Whether its rage at a vicious boss, panic during a frantic escape, or carefully held back not-tears at an emotional scene (that isnt sad at all, shuddup), todays games are carefully programmed to get just the right reaction from you at just the right moment. This is especially prevalent with feelings of victory as you overcome a games many challenges: the idea is for you to feel a certain way so youll be compelled to go on playing. Companies spend millions every year to make that happen, and do all they can to keep you at the controls.
But then, some victories defy scripting. Try as developers may to orchestrate bubbles of triumph to nab your interest, sometimes the victories you create on your own, through choices and actions that are unique to you, will get you shouting the loudest and fist-pumping to the stars. Here are eight great unscripted victories in gaming, the sort that stick with you because theyre yours to make. Read on my friends, and beware of sudden bouts of nostalgia and gamer pride.
When you kill a boss with one hit-point left to your name
You're nearing the end of a grueling battle, and things are looking grim. Your health packs are depleted, your comrades are down for the count, and you're on your last legs. The boss is close too, at the end of their humungous health bar, and if you drop now all that effort will be wasted. So you go in guns blazing, throwing out every ounce of firepower you've got in a screaming hellfire assault (or hiding behind a box and taking potshots, whatever), and after several pulse-pounding moments the boss drops dead, with you a strong sneeze away from death yourself.
The elation of victory that hits you in that moment is something that can't be artificially replicated. As hard as developers may try, the intersection of desperation, skill, and luck that makes that happen isn't something that can be prearranged without losing its magic. It's all on you, and when you beat a boss to that final punch it feels like you're Bruce Willis for a good minute--which is a week's worth of victory in regular-person years.
When you beat a boss who's been kicking your ass
Take that last scenario, remove the victory part, and do it over and over until your TV is in danger of meeting your controller at high speed. As tough as bosses are meant to be, some are just over the top, subjecting us no end of frustration as they kick our butts repeatedly. Sometimes it feels like youll never best them and all your efforts are for nothing and that just makes your eventual victory sweeter.
While developers can encourage these scenarios with carefully coded challenges, player response is a different matter, as plenty are likely to give up in the face of such a challenge. But if you choose the struggle, grinding away with Eye of the Tiger on your mind, the blood, sweat, and tears are all worth it when the boss finally falls to its knees before you. Your sense of accomplishment is wholly unique, and any scripted experience pales in comparison to how you feel all on your own. You done good kid, and you didn't even have to drink raw eggs to get there. (Hopefully.)
When you pass a stage you never could as a kid
Everybody's gotta start somewhere, and for many gamers, that was the days of our carefree youth. Few of us were in peak gaming condition at the time, and many an older sibling was called to beat that one level that was just too haaaaaard. But big brothers and tough games can be equally cruel, so when the first wasn't interested in helping us with the second, games got shelved indefinitely. That is, until we came back as adults, blew off the cartridge, and realized this wasn't so hard after all.
Call it experience, a better understanding of game mechanics and finesse with controls. Maybe just note that a twenty-year-old's attention span and fine motor skills are probably more refined than a six-year-olds. Whatever the reason, when you pick up the copy of that old game you could never finish before and give it the sound beating you always wanted, the sense of accomplishment is fantastic. Not exactly something the devs could have planned either; I doubt many marketing meetings touch on the ten-years-down-the-road crowd.
When you snag an achievement that's absurdly hard to get
You know you shouldn't do it. The reasonable adult in you says it isn't worth your time to collect every gold scarab in Hyrule or go through Ravenholm using only the Gravity Gun, or whatever other absurd achievement youve got your eye on. You don't need it, developers put that in there just to mess with you--and then you do it anyway and a feeling of victory hits you like a tidal wave.
