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This article contains spoilers for Heavy Rain.

Years ago, my older brother fell out of his chair while eating a sandwich, so I pulled him to his feet and administered the Heimlich Maneuver. Looking back, I’m not sure if he was choking or not, but he’s still alive, so at least it didn’t hurt.

Video games ask players to perform virtual Heimlichs every time they power up their computer or console. Since the day I may or may not have saved my brother’s life, I have rescued enough digital princesses to populate a small country (I would call that country “Toomanyprincessestan”). Games provide us with opportunities many of us never get in real life — opportunities to make a difference and to know our effect on the world.


Zelda 2 Ending

This is the first time I've ever seen this screen.


However, sometimes heroism and good intentions are not enough, and even the most noble gamer can’t rescue everyone. Here are three tales of my most heartbreaking failures as a virtual savior.


1.) “I’m a monster!”

I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes, so it took me a while to figure out why residents of Infamous’ Empire City would occasionally burst into lightning bolts and die when they had been standing around me and cheering just seconds before. This was during my “good” playthrough, so inflicting this kind of random death felt like the opposite of what I was going for.


After I’d been playing the game for longer than I care to admit, I realized two things: First, that the developers had dotted the city’s back alleys with puddles of water, and second, that I had not been checking to see if anyone was standing in one before I waltzed my electric ass through it. Once I figured out what was going on, I spent the rest of the game trying to take out enemies this way, but my accidental kills always far exceeded my intentional ones.


I mostly stuck to rooftops after that, but I do take some comfort from knowing that I was not alone.



2.) “I can’t come back, I don’t know how it works!”

I played all the way through Heavy Rain during this fall’s Extra Life marathon, and I decided that I would accept whatever happened instead of replaying sections over until I achieved my desired outcome. I broke this rule once, when I was trying to figure out if Jayden could crack the Origami Killer case without all the evidence (spoiler alert: He can’t), so I declared that I would let the rest of the game ride.


Unfortunately, the next section was the one in which Shelby and Lauren are tied up in a sinking car, and Lauren died because I missed a controller shake.


It wasn’t even my fault; the button cues confused me, and it wasn’t in an exciting “I don’t know what to do first” kind of way but more of an “I don’t know what this shit does, and the clock is ticking” deal. However, arbitrary rules are arbitrary rules, Lauren remained dead, and Shelby went and quick-time shot some guys for revenge.


Heavy Rain
"I would have saved you, but David Cage values emotion over clarity!"


This story has an interesting coda because when the game hopped on its motorcycle, leaped across Logic Gorge, and revealed that Shelby was the Origami Killer, I wondered why he would care if the mother of one of his victims lived or died and called bullshit on the entire sequence.


So Heavy Rain kind of sucks, but I wish I could have saved Lauren.


3.) “I doubt they’ll toss up any roadblocks for that.”

Red Dead Redemption’s John Marston is a man trying to find sense in an increasingly confusing world. In the Stranger side-mission “Who Are You to Judge?” Jeb Blankenship asks Marston to rescue Lucy, his kidnapped love, and poor Jeb is so broken up about his loss that it’s difficult to turn him down — especially if one is going for 100% completion.


Being the helpful soul that I am in open-world games, I rode out to Tumbleweed and rescued Lucy. Of course, despite Red Dead’s general maturity, it is still a Rockstar game, and I should have known there would be a catch.


Sure enough, Lucy turned out to be a horse.


“Okay,” I thought. “This is super weird, but like the name of the mission says, who am I to judge?”


I took the horse back to Jeb, and he was very happy to see her, which is a nice way of saying that his level of happiness made me uncomfortable.


Red Dead Redemption

Pictured: A horse's ass.


“Who am I to judge?” I said aloud to my TV after the cutscene. “I’m John Marston, horsefucker.”


When I had control again, I jumped onto the horse and rode her far, far away from Jeb. We crossed the border into Mexico, and when I hitched her to the post outside of my house in Escalera, I promised that I would make her life as easy and quiet as I could.


An hour later, Lucy and I were out hunting skunks when a puma killed her.


I lost more mounts than I can remember in Red Dead, but I felt that one the most. That horse deserved better.