Afraid of the End

Fear is a natural part of life. It’s a constant that makes you consider what is dangerous, what is safe, and what is potentially fun despite the previous two determinations. Fear only becomes a problem when it prohibits you from accomplishing something you would otherwise like to do. Asking out that girl in your pre-AP physics class, taking that leap out of a plane with 600-year-old technology strapped to your back, and quitting your full-time job to risk it all on a new startup venture are all things that are likely to be set aside for the lack of willpower to overcome fear.

There are, of course, more…unusual hurdles to overcome as well. There’s a frequent one I encounter when watching television shows long after they’ve gone off air that I’m hopefully not alone in experiencing. Friday Night Lights is a great show. I mean, you kind of have to be to be nominated for an Emmy almost every year you’re on air. The thing is that I only watched the first season when it was actually new. The rest I would catch bits and pieces of as it became syndicated and had preseason marathons.

And then just recently I went whole hog on a Netflix subscription (I’d previously just hopped trials every time I got a Visa gift card) and lo and behold, the show was available in its entirety. I watched the first season again and then soon jumped into the second season, loving every minute of it. I even convinced a friend to do the same.

But when he finished the entire show before I’d even begun the third season, I knew something was wrong. When the notion of watching another episode collided in my head with the need to watch something at two in the morning, I’d almost invariably watch something else (perhaps an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender or Veronica Mars, two other shows I love). Did I not love Friday Night Lights as well? Was this adoration a disingenuous one? Is Texas not forever, Street?

That right there, however, might be the issue. The realization washed over me like a slow sunrise over sleepy Dillon, Texas; I was afraid of it all ending. I loved that showed so much that every step closer to the end was another step I didn’t want to take. I know the show ends. That fact was made all the more real after my friend tied it up over the course of a couple weeks. But I don’t want it to end. I want Coach and Mrs. Coach and Riggins and everyone to stay just where they are and be just who I want them to be.

This has become a bigger problem as of late because it has begun to affect my gaming.

Certain games I love because they form a cohesive ride to an inevitable conclusion. The Uncharted series, for example, is great at this. Every game in the franchise feels like a slick ski ride down a terrifying but exhilarating mountainside. You can’t quit it because it has this kung fu death grip on every square inch of your mind, wringing it for all its worth just so it can piece it back together with bits of Nathan Drake in between. Games like Uncharted and Telltale’s The Walking Dead force me to finish because there is no clean break at which I can weigh the scale between love and completionism.

Other games I love because they make me feel like I’m a part of their world—much like how FNL made me feel like I was always late for Dillon Panther football practice—and these are the games I find difficult to finish. I’m afraid to finish them because once I do, I won’t have a reason to go back to them. There won’t be anything new and there won’t be anything as good to me as when it was all fresh and novel. It’s the difference between looking at a photo album of your vacation and actually going to Puerto Vallarta last spring break; one you are living it and the other you are simply remembering it.

And I don’t want to remember it if I can still experience it, even if that means not experiencing it in the first place. I know the nostalgia will be warm and fuzzy in the end, but it will be nothing compared to the real thing. I don’t want to hand that in at the expense of the maiden voyage, even if that means I don’t make the trip to begin with. In the moment, it is the crystal clear paragon of everything you’d want from a video game. I don’t want it sullied by crummy human memory.

That’s why it took me three months to get around to beating the last 3 hours of Red Dead Redemption and why I took a full year to return to Fallout 3‘s DLC. Once I finish those games, that’ll be that. I’ll know everyone in the world, I’ll have tamed every horse, and I’ll have found every bottle cap. Do you remember when you yelled, pleaded and cried until your parents took you back to that cabin for summer vacation? You had so much fun because everything was new and unexplored. You wanted to go back because you knew there was more to be seen and more to be done. But you went back and there wasn’t. You’d done it all and you’d seen it all. It’s just not the same.

It may also stand to reason that I’m afraid of the game eventually disappointing me even though I loved the other 99% of it, but that is debunked by the FNL anecdote. I know that everything leading up to and including the ending is great, so there’s no reason not to watch it, save for my fear of not being able to return to the dusty world of West Texas high school football. I don’t want to look back at my photo album and think “those were the days.” I want to be living it and think “these are the days.”

Texas forever.

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