I remember the first time I hated manual save. I was in the Temple of Xian, right near the end of Tomb Raider 2 and I had just thrown myself at some lava. Nowadays this is the part where I sit back and relax, because autosave has me covered. I had a save from earlier in the level, so I’d have to backstep a bit, but no biggie. Except when I’d jabbed the F6 key to load my previous save, it wasn’t the F6 key. No, it was the F5 key, which saved progress. I had selected the save I wanted to reload, and cheerfully overwritten it while Lara waited patiently to fall the last 2 metres into some lava. I know this because I re-reloaded the save several times in disbelief and each time had to watch Ms Croft perish boobily in the lava below. The last save before that had been 3 levels ago.
It’s not often I talk of cursing the sky literally, but this occasion seemed to call for it. When I think back though, it was my fault. I was careless. Not only did I fail to think through a complicated ramp-jump properly, but the keyboard was doing what it was supposed to; it was me that pressed the wrong key. Autosave treats us with kid-gloves, and it’s not always welcome, but sometimes it’s in our interest. It’s there to make sure careless mistakes don’t prevent us (read: ‘me’) from losing irritating amounts of progress. What’s wrong with that?
Well - for starters, who says you won’t want to go further back? Especially if you’re playing a game for the first time and you’re exploring everything, it can be infuriating if an autosave you couldn’t have seen coming suddenly denies you access to something else you were going to go back to. The save you chose to make is suddenly gone. What’s more - autosave is far from immune from the same sort of mistakes made by lackadaisical fools like me. If an autosave prompt just happens to be in the wrong place, it can provide you with an equally frustrating auto-fail that makes you crack open the much older saves and continue from a lot earlier, once you’ve finished taking deep breaths in the next room.
Recent games have even taken it a step further; good luck if you want to restart any of Ubisoft's titles over from the beginning, or make use of multiple save files. Autosaving is now so rife in many of its titles that you have to actively seek out Youtube guides to start new games. In Assassin's Creed Unity on PS4 you have to delete the entire file data and save data from the system menu to start a new game, with it typically throwing into your current save by default.
The common thinking behind autosaves has been to aid console gamers who typically could never quick save. Older consoles had to save to memory cards and it was a time-consuming process, but the autosave and checkpointing system negated all of this. Gradually PC gaming has bent towards this way also, but surely we're at an age where quicksave can become a part of console gaming also. Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee New 'n' Tasty managed to implement Quick Save and Quick Load effectively on PS4, why can't everything else?
What do you think? Are the kid-gloves patronising, and you’re a grown up now and ready to make and take responsibility for your own mistakes, like I (almost) am? Or are you repeatedly grateful for the safety net?