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Pause Scumming
Save Scumming is when a player saves excessively so as to be able to undo mistakes by loading an earlier save. This is when a player pauses excessively to slow down or otherwise lower the difficulty of a game. This kind of gameplay is absolutely essential for micromanagement during difficult boss battles in games that feature Real Time with Pause, but in straight action games, it's an artificial way to make the game easier that the developers didn't intend.

Some games try to avert this by having the pause menu cover the entire screen, not allowing the player to issue commands while pausing, or simply annoying the player with a pause sound or short delay after pausing and unpausing; however, some examples where even that can be abused springs to mind. The most extreme form of preventing Pause Scumming is to not allow pausing at all.

Some games accidentally escalate the usefulness of this strategy by having glitches associated with pausing. Common examples:
  • An enemy will continue to take damage from a weapon while the game is paused.
  • Pausing stops the clock, and the player can perform actions before the clock starts up again after unpausing, even though the game is not supposed to have Real Time with Pause.

Don't do this in multiplayer, by the way. Just don't.

Tool-Assisted Speed Runs allow the performer to simulate this by pausing the emulator, which is a tame trick compared to the other things they can (legitimately) do.

Examples:

  • In Lemmings Revolution, when you blow up a lemming with the "bomber" command, just before exploding, the lemming in question crouches. If you pause while he's crouching, you can give him another command (like "build") and thus save him from exploding. This trick is absolutely necessary on some of the later levels in which you must save every single lemming.
  • In Mega Man 1, there were two pause buttons, Start and Select. Pausing with Select did not pause Mercy Invincibility (which almost every boss had), thus if you repeatedly pause and unpause with good timing you can deal massive damage with a single Thunder Beam.
    • In fact, this was the easiest way to beat various late-game bosses in the original Nintendo Hard game, particularly Yellow Devil.
    • In the earlier Megaman games, it's also possible to go to your weapons menu just as you're about to be hit by an attack, and when you resume, the projectile will pass right through Mega Man. Pausing and unpausing also resets falling speed, allowing Mega Man to stay airborne longer and make longer jumps than usual. These little bugs were fixed in later games, however.
  • In Rock Band 3, when the player pauses and unpauses in the middle of a song, the track scrolls back a few bars to help the player catch up after a pause, which can be abused to split up a really hard track into smaller, manageable sections. While this has never been outright fixed, the game was eventually patched so that players who pause often will have their scores nullified.
  • There is a very easy way to beat a rather difficult but initially non-hostile boss Firkraag in Baldur's Gate II, which consists of right-clicking on him as if to talk, pausing the game, and manually ordering your party to attack him instead. Since the game locks him in dialogue mode, he will not aggro and fight back until you are about half-way through his HP.
    • In all Baldur's Gate games, when fighting a mage or wizard near a doorway to another screen, pausing right as they start their spell and clicking the door would cause your character to run out the door leaving the area just before getting hit by the spell. By repeatedly abusing this trick, you could make spellcasters run out of spells and thus force them to attack you hand to hand, which could turn even the most powerful wizard into a pathetically easy fight.
  • In Valkyria Chronicles and its sequel, the unit you are controlling, (and only the unit you are controlling) will be exposed to suppression fire, whether he or she is stationary, behind cover, or moving. However, enemies will mysteriously cease fire the moment you take aim. This leads to one or two different playstyles. The player will usually either run fast, shoot, and stop controlling the character; or walk, aim, walk, aim, walk, aim....
  • Battling the Pop-pup enemy from Megaman Battle Network plays like a game of whack-a-mole, so pausing lets you spot him without the need for lightning fast reflexes. The fight with Drillman.exe is similar.
    • Also Chaos Unisons in 5. They let you use darkchips without lowering your max HP, but as a charge attack that constantly shifts between being safe and very dangerous to use. So, pause the game. If the charge orb is purple, take your finger off the button.
  • In Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim, you can enter the game menu, which pauses the game, at any time. In this menu, you can drink an unlimited number of potions or change armor in a nick of time, even in the middle of combat.
