In the last instalment I looked at the notion of trying to not be so attached to the idea of success and progress in an effort to let my gaming time flow effortlessly while success showered down seemingly unbidden. I tootled off and practiced for two weeks and never once got within three seconds of my fastest time.
I’m convinced this approach is right over the long term, but nagging doubts continue to percolate below the surface. What if I’m not practicing the right skills? What if my car isn’t setup properly? And how can someone still be 13 seconds faster than me? Come to think of it, why didn’t I think of any way to steal stuff from those shops in Daggerfall? Not once did I successfully steal anything from any shop in that game and it’s been bugging me for years. Not only did I not steal successfully, it never occurred to me to try.
Clearly, my aging brain is all chunked up, gunked up, chanked up, funked up, shanked up, manked up, and bunked up. I’ve stopped at seven silly phrases because most of us aren’t able to remember any more than that anyway. This wonderfully written paper presented in 1956 describes our limits as humans to correctly differentiate and recall digital information.
Of course, if all anyone could remember is seven things, we’d have a hard time finding our bear skin slippers in our caves each morning, let alone raising a civilization and inventing the solid state flash drive. However, the saving throw is the idea that we can combine simple concepts together into more complex concepts thus cheating the limitation imposed by seven (plus or minus two). For example, a, d, e, h, j l, z is the short term memory equivalent of combine, shock probe, crowbar, downshift, reload, head crab, and fifth gear, which, in turn, is equivalent to:
1) Always quicksave after cutscenes
2) Thieving is bad, unless it’s for the greater good
3) Only a fool downshifts into turn 15
5) If at first you don’t succeed, it’s a script bug
6) Magery is the highest form of play. Bashery is for fools
7) If you can (do something), you should (do it)
Twenty five years of gaming has left my mind filled with obsolete chunks and useless high level ideas. Rather than breaking up my chunks when faced with a gaming situation that the above seven rules don’t handle, I look up the solution in a walkthrough. Rather than using games as an opportunity for exploration and play, I’ve become excruciatingly cautious and regimented in my approach to seeking solutions.
To a certain extent, this is a self defense mechanism. Encountering a few scripted quest bugs is enough to plant a seed of doubt about the next superficially difficult quest. Killing a few NPC’s out of order and wrecking unfinished quests leaves a sour taste often not retested. Actually, I’ve been packing these two particular chunks around since Daggerfall and maybe it’s time to put them to rest.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s I worked for a company that build control system software for microwave transmission and gas/oil pipeline companies. It was well known within the company that the best way to test the user interface software was to get someone’s kid to come in and play with it for a few hours. Somewhere between the ages of 5 and 10 was perfect, old enough to read simple instructions but not so old as to be aware of what it was they were playing with. We would never allow this in the field of course, if we did the nation would be a lot oilier and no one would be able to call anyone to complain about it.
The experience usually left a lasting impression on new developers. (well, it sure shocked the hell out of me) After weeks of testing and preparing their code a developer would let a kid onto the system and usually within five minutes the thing would be in a complete shambles. Denial followed, anger, name calling and tears, perhaps, as the developer is led away, but hopefully a new appreciation had been gained for how blind we had become in using something when we knew exactly how it ought to be used.
Frankly, I’m not really sure what I should do about this chunking. As a problem, it’s serious, maybe not quite so serious as my genetically impending type II diabetes, but serious nonetheless. But I no longer have the sweet unhurried time of youth to try every conceivable permutation while gaming, just to see what happens. Maybe these chunks comprise the long sought Anvil of Wisdom that comes with Age. I mean, only a fool would downshift after a cutscene. Sometimes, a person can just get too clever about it all. I’m going to stick with my original seven chunks thank you very much. Reload.
Helmut’s best time is still: 7:12.922