Fortunately, a few of the games I've played since joining The Backloggery have worn down my resolve. Final Fantasy VIII made me question my rigid completionist mentality, and Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls confirmed that I needed to break out of it. Sonic and the Secret Rings empowered me to abandon games I don't like enough to play to any sort of completion, let alone 100%. Today, the Gradius Collection version of Gradius III incited a revolution that's been brewing for a long time: a total shift in how I define 100% completion.
The Backloggery gives you three options for marking a game as finished: Beaten, Completed, and Mastered. The exact meaning of these options varies from one person to the next, but the general consensus is that Completed means you've done everything there is to do in the game, both obvious and secret. Now, there are games in my collection such as Escape Goat, Dragon Warrior III, and Police Quest II where I'm very close to earning Completed status, but I lack the skill or patience to go after whatever I've missed. Then there are games such as Star Fox 64 and Rollercoaster Tycoon where I'm nowhere close, and games such as Star Soldier and Area 51 that aren't even in my collection. By adhering to a strict code of what it means to be Completed, I've saddled myself with a load of Beaten games that have little or no hope of upgrading their status. It kind of defeats the purpose of working so hard toward 100% Backloggery completion if the best I'm likely to achieve is 70%.
Gradius III drove home how futile my approach has been. I know that I'll never be good enough at space shooters to beat any of the Gradius games on the highest difficulty setting (this is not a defeatist attitude; this is statement of fact), so I've adjusted my definition of "Completed" for these games to mean "finished on the highest difficulty setting I can manage." This kind of compromise is not a new one; for example, I prematurely marked Muramasa: The Demon Blade as Completed, because the hardest difficulty setting is so absurd that Mastered would be the only appropriate completion status. What's different about Gradius III is that, more so than the other games in the Gradius Collection, its roots as a quarter-gobbling arcade machine shine through.
Only a game designed to steal your money would be so relentlessly difficult (to the point of being outright cheap) and offer so few checkpoints to compensate. I am stuck on the last checkpoint of the game, and I am tired of spending four minutes slogging through a tedious corridor and beating up on an easy final boss, only to die repeatedly in the last 10 seconds of an overly fast escape sequence that demands incredible reflexes and perfect precision. It is only through abuse of save states that I made it this far, and I am playing on the easiest of nine difficulty modes. The game stopped being fun a long time ago, but I've already beaten the (considerably fairer) SNES port of Gradius III, and I was able to conquer the other games in the collection with enough practice, so the completionist in me is insisting on seeing this game through to the end. I mean, I'm only 10 seconds from beating the game!
No. No I'm not. I'm probably a couple hours from beating the game, if it's possible for me to beat it at all. And even if I win, I can't mark the game as Completed until I've finished it on the next highest difficulty mode as well. I never want to play this game again. This is where I finally draw the line. All the Completed medals in the world aren't worth the pain I've already endured, let alone what's ahead if I stay on this course. I'm changing the rules: this is as far as I care to play, and I'm marking the game as Completed so that I'm never tempted to go back and waste more of my life on this.
My new rules are simple. Beaten means I've reached a good stopping point, but want to keep exploring the game. Completed means I've done everything there is to do, or else everything I have the skill and desire to do, and thus have reached an even better stopping point. The goal of maintaining a Backloggery is to keep playing the games I own, not to get hung up doing something that makes me unhappy. I know; this should be obvious, but that completionist mentality is difficult to shake. To help enforce these new rules, I've gone through my entire game list and updated the status of every game accordingly. Wait until you see this month's Retrospective; the Backloggery section is going to be ridiculous.
I feel better already, like a huge, self-imposed weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Video games are supposed to be fun, and I refuse to let my completionism keep my favorite pastime from being enjoyable anymore.