A disclaimer: This article is in no way an attempt to attack game companies, the specific games I mention, or those who enjoy them. It is simply a self-reflection where I try to analyse how I feel about the video games that have been available recently.
I've been in a gaming slump, I’d say for the last year or so. When I sit down after a long day to play a game, I think about my list of what I have and just feel unmotivated. When my partner and I decide to have a gaming afternoon, we enthusiastically plan the time and day but once we get in front of the TV, we just stare at our collection with boredom.
Now that I've played a few games that I've really enjoyed, I’m finding that there just isn't any appeal for much else. Why is this? I’ll firstly discuss what games I have played recently and enjoyed, and secondly, discuss what games I’ve had trouble with and attempt to analyse why Thirdly, I will consider games that are coming out soon, and why I find them unappealing. I will mostly be covering AAA games, because these are the ones I have grown up on and mostly play. I’m not very much into indie games, but I will be making more of an effort to play them in the future.
1. Current Games
So, what are some games I've played recently?
Star Wars: The Old Republic
I’m not a big fan of Star Wars; although I did love the movies when I was a kid, it never grew from there. However my partner is a massive fan, so I picked this up free-to-play to spend some gaming time with him (and see if I catch the Star Wars bug). The only other MMO I’ve played is WoW
, so I find the mechanics a little clunky in comparison and my lack of lore knowledge is against me. However I’ve appreciated the voiced dialogue, and more inclusive character creation. By which I mean my female character doesn't have to be super skinny and I believe there are more customisation options than in WoW
The Wolf Among Us
I picked up the first episode of The Wolf Among Us
for free on Xbox after reading about it in GameInformer – fairy tale characters in a creepy and dingy New York? Sounds really interesting! While I have some qualms with conversation trees – in that my string of logic doesn’t necessary fit anyone else’s – I’ve really enjoyed the story and characters; particularly recognising and stringing together references to the fables.
I got onto this game via a recommendation from Reddit for people who want to play games with others. Tower defence games have never appealed to me, but I enjoy the bright and colourful graphics, easy character levelling. Frankly, this is a great multiplayer game for me. We voice chat while playing to coordinate our tactics and alert each other to problems during the attack.
I picked this one up by recommendation via my partner (noticing a trend? We don’t have many other gamer friends). His line to recruit me was ‘it’s really similar to Hong Kong’ – I had been there on holiday a long time ago. Finally I tried it – and loved it. I found the environment quite immersive, and really got into the gang’s storyline. I enjoy listening to other citizens of Hong Kong, as they unveil different aspects of their lives. I ride my Somersault Cloud, a reference to the Monkey King, while listening to the Softly radio station, racing around the streets of North Point. My only complaint so far is the lack of female characters; however considering the setting this may be realistic. So far there has been effort to connect with the few females; I become quite attached to Winston’s fiancée Penny as she was empathic and caring, Winston’s mother is intimidating and curious. Although I have little to say about Police Inspector Jane Teng, I appreciate her image as a strong character but not to the point of a trope
Red Dead Redemption
I genuinely love this game. I’ve never been interested in ‘the cowboy thing’, but I am so
glad I tried it out. Exploring Perdido, Hennigan’s Stead, and Cholla Springs on the back of my horse was one of the most enjoyable times I’ve had playing video games. This would fulfil the explorative appeal of video games. I enjoyed the story for its twists and turns, and producing many tongue-in-cheek situations and commentary. The female characters were well-established, and there were insightful nods towards politics and society. The creepiness of Tumbleweed was the icing on the cake, and Undead Nightmare
was the cherry on top; I need a bit of creepy or horror in my games, and I found that rather than be the typical zombie game, Undead Redemption
utilised the unusual setting to suggest something bigger; the four horses of the apocalypse, chupacabra, and ominous colour and size of the moon.
2. Attempted Current Games
When I say I’ve been in a slump, I have tried to get into some new games (I promise!). These include Prince of Persia, Overlord, Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom, Fallout (various), Enslaved, Dishonoured, and Borderlands.
