Former VL writer and Powerhead Games designman Matt recently posted a question on Twitter, to which I responded as succinctly as a I could. All told, it’s an interesting topic, so I wanted to elaborate on it a bit more in a meatier blog post.
Matt’s initial question was the following:
With so many new games being released every single day, what does that do to a player’s appreciation for a single title?
I’m not exactly sure what, if anything, he is getting at with the question, but I know what it means to me. My response was this:
honestly? It makes me appreciate that title more, if I’ve come to see most of those new games as “noise” in the release year.
This answer is the result of a major change in my gaming habits over the year. In that time, I got a place of my own, got engaged, and started thinking about and planning for all sorts of “grown up” things. I’m also keeping strict habits and keeping up on all those aggravating, but necessary, chores and errands which adult life demands of us. All of this means that I’ve pretty much been left behind by the games industry. I barely ever buy anything brand new; most of what I play now is months, if not years old, and bought for the cheap. I’m spending no time with online multiplayer, and less time with plot-heavy single player games. On the other hand, I spend a good chunk of time playing friendly co-op games (like Littlebigplanet) with my fiancé. In short, I haven’t stopped caring about gaming, but I have stopped worrying about keeping pace.
This didn’t occur naturally. For a while, I resented the fact that I couldn’t devote as much time and money to gaming as I used to. I tried in vain to fight against it, even as recently as March, when I made sure to scoop up a slew of niche RPGs that I haven’t played much of. Soon after, however, I came around and realized my situation was a blessing rather than a curse.
It probably happened when my fiancé and I started playing Sonic 2 and Kirby’s Epic Yarn together. We looked forward to it night after night, stayed up later than we should to squeeze in just one more level, and experienced both triumph and bickering as we got through every trial.
When we were playing Kirby, I still had a stack of fresh games, all of which were languishing on the backlog. Previously, this would have driven me nuts. This time, I let them be. I was spending time with good games, and sharing the experience with a friend (so to speak). This is what I have wanted from games for so many years, and I was getting it. I thought to myself, “Why in the world would I give that up?”
Because that’s exactly what I would be doing if I tried to focus my gaming energies on something else. There was a mountain of evidence proving that I don’t finish RPGs, and don’t even like most of them. Buying some of them was a waste of money, but trying to play (and beat) them would be a futile effort. Guaranteed. As for the hotter, newer games coming out, I was reminded of current state of the industry. Between marketing, preorder bonuses, and launch-inflated review scores, half of the buzz surrounding any new game is bullshit. Absolute, utter bullshit. Come back in six months, and half of gamers will sing an entirely different tune than they first did. Worrying about the new stuff is like gambling – I can’t be sure I’d have any fun, and the odds are stacked against me.
Realizing this, I decided that, for my purposes, most of those new games are noise. Distractions trying to sucker me into laying down sixty bucks before I figure out I was swindled. I want to support the industry, but when I buy a game I end up not enjoying, out of some feelings of obligation, I’ve essentially made a charitable donation to a for-profit entity. That’s just not in the cards when I’m thinking of starting a family.
My gaming time (and money) is more precious than ever before. I have to make the absolute most of it. Increasingly, that means drowning out the noise and concentrating on games I know, for sure, will be worth it. I imagine I’ll become even more particular as time goes on – future-me can’t give his wife and kids bad games.
In doing this, I come to really understand why these choice games entertain me. And it makes me appreciate them that much more.
I really like having that kind of relationship with a game. In a hobby filled with snark and pessimism. I’m not sure if I ever want to go back to the old ways.