Written By mista sense on Thursday, April 26, 2007 | 4:51 AM

As I've said before, I'm a compulsive game perfectionist. If there's a sidequest, I'll complete it. If there's a minigame, I'll play until I win all of these or unlock all of those. I want an S ranking. I want the extra costume that you only get by beating the game on all six modes in under four hours.

I'm waiting until after the credits roll to see how many stars I got. I'll reset in the middle of the level because I know that I've taken too much damage to rank well-- even when I'm winning. I'll reload because I capped someone by accident in the middle of my no-kill game, or because I'm taking too long. I'll revisit the most convoluted dungeon again and again because I missed the ultimate weapon. I'll level-grind for hours to beat the secret boss.

Apparently I'm not all that uncommon, as most of the huge-scale games I've played in recent years are ready and willing to judge, grade and evaluate me. I'll be playing something for the first time, and not doing all that fab, and I'll think to myself, "ah, the game doesn't 'know,' right?"

It knows, and I'll be called to account. Maybe not at the end of the level-- maybe not until the end of the game, when the girl dies or I got the "normal" ending instead of the "best" ending because I opened too many treasure chests or didn't take adequate care of my animal companion or because I examined the wrong item too many times (damn you, Silent Hill 2).

I always thought this was how I liked to play. It speaks to the A-Type in me, maybe, to the detail-obsessive geek in all of us.

Recently, though, I finally scored a Wii and started playing Twilight Princess-- gasp! I'm so late to the party! I know, I know. I love the Zelda series. Maybe not in the same way I love Metal Gear, but Zelda's been there for me since grade school, and while technology may evolve, Zelda's format stays comfortably familiar. Despite the innovation of the Wii, which is certainly stunning in contrast to prior incarnations, playing a Zelda title still feels like coming home. Makes me want a peanut butter sandwich and a Rice Krispy treat.

When I'm killed, when I fall off of something or into something, I can restart from the edge of the ledge, or from the vicinity of my demise. The first time this happened, I felt a little twinge of nerves in my sternum, the reflex urge to reset, to reload, bubbling up. A game in which a death has occurred? How will it affect my ranking, my rating? How much time have I lost? Am I going to get the Water ending now?

It went against all of my careful conditioning to just keep playing. And when I died again, to choke down the bile. Don't worry; it's Zelda. Zelda doesn't judge. Zelda just wants you to have fun.

I gotta say, playing without perfectionist standards feels like a vacation. Especially given the limited time we have to play games these days-- as kids, game time started after school and ended way past our bedtime, perhaps with a break for dinner. Not so in the grown-up world, where we have awful, repugnant things like Schedules and Responsibilities. I'm not the first grown-up gamer to complain I'm finishing fewer games these days-- let alone finishing them repeatedly for the purpose of garnering all my modes, awards and rewards. I'm sure I can't be the only one in the audience relieved when I don't feel like I'm missing something when I don't. It'll be interesting to see how games evolve in response to the (young! young!) adult gamer's changing needs.

They will, right? They wouldn't forget us eighties babies-- we made them! They owe us! Right?

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