    • In the background fluff, this (and save-scumming, among other things) is a canon ability of certain individuals in the world. Notably player characters and some kings.
  • Fallout 3 has this. Going to your PipBoy menu during combat to heal is quite effective and weighing your advantages and disadvantages through the menu is also a plus. Of course, most players do this as a standard anyway, even though there's shortcuts you can use. Putting an ammo-using weapon in the inventory and pulling it out also reloads it. Same goes for New Vegas, unless you have Hardcore mode activated (which makes healing item recover health over time instead of immediately).
  • The Final Fantasy games have several examples:
    • Many of the games with the "Active Time Battle" system (4 thru 9, and X-2) have an option to pause the ATB clock when a player accesses an in-battle submenu (magic, items, etc.), but any in-progress attack animations will continue to execute. As a result, the player can gain a slight speed advantage by opening the menu whenever a party member executes an action, to prevent enemy turns from coming up while the attack animation takes place.
      • Final Fantasy V had a low-level Time spell called "Speed" which, while not providing an actual speed boost, paused the ATB timer whenever a character's turn came up so that the player can decide on an action without enemy turns occuring in the process.
      • In the DS remake of Final Fantasy IV, the ATB timer automatically pauses when any combatant starts executing their action, making the system impossible to exploit.
      • Final Fantasy VI Double Subverted this with Setzer. Pausing the game allows the player to manipulate his slots easily, so the game uses a pseudo-RNG to determine what abilities are available (rigging it so that you can't hit 7-7-7 every time). Then someone discovered that the RNG is easily manipulated, so the player can re-rig it to the most favorable seed, then pause scum the instant kill.
    • In Final Fantasy VII, pressing and holding the Square button during combat hides the user interface until you release the button. This can be used to abuse a couple of mechanics that use slot reels, because the reels don't move while the interface is hidden. For example, this makes it easy to force a specific outcome off the slots that dole out handicaps in the game's Monster Arena.
      • Playing this game on the PSP makes it ridiculously easy to control the slots. Pressing the Home button completely pauses the game, Slots included. If you line up the slot as you want it, press and hold Circle. It both exits the Home menu and instantly stops the slot.
    • In Final Fantasy XII, the player can enter the party menu any time, during combat or otherwise. This enables such things as removing equipment from characters who are under Confusion ailment and about to murder a party member, or switching accesories and armour to nullify the effect of a status ailment or elemental spell the enemy is readying.
  • In Jak II: Renegade, it really helps to pause during the seer's minigame and during the whack-a-Metalhead machine minigame.
  • Here's how to beat anything in Divine Divinity: drop a teleport stone in a safe place nearby, walk into an area with dangerous enemies, pause, drop a scorpion trap or three (unleashing a ridiculously strong scorpion that attacks any hostiles nearby), pause, click the other teleport stone to teleport away, rest for a few hours, and return to the area to find everything dead.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time you can use a variant of this when racing the ghost of Dampe. Since his tomb is one of the few locations that warp songs won't work in, you can abuse the error message playing one generates. You are free to move during the textbox, and it won't deduct time from the countdown. Watch this in action in this video.
  • The ASCII Pad and many similar controllers in the 8- and 16-bit eras had toggles that pressed the pause button many times a second, often labeled "slow-mo".
  • This is one of the only ways to get past Blockhead Grande in Ōkami. He has eight weak points to remember, which must be struck precisely and in order (and change randomly after each try), many players considered the best way to do it to pause and write them down as each one is revealed (or record it on a camera).
  • In Blaster Master, it's possible to beat some of the bosses by hitting them with grenades and pausing at the right moment. If you do it right, the boss will keep taking damage while paused.
  • A similar bug was present in General Chaos, where the projectiles were not stopped by pausing the game.
  • In the first Super Smash Bros. game, if you pause after every frame of movement, then the on-screen timer won't clock forward. This makes it possible to complete the Break the Targets and Board the Platforms challenges with a time of 0:00.
