Archive | May 2015

Reaching a happy medium in gaming

In my previous (and inaugural) post, I talked about how my life as a gamer has come full circle, and how I barely have enough time to play the games I want to anymore (but yes, I did spend almost exactly 60 minutes on The Witcher). I’ve realized that the reason I put away games for a while is that the games I have time to play don’t interest me much, and the games that I want to play are way too involved for the amount of time I have.

Though I grew up with pick-up-and-play games like Tetris, I don’t see much point in playing those types of games anymore. The fact that Candy Crush rakes in about a million dollars a day downright disturbs me. Despite this, I still find myself playing Crossy Road when I’m waiting for the elevator, even though I know it’s the absolute most ridiculous game in the world. It’s really the only game I can load up, play, and get tired of within the two free minutes I have as an adult. I’ve been relegated to dumbing my gaming down to the lowest common denominator, all because of a lack of time.

The games I want to play, however, are simply too much to handle. They’ve gotten too…real. Even fantasy games overdo the reality factor. When Skyrim came out, I was ready to tell my boss and my friends I had contracted a terribly contagious disease, and melt into my couch for a good few weeks. While I did spend a ton of time on the game, I would too often find myself losing an hour of my life selling unneeded garbage to the Thieves’ Guild, only to have to wait in real time because Bethesda thought it’d be a good idea to make the vendors so realistic that even they run out of money. Sell, rest, sell, rest, sell, rest…oh, I can finally play the game now? Well, only until I pick up too much and become over encumbered. I loaded up this game so I could escape the reality of not being a hulking behemoth, not to be reminded of it. Don’t get me wrong, I love Skyrim, but my point is these additions serve no purpose other than to make the game more “realistic,” which only serves to annoy most gamers and waste time they don’t have.

To continue the discussion on having too much to do in a game, let’s leave Tamriel and head over to Azeroth. I’m fairly certain I would have to give up my life goals if I wanted to do well in WoW. I used to be hooked on the game, but I never even came close to doing everything it has to offer. Not only does WoW require hours of repetitive grinding, but to get to the best parts you actually have to schedule your life around the game to make sure you were on when your friends were. Forget that. It’s just not worth doing, no matter how awesome the game is (or was, as the case may be).

But, fortunately, there are still games that hit that happy medium. As mentioned, I’m currently making my way through The Witcher 3. Before you stop reading and say “But there’s like 200 hours of gameplay there,” let me clarify: I have about 12 hours of play in as of now, and I’ve yet to waste a single minute while playing. I know I’ll be using every herb I pick up. Every character I meet actually has something to do with the story, at least from what I can tell. CD Projekt Red has created an in-game world that is seemingly infinite, but unlike Skyrim, I actually feel like I have a chance to see it all, and I’m not the least bit overwhelmed. It might take me a while, but at least I know every time I load up the game I can actually play, instead of running meaningless errands for some woman who I’ll never come across in the game again.

Now again, if you’ll excuse me…hey, wait, it’s Friday! I’ll play all night if I want! Here we go…

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Gaming, Planning, and Growing Up

Here I am, a week shy of my 30th birthday, and I feel like I’ve come full circle as a gamer. I spent my entire childhood being infatuated with video games. At the age of 3, I literally crapped myself because I was so engaged watching my grandfather play Super Mario Bros. (or so the story according to my mother goes, but I don’t doubt it for one second). By the age of 5, was showing him how to go North, West, South, West in Zelda to get to the graveyard (and I had also gained control of my bowels, to boot). So began a life-long relationship with video games. Or so I thought.

A life revolving around video games

As a child, my life revolved around gaming. I’d wake up early and get a quick session of Mario in before my mom bugged me to get dressed and comb my hair. Nothing could possibly start my day off better than finally getting through a level in Chocolate Island that had been driving me nuts the night before. Of course, nothing could start my day off in a more aggravating way than dying the same way I had twenty times in a row the night before, either. It was always a crapshoot, but it was a risk I was always willing to take.

After my mom would drag me away from the TV and bring me to school, I’d meet with friends who had different games, different systems, and parents that let them play Mortal Kombat. We’d share instruction manuals, secret moves, code books, and anything else that had to do with the virtual worlds we’d plan on diving back into once the bell rang at 3:00.

