When Games Break Your Heart

It’s rare that a videogame holds my interest long enough for me to get very far into the actual plot of the game. It’s even more rare for a game to reach me on a real emotional level. So it really hurts when one of the few that does breaks my heart, and not by design.

I’ve been playing a lot of Fable II lately. The plot is vaguely interesting, but what’s really grabbed my interest is the rest of the game. The buying and managing of businesses, the social elements (there’s something sadly funny about hordes of villagers following my character around begging her to marry them), and most importantly the ability to have a family. I get the dog thing, I like my dog, but what I’m really attached to is my family – my husband and daughter.

So I’m not understating it when I say that it ruined the experience of the game for me when they broke. I went off on one of the main plot portions of the game and left my family behind for a time. This was the portion that I’ve disliked more than any other and in just about any other game would have made me give up on the game entirely for lack of fun. However, I spent the whole time thinking “it’s ok, when I get through this stupid section I can go back to my loving husband who probably has another present for me (because he always does) and see my pretty baby daughter grown up into a little girl” and I got through it and didn’t give up on the game. Then I got back to my house to find my husband nowhere in sight and my daughter frozen and less responsive than when she was a bassinet.

So I called in my resident videogame expert, my real life husband. He poked at the game briefly and confirmed that my in-game husband wasn’t anywhere to be found and my daughter seemed pretty comatose. Then he turned to the internet for some help, since he knew this was a make-or-break issue for me with this game. And what did he find? It’s broken. Not only is my family gone, but I can’t even really finish the game the way that I probably would have because it requires a working family to do so.

He was sympathetic and advised me to start the game over or give up entirely. I haven’t decided which route to take yet. It wouldn’t even be a question except that I was really looking forward to playing during my upcoming recovery-from-foot-surgery period. I may end up starting over then, but right now I don’t feel like it. I’d miss my family too much. I’ll probably just bury myself in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise instead.

But I’m very sad that Fable II had such a game-breaking bug for me because I fear it’s going to affect my approach to future games. I feel like this was a major bug and should have been found in beta. It ruined a game for me, and there’s a decent chance I’m not the only one. To bad too, since it was a fun game. At least I got to see the climax when my husband finished it a week ago.

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