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In defense of the save point

For decades, video games have reserved specific spots for recording progress. Sometimes it’s a room, sometimes a character to talk to or a menu option. When you reach that point and press a button, a satisfying “Game Saved” message appears, telling you everything will be all right. The progress you made and the time you wasted now has meaning. Go forth and explore, for you have recorded your actions at this, the save point, and may continue if you fall in battle.

Many modern video games avoid save points in favor of something passive and sinister: auto-saving. Everything is recorded automatically, all you have to do is keep playing and trust your work was stored. There’s no pause to commemorate the occasion, and there’s no need to verify the data was actually saved. Just go ahead and quit, everything’s going to be fine. Trust me, I’m a computer program.

Metroid II got it right

Auto-saves get the job done, but they rob us of our moment of accomplishment. Being able to push “save” is an act of completion. It ends what you just did and it begins something new. It puts a representative mark on the record, a mark you made that summarizes everything you did with a single press of a button. You don’t get that with auto-saving, you just sort of keep going in a monotonous kind of way.

Manually saving is like ancient homo sapiens drawing on cave walls. Recording their hunt with ochre on stone is a primitive save point, one that’s stored data for tens of thousands of years. How would they have felt if they got back to the cave to see their day had already been drawn on the wall? Not so accomplished, I’m thinking. Doing it themselves had meaning, and it still does today.

I’m not asking for the ability to save anywhere, any time. I’m just asking for a manual motion I can go through to ensure my progress was recorded. I want that extra assurance my game has been saved, and I need the feeling of accomplishment that comes with it. A flashing auto-save icon in the corner of the screen just doesn’t cut it. Give me back my save points!