By its very nature unlocking achievements is unscripted, as theyre little side objectives that can be ignored by those uninterested. Ultimately, theres rarely extra payoff and you can't expect more fanfare than the famous "Achievement Unlocked" notice. Was it a waste of time to spend weeks beating every blue ribbon challenge in a BioShock DLC? Probably. But you still persevered like a champ, and as dumb as your friends may think it is and as little extra reward as the devs program in, you know that doesn't matter. You got that absurd achievement, and you can't see the haters 'cause your trophy's in the way.
When you beat that friend who's way better than you at this game
We all have that friend who has more time to play your favorite game than you do and is about 10,000 times better at it than you as a result. You swallow that bitter pill, but it always gets a little worse every time they beat you, even though you know its inevitable. As much as developers may try to balance out multiplayer or allow for handicaps, there's no accounting for raw playtime, and that friend is always gonna beat you six ways to Sunday.
Except that one time. Maybe they stop right in the line of your scope, or they jump and land on your one well-placed hidden mine, but suddenly they're off the board and the kudos and confetti are yours. Devs just can't fake this one, and the one day luck prevails over skill the rush of joyous victory is all yours. Don't be afraid to show it off, yelling like you just won the Super Bowl and rubbing it in your buddy's face. I'm sure you won't end up regretting that.
When an enemy's attack misses, just when you really need it to
You're in a bad spot, in the thick of a hard battle with your back to the wall and you haven't saved in about six hours. You know if you had a minute to breathe you could regroup, but all of a sudden the enemy whips out their smackdown move and you know it's all over but the wrathful sobbing. But then the magical Missed message blossoms on the screen, or their attack goes in the wrong direction, and it's like an angel chorus takes over the soundtrack and youre given one more chance.
While the algorithm that determines enemy moves is, barring multiplayer, the work of developers, the way it feels when the enemy misses at just the right moment defies preplanning. That one second that lets you live to see another turn is like a gift, and the relief that washes over you when you have just enough time to build your comeback sticks with you well past the victory screen. Make a sacrifice at the altar of the gaming gods, these only come around once in a while.
When you make a glitch work in your favor
Something about this game just isn't working. Not in a critical/metaphorical/existential way, but actually not working in the face of horrible glitches. You truck on as best you can, but you're kept from completing your objective by bad programming so many times that it feels like more effort than its worth. Youre ten seconds from seeing how the disc fares strapped to a firecracker, when suddenly you manage to launch yourself past the point you were stuck at using the same weird glitches that thrwarted you before. Well! All right then.
Getting a glitch to work for you can turn a bad experience in your favor, making you feel like the odds arent unfairly stacked against you. Unplanned by its very nature, using these glitches to your benefit can feel just like beating a boss, if that boss was the programming itself. All at once it feels like youve defied the machine that has brought you so much stress--or, at the very least, given it a pixelated middle finger. Yeah, take that!
When you finally figure out that puzzle all on your own
Like sitcom husbands that refuse to pull over and ask directions, some of us gamers refuse to use walkthroughs. Wheres the fun, the challenge, in being told the answer instead of searching for it? That mindset keeps us staring at screens and digging through our gray matter, not because were stubborn nerds (though that too), but because the elation of solving it all on your own is like ego-based potato chips.
This victory is the closest our list gets to scripted, because challenging puzzles are designed with that reaction in mind. However, this isnt school and you dont lose points for copying homework, so the unplanned victory comes in how you address the problem. Sure, you could just look the answer up when it doesnt fall into your lap, but when your frustration builds and builds and culminates in hard-won victory theres no feeling like it. You can be sure that you bested the game on your own terms, then feel free to brag to your friends about how guides are for weaklings. Youve earned it, you humble so-and-so.
It's all on you
Though many of us have these victories in common, and can easily swap stories of successes experienced by many, each of us has our own unique tale to tell about how we pulled them off. How many times have these things happened to you? What other impromptu triumph didnt we think of? Tell us in the comments below, and dont forget to share your story--youve got a good one, I know it!
And if you're looking for more, check out common-sense solutions to dumb game problems and game features you didn't know were originally glitches.