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April 18, 2013

Everyone say ‘badass’!

Right, before we continue on, let’s get one thing straight: I absolutely adore X-COM. I love the every cliché 50’s sci-fi alien invasion, I enjoy the meticulous planning and preparation. The tension the game builds and builds, compounding success and failure, balancing risk and reward, it’s so utterly engrossing and addictive. X-COM is hands down one of the best strategy games I’ve played (A genre which I have to admit I want to dive into more now), but it’s single-handedly one of my most traumatic gaming experiences as well.

X-COM is a brilliant game, but I think it’s the first one to psychologically damage me. Yes, I believe X-COM gave me Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I’m pretty terrible at X-COM in reality, I think that’s why I actually enjoy it. Very rarely do I feel properly challenged by a game, so being out of my depth raises the pressure, tension and drama. I’m sure if I found the game a breeze I wouldn’t nearly find it as absorbing. I have never finished X-COM, not because I actually failed. I have lost many countries support from the X-COM program, in fact I seem to struggle on the knives edge on a continual basis, but I have never lost enough support for the X-COM project to be shut down. It’s so tense, You can almost hear the base’s support staff grinding their teeth out of mind numbing anxiety, wondering who or what will balls up in the next 24 hours. It’s usually me their Commander-in-Chief who balls something up. Though that makes every little victory seem all the more sweet, but it makes the failure and losses sting all the harder

That’s the reason I can’t face going back, I can’t emotionally accept my soldiers dying. That may sound perhaps a little over-dramatic, but since I play on Iron-Man settings once I lose a troop that’s it they are gone and you can’t recover them.

Losing a rookie is hard enough sometimes, so when I lost four of my best troops on one mission, I was almost completely devastated. No I was actually. I just couldn’t face admitting that they were lost to me, and it really put me back to square one. Like I said I’m no good at X-COM and my micro-management skills suck. (That’s why I never play the Sims).

I had named a squad after the other members of the WeHave9Minutes team. While this may seem gruesome and a tad morbid, it only heightened the experience and made me care more about my troops. It was quite devastating to lost Andy, who was my best assault troop, after 20 missions and left me struggling to fill that particular void. Though nothing compared to losing Sam, my elite Sniper (my highest ranking troop), Luna – the bombastic heavy and Matt – My Run ‘N’ Gun artist in one mission alone. The sole survivor from that mission was some rookie, the bitter sting of such a monumental loss eclipsed any joy of victory.

From then on I was struggling to create a team like I once had. I was losing at least one troop each encounter, sometimes even two or three. It was being a perpetual bloodbath. True I had some passable troops that soldiered on and dragged my other troops up from the murk, soot and blood to victory, but you can’t win a war without troops, and the injury and K.I.A list was growing beyond my control. It was definitely my leadership that had drilled us into this unfavourable position. I just couldn’t raise any troops back to the level of my best troops. With the missions getting more demanding, the enemies more ruthless and unrelenting X-COM started to drain my will, and eventually I just turned it off.

“Commander? Mmm where did he go?”

It’s not like I’m afraid to go back, but I know what’s waiting for me. It’s a bitter old slog and it’s a tough mountain for me to climb. I’m bad at these kind of games. In a lot of ways I’m unlikely to do any better this time around, and it’s that feeling of failure, a predetermined loss that is hard for me to overcome. It seems so out of reach because I’m a complete dunce. I don’t plan, I can’t manage…but I love it. It’s a self-inflicted torture that I’m looking forward to diving back into, and may if I win it will the sweetest victory ever.

I’m not sure if X-COM actually gave me PTSD, probably not. There is one thing it has given me though. A challenge, and that’s something I’ve been missing from my gaming life for a long while so…


Image Links: The Controller Online – Best Strategy Games of 2012Edge.Com – Still Playing X-COM: Enemy Unknown, MarketPlace

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 18, 2013 5:06 pm

    I feel your pain! That was a great description of how the games get inside our heads!

    • April 18, 2013 5:10 pm

      Only now do I feel brave enough to step back into that game.
      Its going well, haven’t had a break down yet.

  2. Mads Boelsmand Østergaard permalink
    April 18, 2013 6:57 pm

    Oh god, I know this all too well, I even more so feel a tighter bond with them, when I’ve helped figure out a nickname that fits them. or you have named them after your friends, family, co-workers you like and such. it just hits even worse when one of them kicks the bucket.

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