Favorites: Mass Effect 1&2
Super Street Fighter IV
Garou: Mark of the Wolves
Skies of Arcadia
Mega Man III
Marvel vs. Capcom 3
Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Dragon Age 1&2
King of Fighters 98'
Capcom vs. SNK
Shadow of the Colossus
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
Sam & Max: Hit the Road
Rival Schools: Project Justice
In some other reality, an evil version of myself has already played and beaten Skies of Arcadia 2. A game that should rightfully exist in our reality but has yet to see light. It's hard to think that the last time I played and beat Skies of Arcadia was nearly a decade ago while in college. To this day I have warm, fuzzy memories about Vyse and the Blue Rogues soaring across the sky, doing battle with the Valuan Empire and the occasional arcwhale. But we've seen no sequel. One may argue that sales numbers just weren't there for Sega to continue on, while it's obvious that many still have fond memories of the lovable air pirates as seen by their cameos in Valkyria Chronicles, a game that didn't see much better sales than Skies, but has seen two sequels on PSP.
Maybe I'm just grasping at straws, but has Sega dropped the ball on every franchise opportunity they've had in the last 15 years outside of Sonic and Virtua Fighter. Many could argue that they've let Sonic slip into obscurity. In my experience as a sales clerk for a good period in the last decade I can say that while Sonic games review numbers have slipped and he's fallen from retro gamers graces, he is still loved by younger audiences. It wouldn't be so bad if Sega didn't tease us about it constantly featuring fan favorites in cameos for their cash cow Wii tennis and racing titles. We'll never see another Jet Set Radio game, but we'll get to see Beat race Big the Cat and Ryo Hazuki from Shenmue on a Super Monkey Ball track. That's not to say that Sega is the only offender here, I could go on for hours about Capcom and my lust for a new Rival Schools game... but I won't do that, my therapist has cautioned me about the dangerous road of pain and destruction that leads me down, and while he's just a guy I see occasionally at the local bar I trust his opinion.
The big question here is why do we see so many games with great reviews fall into obscurity while a new Dynasty Warriors or Tales game is almost a guarantee regardless of how well it does? When does quality translate into sales? When does poor quality hurt them? I could argue about series with annual iterations like Call of Duty or uninspired shooters that seem so prevalent taking over developer and publisher resources so we don't see as much innovation in other genres, but I won't do that. So I sit looking at my old dreamcast collection, remembering how innovative the titles were and how a vast majority of the titles ended there, or shortly after the systems own demise and I wonder what games that evil version of myself in Earth 2 has played, which ones I've played that he never saw? Then my eyes find Hotel Dusk and I remind myself that a sequel is coming for that, so all is not lost.
If you know me personally, I know what youíre thinkingÖ if I had an inner nerd I havenít been hiding him very well. After punching you in the stomach for calling me a nerd, Iíd probably agree with you. Yes, everyone I socialize with knows I play video games, read comics, and can quote random movies off the cuff for devastating effects. But in the last few years Iíve noticed that this part of me, the part that knows the powers and backgrounds to every member of the X-Men and has a favorite Ghostbuster (itís Egon, in case you were curious) is not the social outcast to keep under wraps I once thought it to be. As Patton Oswalt recently opined, everyone is a nerd now to some degree. We almost all have a favorite show that we devote ourselves to every season, or a favorite movie or book series that weíll hit a midnight showing or store opening for. But while the line between nerds and your ordinary fan has grayed, it isnít gone. I know this, because I can look down and see it.
Itís nearly a year since I came to the realization that Iím just a regular guy with hobbies instead of being a hardcore follower of anything. I came to that conclusion last year at the first PAX East. Much of the time spent that weekend was surrounded by people who cared more about their hobby than I had cared about anything in my life. There were people in plate mail armor, a girl who had devoted her entire day to act out as the zombie witch from Left 4 Dead, and guys walking around dressed as Ash from Pokemon, their girlfriends wearing yellow dresses and Pikachu ears. I was in jeans and hoodie. These people live their hobbies, I live around mine. For a time wandering the halls, I felt like I didnít belong to a group I had long identified with. Maybe there is a finite amount of love and attention you can give to personal interestsÖ perhaps all the time I spend on biking, the Boston Red Sox, and politics they had otherwise spent entirely on gaming and nerd culture. They honed their interests, while I diversified. By the end of last yearís PAX I had come to accept that I wasnít the nerd I thought I was, but that didnít mean I wasnít welcome. We were all there for the same thing, we loved this hobby.
I received my three day badge for this yearís PAX East in the mail today, and while Iím really looking forward to it, I remember how I felt about last yearís event. PAX is a second home for a good deal of the people who attend it, for me itís just a fun place to go every year. In a few weeks Iíll be again surrounded by people who love gaming more than I ever could, and instead of wasting a day wandering around dealing with identity issues Iím going to have a great time with people who love the same things I doÖ even if they may love them more.