The Agony and Ecstasy of a Hard Disk Drive Failure

I received my PlayStation as a present for Christmas 1997, along with Twisted Metal 2, Final Fantasy VII, and a memory card. Shortly thereafter I saved my first game to that memory card. Over the last fifteen years I have strictly organized, cataloged, and maintained my game save collection. That came to an end Tuesday night when my PS3 hard disk drive failed, causing a large chunk of my entire collection of game saves, from the PS, PS2, and PS3, to be corrupted and unrecoverable. Why didn’t I back up my saves or place them on the cloud? Well I had backed up my saves, but not in the last two and a half years, and as for the cloud, I am not a PS Plus member so that little extra is denied me. However, having gone through this experience I see the mistakes I made and, oddly, the new lease on gaming life it has given me.

As with most people I had the hubris to think, “Disk drive failures happen to other people,” “I take good care of my console, I have no need to worry,” or simply “I don’t have the time to back up everything right now.” Well let me tell you something, you and your console aren’t special. It can fail you. You can keep your console in a cool, dry room and only play it for 30 minutes at a time, and it can still fail you. Now I am seriously considering getting on a “backup every two weeks” schedule so that if this were to happen again my pain would be minimal. But my own stupidity is not what I regret the most; it’s the loss of memories. This may seem overwrought or melodramatic but when I look at my game saves or pop in an old PS2 game and see that previous progress I am reminded of people and moments from my past. I know that I had tons of kills in Timesplitters thanks to my best friend, Josue, and I playing it until the wee hours of the morning almost every weekend senior year of high school. Or that I led Kratos to slay Ares the spring I graduated college after I had completed all my class requirements. To this gamer these saves were the equivalent of a family photo album, something you don’t take out and look at very often, but you need to know it’s there and safe.

All that said having the last two and half years of saves disappear into the ether lifts a great weight from my shoulders. When I think about my backlog or all those games I started and never finished I feel weighed down. This baggage has been alleviated now that these saves are gone. I no longer need to feel as if I must complete that RPG I started before I tackle a game I’ve been eying on my shelf. Now I’m free to play any of the games in my collection, PS, PS2, PS3, or whatever I want. Sure some of you may say, “You could always do that.” Well not really, the way I play games is generally I will have one or two going at the same time, typically a lengthier one, like an RPG or a large sandbox game, and a shorter, more finite game, an action game or FPS. So if I get tired of slogging through the RPG I can hop over to the action game and kick some ass, or conversely, if I hit a boss battle in the action game that I can’t beat I switch over to the RPG to feel like I’m making progress. While I’m sure this doesn’t apply to everyone, this is how I roll. So the loss of these saves gives me carte blanche to spelunk through my collection and I finally get to try out those games that there just wasn’t time for before.

I realize I am sending a mixed message, but the loss of massive amounts of data is truly a mixed blessing. Yes, I can no longer jump back into War of the Monsters and have everything unlocked, but on the other hand I get to look at my collection with new eyes, eyes unburdened by the notion of “I’ll come back to that later.” I get to start over, and while it’s scary, I will replay those wonderful game experiences from previous console generations, and move on to new ones. Letting go of the past is hard, but sometimes it’s the only way to move toward the future.

Written by Justin Spielmann

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