  • Defied on StarCraft, as each player can pause the game only 3 times.
    • Used in its speedruns, where an open system menu doesn't give much advantage now that the action is paused per-se. What it does is stopping the timer ticking, while not preventing progression of scripted engine scenes audio dialogue. It's just that sometimes next player actions have to come after the dialogue finishes.
  • In Seiken Densetsu 3, it was discovered that the charge-up time between selecting a skill or spell and its actual execution continues to elapse even when the player accesses a menu; thus the player can select a spell then switch to their menu so the character doesn't take damage before the spell executes. However, this also works on enemies preparing spells to attack you with....
  • In the special stages in the Sonic Rush series (and the DS version of Sonic Colors), you control Sonic using the touchscreen. By moving the stylus across the screen, you move Sonic around to the left and right. The thing is, Sonic doesn't actually move towards where you're touching, he just instantly appears at any spot you touch. So if you're having trouble, you can pause the game, touch the area you want Sonic to be at, and unpause to have him appear there much faster than you would normally be able to move your hand.
  • In the HD versions of Sonic Unleashed the QTE prompts aren't hidden when you pause the game, so if you pause right when a prompt shows up it gives you time to prepare yourself to hit the right buttons. This is helpful in the Tornado Defense stages because it can allow you to nail almost all of the prompts (The Egg Cauldron fights can still be nuts with so much stuff being thrown at you).
  • Twisted Metal 2 implemented the pause feature in an odd way. Your car and the enemy cars would stop dead as expected, but projectiles would continue as normal, the sole exception being the ricochet bomb. With timely use of the pause button you could land every single Roadkill boomerang, every single Sweet Tooth ice cream cone, every single freeze missile, break out of a Mr. Slam infinite freeze missile loop, blow up opponents with their own mines (because the delay before they arm didn't stop when the game was paused, of course) and avoid running into projectiles fired in front of you. The list goes on. Conversely, you could also die during the pause screen.
  • BioWare's games (most notably Neverwinter Nights 2, Knights of the Old Republic, and Dragon Age) actively encourage pause-scumming to set up party tactics.
  • In Ninja Saga, you are allowed to change weapons in the pause screen during battle. Different weapons give different bonuses to dodging, criticals, and some other boosts, but the most powerful weapons (at least, the most powerful you can get without paying in real world money) have no bonuses. So a cheap advantage you can get is to equip the weapons that have bonuses while you're using moves, and go back to using the strong weapons when you run out of chakra.
  • In Chrono Cross, there is a gambling minigame where you have to stop the roulette spinner at the right spot to win prizes. If you pause when the red tip is between west and south and then immediately stop the spinner, you'll win every time. Makes it trivial to get a lot of Denadorites to craft some of the best equipment.
  • Minecraft has a pause menu accessed by pressing the Escape key. One can change the game's difficulty to Peaceful (no monsters and perpetually regenerating health) if the player is assaulted by a monster while the player is at low health.
    • Averted in Hardcore mode where the difficulty is locked to Hard at all times.
  • In The Sims, this is pretty much required if you want to control every action of your sims and you're playing with a large family, especially if free will is on high or the sims are spaced out over a large area meaning you can't keep an eye on them all at once.
  • Tetris:
  • Any time you're using the MAKO in Mass Effect 1, you can go the the map screen to cancel momentum. This can be useful if you're trying to go up an extremely steep incline and accidentally drive off of an edge. Cancelling momentum prevents you from landing too far from where you started.
  • Inverted in GoldenEye, where the pause animation (Bond looking at his watch) happens in real time and you're helpless during that split-second delay, meaning you can indeed be killed if you pause in the middle of a firefight.
  • In Xenogears, during games of Speed the computer can put down cards very quickly and always seems to get the best hands. Good thing you can even the odds a bit by pausing every so often to see what cards you can play.
  • In this flash game, trained units are put in a queue and continue to be built even with the pause on, resulting in the computer facing five units occupying the same position (but only one takes damage at a time). Only useful for defense though, as they still walk in single file towards the enemy.
