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Bittersweet Progression in Games

bittersweet

As we age and move through our lives, we experience change. We say goodbye to friends, places, and things, but this allows us to welcome new experiences into our lives. The same is true in many video games. When we progress in games we are rewarded for our hard work.

This often comes in the form of new toys: guns, items, and characters. We become more powerful, learn new abilities, or gain access to new weapons. And this progress, or reward, is one of the more fun parts of video games. When you can now one-shot those enemies that previously took a whole clip’s worth of ammo, you feel like a bad ass. But this progress, again and again, can feel bittersweet, because acquiring new weapons and abilities means saying goodbye to the old ones; the ones that got you to where you are now.

 

My Hero, Butterfree

One of my earliest heart-break stories comes from Pokémon Yellow. Staying very true to the anime, I picked up a Caterpie and trained it up into a marvelous Butterfree. I walked back and forth through the Viridin Woods until my little Caterpie evolved into a Metapod and finally a Butterfree. And at level 10 when it evolved it also learned confusion. This was key, because being forced to start with a Pikachu, I couldn’t barely even scratch Brock’s Onix. But now, with my confusion-spewing Butterfree I could lay waste to Brock and keep moving on towards Mount Moon.

Bittersweet

This was a big bonding experience for 6-year-old me. My time and effort were rewarded with an OP, early-game Butterfree. Having Psychic moves that early in the game made most fights a cake walk. I blew threw everything. No one could stop me and Butterfree.

 

Bye Bye Butterfree

However, as I made my way through the game, it became painfully clear that Butterfree was holding me back. It just didn’t have the defense or HP to stand up to the more challenging fights in the game. Despite this, I couldn’t bring myself to abandon Butterfree to the PC. For better or worse, I instead decided I would grind and grind until I could beat the elite four, with my Butterfree.

We had been through too much. If it weren’t for Butterfree, I would still be in Pewter City having my Pikachu getting the crap kicked out of it by that Onix. After beating the Elite Four, I went and caught myself a Mewtwo. However, when I captured Mewtwo, I could no longer lie to myself.

Mewtwo is clearly the better choice between the two. I had officially out grown Butterfree. So, finally, I had come to the point when I had to drop off my Butterfree in the PC. Sure, I told myself I would come and take Butterfree out from time to time, go and fight a couple of battles with my old friend. But those moments never came. Butterfree became only a memory, just a brief moment in time.

Bittersweet

As a child this was absolutely heart breaking. Mewtwo was awesome, but we would never be as close. I had ditched my old childhood friend for the more adult, cool kids. In the years that past, I would occasionally try to relive this wonderful part of my childhood, but other Butterfrees just never seemed to live up to that hype, that child’s dream.

 

You are Over-Encumbered

In my older years I still find myself progressing through games in this bittersweet way. It’s a hard task for me to part with old guns in Fallout games. I always keep a stash of the old weapons I used to love. Selling or scrapping old guns would be a more productive fate for my old reliable weapons, but I can’t do it. They’re nice memorials of the tools that got me where I am now.

 

Surplus Metal

This feeling has recently hit me again, in a similar way to how Butterfree made me feel. I have been playing, and loving, BATTLETECH. This is a strategy game where you battle giant mech robots. In BATTLETECH you not only get new robots to fight with, but you also get to customize them in any way you want. You decide what weapons and armor they have, and you can even choose their paint jobs.

As you play through the game you slowly get bigger and badder mechs. But I fell into a routine. I developed a group of medium to large mechs that could stop anything. The game would constantly tell me that I would be outgunned bringing in light mechs for such dangerous missions. Despite this, I would throw caution to the wind and — regardless of the warning — emerge victorious.

Bittersweet
The Atlas II: A star league era mech given to you when you beat the game. At 100 tons, it is almost twice as big as my favorite Shadow Hawk.

But, much like getting Mewtwo, when you beat the main story, you are given several incredibly massive, powerful, heavy mechs. Not fielding them would put everything at risk. Now, before every mission I try to convince myself that my old mechs can handle the job. However, it’s clear that they can’t stack up. Remorsefully, I leave them in the hangar, busting out my new toys instead. With them, I stomp through the enemy like I have never done before. I am reminded of my old team and the days gone by, now only a memory.

Have you had bittersweet moments of progression in video games? Tell us below, and keep it here on Culture of Gaming for more stories like this.

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