather diligently, I either overwrite existing files or I save it as a new file and then delete the older one(s)...or at least what I hope are the older ones.

To illustrate my normal (keyword "my" - I'm certainly not suggesting it's normal) behavior...

I am currently playing Bioshock. It has the traditional save game scheme that allows you to save the game pretty much anywhere and you can save it as a new file or overwrite an existing one. I'm only midway through the game, largely due to an error (why yes, it was O.E.) that resulted in my existing saved game files being overwritten, that set me back to a previous point in the game.

Frustrating to say the least.

So if you opened my saved files in Bioshock, you would see two files. The one I am playing and a backup. Nothing more, nothing less. Is this a risky practice? Perhaps. But again, since I save often and I don't like clutter, it's just my natural way of doing business (and yes, that can certainly lead to problems too).

Here is just a small sampling of my screw ups...

In one instance I died and respawned at the last checkpoint, however, I had expended a lot of resources and wasn't really pleased with the outcome, so I was going to load the last saved game file, but instead saved it. Even clicked the, "Yes I'm sure I want to overwrite the file" thinking it was the, "Yes I realize I'm going to lose any unsaved progress" button. Save vice Load = Disastrous Outcome!

In another instance, one where I actually accumulated a handful of different saved game files contrary to my normal way of doing business, I started purging the older ones and inadvertently got rid of my current one. Unfortunately, the game wasn't loaded; it was still at the start up screen, so I couldn't exactly re-save my current status. I had to start again from the last saved file I did manage to retain, which ironically was the oldest of the files I had.

This particular issue doesn't happen as much anymore now that I split my gaming time between consoles and the PC, but the PC is notorious for the dreaded "quick save" option. In theory it sounds awesome - hit the quick save button and without exiting out to a menu or selecting a save spot or file, it just automatically saves wherever you are and whatever you are doing. It's easy to get sucked into the convenience of this feature. As my dumb luck would have it, I don't know how many times I would quick save in a spot right before something very bad (i.e. my death) would occur and every time I would reload, the outcome was the same. Death. The Half Life games, as grand as they were, probably frustrated me the most with the quick save feature. I got so spoiled I would never conduct a real save, would only use the quick save and quick load features and purge the ones I didn't think I would need. But sometimes I would have to replay almost the whole level if a quick save occurred in a bad spot and I had already gotten rid of previous save spots.

Perhaps the biggest kick to the teeth is when you stretch your luck and think that treacherous thought, "As soon as I get here or do this, I'm going to save it." Only you never get there or do that...because the gaming gods frown upon your lowly existence and decide to throw you a curve ball. Of course it always happens after you have been playing a long time and made loads of progress. Either you die in combat, fall to your death or otherwise encounter something that completely and utterly upends your perfect little world. Yes fellow gamers, I'm talking about Minecraft. It is perhaps the bane of my existence when it comes to saving games. Just the other night, my Minecraft partner and I had been playing for awhile - he was exploring a cave / dungeon I discovered while building my mine cart track while I continued digging the tunnel and laying the tracks. We have the game set to autosave once an hour, but before it did, the unthinkable happened. A coordinated creeper attack caught him off guard and though he is normally a warrior when it comes to slaying multiple creepers, one managed to sneak up behind him and do what creepers do. Compounding the situation, he was near a lava pool and the shockwaves savagely threw his body into the lava. The multiple fizzing sounds confirmed that all of his equipment, to include a diamond sword, pick axe and shovel AND all the resources (gold, diamonds, iron ore and coal) recovered from the cave, were in fact lost. The dilemma of, "Do I continue on and suffer the loss, or do I reload and lose any progress that was made" was short lived and the decision to reload was made fairly quick - RELOAD! Having to reload at least an hour's worth of Minecraft game play is tortuous and enough to make a grown man cry. Or two grown men cry, as it were.

Of course there are always those instances when I have forgotten to save altogether or assumed that since I hit a checkpoint I was clear to turn the game off and power down. Am I the only one who's ever turned the console off without saving the game first? Wait, what? I am? Derp. I hate the ole trick checkpoint and those games that use it. If you don't know what I'm talking about, it's the type of checkpoint where if you die or reload from the last checkpoint, you're good...but if you power down and turn the game back on, you only return to the last actual save point. I hope that makes sense. If you've experienced it you probably know what I'm talking about.

Pretty much if there is a way to screw up saved game files, I've figured it out and done it. Besides Bioshock, I'm also playing God of War 2 which utilizes a nearly identical format. I've lost progress in that game too, due to my own mismanagement of saved game files.

As always, I'd love to hear comments indicating I'm not the only one out there suffering from the inability to save a game, as simple as that might. Or I suppose you could also remind me how easy it is and that a caveman could do it.

The old saying goes... A stitch in time saves nine

Meaning: A timely effort will prevent more work later.

Hah, more like...a save in time, saves nine...nine hours of game play catching back up to the point where you were before you screwed it all up.

Happy gaming.