After school, I’d always have a friend nearby to slam-dunk on in NBA Jam, or help me beat that dastardly level in Battletoads (you know the one). We’d get lost for hours, taking Street Fighter tournaments much more seriously than our spelling homework, and haggle with our parents for “fifteen more minutes” four times a night, 5 days a week. If only YouTube existed when I was ten, I’d be a Let’s Play millionaire by now.

I know it doesn’t sound like much planning went into all of this gaming, but this was only daily life. I had long-term goals, after all. Of course, these goals also included video games. When I was about ten, my mom finally broke down and got a Blockbuster membership (fun fact: they closed up shop solely because of my unpaid late fees). The only caveat was that I could only go once a month, and rent, at most, two games. This required some heavy research on my part. Luckily, I also had a subscription to Game Players magazine, which helped me make an informed decision about which games to lose myself in for a weekend. So I’d head to Blockbuster on a Friday night with a list of games in mind, and this is where I would often get a dose of real-world disappointment: The games at the top of my list had already been checked out. I know, I had a tough childhood. But, like I said, I learned something through these experiences: sometimes, no matter how much planning you put into something, other forces beyond your control could derail your objectives at any minute.

Looking back on my youth, it might be easy to say I wasted a ton of time playing video games. Okay, it might be truthful to say that. But, on the other hand, I also learned how to read by becoming infatuated with video game manuals and storylines. I learned the ins and outs of journalism through reading Game Players and other magazines, and analyzing the differences between their reviews for games on my radar. It was a passion of mine that, unfortunately, as I got older, seemed to fade away, but not for want of trying.

Putting away childish things

As a kid, there were never enough games to fill the vast expanse of free time I had. As I got older, the relationship between amount of free time and amount of games I wanted to play completely flip-flopped.

I’d always considered myself a core gamer, even when my gaming hit a lull. I would like to think that the ridiculous amount of time I spent on Final Fantasy 7 would solidify me in the core gamer club for life, but, unfortunately, it’s been almost 10 years since I’ve played a game with the sheer intention of completing it. Nowadays, I barely find time to get a quick game of Hearthstone in on a lunch break; hardly enough to consider myself a gamer.

My attention to the world of gaming has slowly drifted, as well. In middle and high school, IGN might as well have been my homepage. I was one of the first people in my town to play the PS2, which I did for the local newspaper the day before it hit stores. Such a monumental release was something I’d looked forward to for years. By the time the PS3 came out, I had gotten so wrapped up in the real world that I didn’t even notice it’d been out for months. Same with the PS4. I do own both systems today, but I’d venture to say my wife uses them for Netflix more than I do for games.

Now, instead of planning my day around gaming, I have to plan my gaming around my life. I’m not so far gone that I haven’t bought The Witcher 3, and I do believe I’ll end up beating it (it really is incredible). But what might have taken me a month at best at the age of 15 will most likely take me through 2015, and possibly into next year. I literally have time planned today that I’ve set aside to play the game, and unlike my 10-year-old self, I won’t be able to negotiate “just another 30 minutes.” I’ve unfortunately reached the age where lack of sleep actually does something to your body. I definitely never planned for that.

Coming full circle

I mentioned my love for video game magazines and websites as a child, and the fact that I let that passion get away from me as I grew up. Well, it recently hit me that the career path I was on was not the path I wanted to be on, and I decided to pursue that original passion. Lucky for me, the awesome team at Pixel Dynamo took me on as a contributor, and in one short month of curating breaking news in the world of video games, I’m beginning to realize a childhood dream.

But, as was to be expected, writing about video games isn’t full of zaniness (like writing for Mad Magazine is). It requires dedication and utilizing technology in a way I never had before (i.e.: Using Twitter for something other than sharing jokes about cats). There might actually be nothing worse than covering news about a game while simultaneously knowing you’ll never actually have the time to play it. Okay, there’s probably much worse than that, but this is a close second.

On the upside, I’m diving much deeper into the video game industry than I ever had as a child. I’m making connections with likeminded individuals who share my love of video games. I’m also finding that gaming is a legitimate part of our culture, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with spending some time getting lost in a virtual world…as long as you come out every once in a while.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have exactly 60 minutes of The Wild Hunt to attend to.