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I Hoard Potions in Video Games & Delay Happiness in Real Life

·726 words·4 mins

Whenever I play video games, I tend to hold on to my items until the brink of disaster. It doesn’t matter how many potions they give me; I’m always convinced I’ll need them more later on.

That if I’m not careful and use restorative items willy-nilly that I’ll end up soft-locking my game. Soft-locking is basically setting yourself up so that you can’t finish it. You’ve painted yourself in a corner.

Usually, this happens because you’ve saved before a difficult boss fight, one that you can’t beat. And you don’t have the power levels needed to finish the boss off and no way to get there. Because you’re trapped in a dungeon you can’t get out of — whether the entrance (and now would-be exit) is locked for storyline reasons or for logistical ones, because you can’t run away from the random encounters that are coming between you and safety — and you don’t have the strength remaining to fight them. Or enough restorative items.

It’s funny. I love playing games, although as I’ve mentioned before, I tend to play rather idiosyncratically due to anxiety. In that essay, I talk about how often I save my progress (a lot). Another thing I do is that I tend to take on a lot of random fights and raise my heroes to higher level than is necessary. Sometimes I do this to an absurd degree, becoming nigh omnipotent especially for that point in the game. Or I might raise the funds by battling enemies to buy end game gear — even if it means I have to make some sort of odd trip to a place I’m not supposed to be yet (again, using the save function to my advantage).

I live in fear of ending up soft-locked, you see. Which is curious because it basically doesn’t happen to me. The only times that I can recall was when I was playing a save file my older sister started.

See, she works a lot differently. She runs from anything and everything. Squeaks by boss fights by the skin of her teeth.

She also had terrible boundaries and was in the habit of involuntarily borrowing things (i.e. “stealing”) from our rooms and when confronted would insist they had been hers all along. If you were lucky, you could “borrow” it back from her if you asked really nicely.

And on a few occasions, she took games I was playing and continued on my save file and proceeded to run from everything and then save over the old spot.

So suddenly, I found myself underleveled and stuck.

It’s curious. It never happened when I played a game on my own. And yet… I still play cautiously, as though I expect my sister to “borrow” my save file and set me up for another soft lock.

I Delay Happiness… Indefinitely

And yes… saving restorative items to an irrational degree is a holdover from this too.

I thought it was just something I did in games. But I realized the other day that I do something similar in a lot of other arenas too.

I put off things I really want to do. Ones that would make me happy. Because I might need the time or money later, for something else. Something might come up.

Perhaps this too is a reaction to earlier experiences. I suspect it’s from the days when I was stretched to my limit, when I was playing games constantly with the bills, trying to figure out what thing I could go without paying longer in order to make it just one more month. Couch surfing with friends. Struggling. Always struggling.

It was an ugly, uncertain time. A swath of years where I did whatever I had to in order to get to the next day. And I’m ashamed of a lot of it. Look, there’s no sugarcoating it. It is what it is.

But the important part is that it’s the past. I’ve been in a really stable place for the past decade or so. I have wonderful people in my life. And I’ve built a good little life for myself. There’s room to breathe.

But I can’t. I keep hoarding potions in video games. I delay happiness in real life… indefinitely. Because it seems selfish. Because I never know when I’ll need those resources for survival.


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