  • In Battlespire when you shoot a bow, it normally takes a few seconds for it to be reloaded and ready to fire. Pausing the game stops all the other action, but the bow reloading continued. This allowed you to murder high level enemies by turning them into a pincushion by shooting them repeatedly with each reload only taking a fraction of a second of "real" time.
  • In Neverwinter Nights, you could use this trick to get extra xp during the prelude by running past all the monsters to the two characters who give auto-level ups at the end of their dialogue trees, then turning around and slaughtering all the enemies before leaving the prelude, though doing the second level up is very difficult without using a speed hack or a fast movement spell to allow you to pause click through his entire dialogue tree before his attack scripts triggered.
  • The final boss in Dynamite Headdy involves an orb that changes colours, a roulette of heads for Headdy to choose from for a split second after the colour is revealed, and then the boss attacking based on the colour of the orb. Choosing the right head is suitably tough normally, but becomes a joke with Pause Scumming.
  • When you're playing Borderlands by yourself instead of co-op, you can reload any weapon with almost no in-game time passing by pausing, putting in the inventory, unpausing, re-pausing as quickly as possible, putting the weapon back on your active deck, then unpausing again. This can be fairly useful with certain weapons, like Rocket Launcher, which have agonizingly long reload times.
  • Used to glorious effect in Super Mario 64 tool-assisted speedruns to enact a glitch that enables you to travel backwards at Sonic the Hedgehog-level speeds. See here for a run which incorporates some of the most stunning examples to date.
  • Super Metroid has a slow fade between gameplay and the pause screen (and vice-versa), during which gameplay continues for a second, but Samus's death at 0 health cannot be triggered during the transition. This has been used in a TAS with frame-perfect repeating pausing and careful rationing of health from a Reserve Tank to keep Samus alive through health-draining heated rooms.
  • The Commodore 64 version of Donald Duck's Playground, an educational game in which Donald works (you play minigames) to earn money to buy toys for his nephews, could be pause scummed. Pause/unpause was bound to the space bar, and repeatedly tapping it (holding it down didn't work) would slow the game down. Not a big deal - that's a pain to do. Except that the game used Joystick 2, and it's well-known that Joystick 1's fire button often mimics a tap of the space bar. A spare joystick with autofire became a slow-motion feature. Odder still is that the in-game clock never counted down while you were doing this: the clock seemingly "forgot" about whatever fractions of a second it was internally tracking when it was paused. Since all the minigames are on timers (and one has a second timer you also need to keep an eye on), this slow-motion also comes in handy for finishing a minigame task about to be left half-complete, so Donald could get out with a sweet sweet extra fifteen cents.
  • Defied in the Caravan modes in the Star Soldier series. The timer will continue to run down while the game is paused.
  • In Summer Carnival '92 Recca, the time counter will continue to tick while the game is paused. If this seems irrelevant outside of Score Attack and Time Attack (which resemble the Caravan modes of Star Soldier): The game hands out a game over after 60 minutes. Justified, as the game was developed for an event and not as a consumer title.
  • Approximated in several Real Life sports where calling a time out can be used to obtain an advantage that goes beyond stopping the clock. In sports like basketball and lacrosse, a smart coach can call time out if their team is about to lose possession in a critical situation and then get a re-start in a more advantageous position. In Tennis the lax rules regarding "medical" time outs can give players extended breaks to recover mentally from tactical setbacks under the pretext of having an injury attended to. In gridiron football, "icing" the kicker is a dubiously effective yet commonly practiced method of Pause Scumming. After the '04/'05 NHL lockout, the rules regarding icing were changed so the infringing team couldn't make line changes, thus preventing a team from using this tactic to stifle momentum and change out fatigued players.
  • Pretty much the only way to beat the Dash Circuit minigames in 3D Dot Game Heroes
  • Startopia: If you get a message about a Time Bomb planted on your station, there's always an option to hit pause, and look around with all the action frozen, until you locate where it is. Then unpause, beam it up and throw it into the refinery, good times.


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alternative title(s): Pause Abuse
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