I’m not picking a game of the year, instead I want to think about what games I’m playing, and what has left a lasting impression on me. One thing I can say about the past year, is that despite having all three major consoles, I feel less like a console gamer, and more like a PC one. I started as a PC gamer, and went to consoles because I couldn’t afford the constant upgrades for PCs, along with the games themselves.
Admittedly, we had a chipped ps2 during the close to a year I spent unemployed, and I got to try a lot of games I never would have played. I don’t do that anymore, but the desire for variety is there, so I have GameFly for the console games. I also used their GBox service, and Blockbuster to rent games, and that’s mostly what I do on them. The only new game that I bought for myself this year was Rock Band 3, a few others I purchased used, but most I tried and sent back. Nothing hooked me, and I only finished a few of them (I think Uncharted 2 was one I completed this year).
Not that I’ve completed many big budget games on the PC. I have a huge list of RPGs and indie games that I’ve purchased on Steam — most of them last Christmas, and more this Christmas. That, and two or three MMOs (DDO, Guild Wars and Lego Universe, although I added STO and Aion for 2011) made up a good portion of my time, but they aren’t what I mostly play.
What I mostly play these days are amusements. Amuse-bouches of the gaming world. Flash games, and free iOS games get some play every day. If they aren’t good enough, it’s not a big deal, there’s another one tomorrow. Some of them have been pretty decent, and I’ve linked them on twitter — but not written a blog post about them. It might take almost as long to write a blog post as it did to play the game. On the other hand, I’ve finished a lot of them.
I wake up a couple of hours before I need to leave for work, and in that time I have the chance to catch up on RSS, write a bit in my journal, and play a flash game. I played Blue Knight last week. It was a very short metroidvania game, and I played it longer than I played the XBLA Castlevania game, and almost as long as I played the latest Metroid game (but not if you discount cutscenes).
In this way games for me have almost become romance novels or porn. They distract and amuse and then they are gone. This is a bit unfortunate, I think, but it’s part and parcel of their ubiquity. It’s not that I don’t think games can be great, I’ve just been spending more time with the easily accessible free popcorn ones, and less with the costly (in both money and time) big ones.
Not that the big AAA games have given me a particular reason to spend time with them. A few have, certainly. Assassin’s Creed 2’s mystery kept me coming back to it to find out what was going on, to discover the secrets. That didn’t seem to translate for me into Brotherhood, but it’s hard to say depending on what was distracting me at the time. I’ll probably try AC:Bro later from Gamefly, when I have more time with it, but there’s no rush.
I play some of the RPG and bigger games on my PC for a good afternoon, but when I sit down to play, when I have an hour or two to fiddle about, I just load up Kongregate or Jay is Games and play a bit of tower defense or logic puzzler. Or I grab my iPod Touch and play whatever today’s free game is. Even if it only keeps me amused for a few minutes, it was free.
If I’m getting the same thing from these appetizers that I am from the big games, then all that money spent on them is wasted. There needs to be something more to them, and it’s just not there.
Girl got me a PS2 for Christmas, along with a copy of Shadow of the Colossus. I borrowed Girl’s copy of Okami, and found Amplitude, Katamari Damacy , Jade Cocoon 2 and Final Fantasy X. I spent most of Saturday playing SotC and Okami, and really connecting with them in a way I hadn’t connected with a game in a while. Some of it is nostalgia, I know, and some is joy in mastery, since I already know how to kill all those collosi. But something about those games was more evocative than any of the big Christmas releases was for me, and I came back to them on Sunday. I’m looking forward to playing them tonight.
There’s a lot of games out there that I really want to play, there’s a lot of books out there I want to read. I’m reading Name of the Rose as part of Project Eco, and while it’s thicker and more complex than a paranormal romance, I’ll read it in about the same amount of time — slower only because I’m giving it more thought, but not a lot slower. A big game requires more time than these amuse-bouches, and I’m not sure their promise is as reliable as Eco’s.
So, I wonder a bit. Am I just a casual gamer now, or is there really nothing more meaty on offer? Maybe I’m looking to the wrong companies and places for that sort of thing? Where is this year’s Today I Die?