In the meantime, I'm just a guy who writes about videogame theory and how the medium can achieve better cinematic emulation (while keeping its own indentity). Though, if that's too boring, you can always find something delightfully fluffy in the following:
Deep down I want to love the RPG genre. I really do. I want to take a ragtag bunch of characters on a journey, kick some ass, learn a few life lessons and then end it on the bit where we donít see them ten years down the line boring people to death with their past glories (like Ted Striker from Airplane!).
I canít do it though. For me, looking at a game blurb that says Ď70+ hoursí makes me break out in a cold sweat. Itís that vague undefined period marked by a simple plus symbol that reminds me of the time where I stretched out the 60+ hour game Wild ARMs 3 for a year and a half. That symbol takes the piss in my books. I have an easier time measuring and pinpointing the correct Ďupí age when it comes to ĎAges 3 & Upí than guessing the length of time Iíd lose my life to an RPG.
A year and a half gone. Well, give or take the on/off nature I had with the game. I actually liked the original Wild ARMs game back in the day. It harked back to the old school adventure that was long, but not reaching the lengths where the story meanders as the developers figure out ways to prolong it. There was nothing particularly wrong with the third game. It was a cheaply made RPG with a bit of heart-warming charm, but it was obviously aimed at the hardcore crowd with the difficulty setting.
Iím not the hardcore crowd.
So just about every waking minute of this game, I was forced to grind until some sub-boss was a complete pushover. What happened to all the action in the first few hours where our heroes meet up on a train and relive their solo adventures? Where was the breezy fun and initial wow factor?
And thatís exactly what makes me suck at RPGs. Iím suckered in to the first few hours with breathless action and manageable pacing, but then there comes a point where youíre thrown out into the open world and youíre forced to grow up through countless random encounters. I just canít do it. I canít physically sit there grinding away, knowing that if I donít get to Level 490 or something, some sub-boss out there is going to kick my ass in a dungeon I canít escape from.
And so, I give up. Thereís not a game I havenít finished in my post-Amstrad CPC 464 years (showing my age), so as I turn off the PS2 or 360, I know I have to go back to it and face my demons one day. When I do go back to it, Iíve completely forgotten what the hell is going on. The plot, which something as bizarre as Wild ARMs 3 somehow made sense to me at one point, is now weird and alien. I struggle to remember the names of magic, their uses and the special tactics I learnt on my journeys. In the end, it all clicks back into place. I guess like riding a bike.
Only when I learnt to ride a bike, I had a nasty accident once where I fell off and the handlebar jammed into my thigh. It damaged a nerve and my leg was stiff for several weeks. The same goes for my RPG gaming. I finally get back into the swing of things and then, you guessed it, another sub-boss that requires me to grind more than some douchebagís teeth after theyíve taken Ecstasy.
When I look at my save file for Persona 3, I think ĎHoly crap, did I really put 167 hours into this thing?í I can tell you now, about 10 of those hours were made up of me grinding for a goddamn boss that required a character or persona to learn a certain magic to kill it. Of course, I canít even remember the names and their purposes after Iíve taken a lengthy sabbatical. Agi? Garudyne? Masatekawhateverhara?! WHAT IS ALL THIS?! The game takes place in just under a year...but I must be the only person to spend longer on it that the actual timeline. I was basically playing every game day in real time! I hated school and couldnít wait to leave, but here I was playing out a school simulator for a whole year. What happened to me?
But at the same time, I love their stories. I really do. I loved the story to Final Fantasy VII long before it became a cash cow. But the only way I could ever experience it was to watch my brother play it at several intervals. Hell, he played it so much that all the blanks were filled in with repeated plays! For me, I could only last until Cloud and the gang left Midgar. I really desperately wanted back in to that place because I knew what awaited me in the big bad world. I was like university student who spent way too much time in education and now finally had to get a proper job. I play games for escapism, not nostalgia!
Iím playing Persona 4 this year. Iíll give you my thoughts on it in 2015.