What on earth is wrong with me, how can I have trouble getting into so many games? Well, I’ll have a think about what issues I’ve been having.
I enjoy exploration in games. On the Bartle Test
, I would be somewhere between Achiever and Explorer. Hence the above titles; they’re very ‘pretty’, and based upon exploration of the game world. However, I’ve found them ‘hard’, which I admit is a terrible adjective. I just can’t seem to survive long enough to actually achieve anything. I’ve found the controls counter-intuitive, awkward, and clunky. I’ve been confused about where I’m meant to go and what I’m meant to do, resulting in frustration and mounting tensions. I’ve spent half an hour trying to perfectly execute my escape without killing, to have all that time wasted by someone seeing me through a wall after I failed to climb a ladder (I’m looking at you, Dishonoured
). I can’t become immersed into these games, like I could with Okami, Assassin’s Creed, or Bioshock
Part of this problem is Huizinga’s meaningful play
. On a descriptive level meaningful play ‘emerges from the relationship between player action and system outcome’. That is, I don’t get the feedback I expect from the action I take. On an evaluative level, meaningful play helps us ‘evaluate the relationships between actions and outcomes, and decide if they are meaningful enough within the game’. I am always concerned about the effect my action will have on the overall game; too concerned, to the point that I am overthinking every action and checking up on everything that is said and done. This means that a number of conditions for flow
are not met; clear goals and feedback, concentration, and a loss of self-consciousness.
Another part of the problem may simply be distraction – now when I play, I’m constantly distracted by the nagging feeling that I should be doing something ‘productive’ (how I hate that word…), should be doing some reading for my studies, be reading a novel like I promised myself I would, and so on. This of course, is a problem separate from the games themselves, but I wish I could find one that really pulls me in again.
3. Future Games
Lately I’ve felt that the console games that have been released over the last few years have little appeal to me. Let’s have a look at what’s coming up:
The games I’ve heard about (by scanning EB Games’ upcoming releases):
Now, I am not going to bash all of these games and claim that they will be terrible. I am a fan of the Assassin’s Creed
are my top favourites. However I’m gotten stuck as I’ve failed to get into Assassin’s Creed III
. The French Revolution looks to be an interesting setting, however, so I am more positive about this one. I’m interested in Diablo
(I’m aware it is a port), Dragon Age: Inquisition,
What I will point out is that most games coming out seem to be part of a series. I enjoy series. I played Kingdom Hearts, Assassin’s Creed, Ratchet and Clank, Bioshock, and Batman.
What is interesting is that there isn’t much else at the moment. I know I’m not the first to notice this, but I’ve found it has severely limited my choices and put a dampening on one of my most enjoyable hobbies, not to mention area of study. With too many series and not enough standalone games, we don’t get much variation in our gameplay; story, setting, or game design. We also aren’t very often introduced to new ways of playing or thinking.
There are some games I write off straightaway – kid’s ones, sports games, and military shooters. I still enjoy playing games like Spyro
and Ratchet and Clank
, but today’s kid’s games don’t do it for me. I’m hesitant to claim this is nostalgia, as I feel the gameplay is inherently different, but I can’t put my finger on it. I simply have no interest in sport games because I find them boring; they tend to be something you either love or hate. Finally, shooters just don’t do much for me. I enjoyed Bioshock
, but military games have absolutely no appeal; I tend to view them as a ‘men trying to be masculine’ kind of game, and that paired with my absolute zero interest in the military makes them unappealing to me. That being said, I am interested in trying out Far Cry
and I did enjoy Fallout
(New Vegas and 3), until I genuinely found it too difficult to play.
Having said all of this, I’m interested in the latter three games, which happen to not be part of a series. At a glance, Destiny
appears to offer something a bit different to the usual science fiction shooter, Dying Light
looks very immersive, detailed, and terrifying, and Shadow of Mordor
looks very impressive to a newbie to the Lord of the Rings
So, what do I want out of this? Maybe some game recommendations. But this was mostly an opportunity to reflect on why I’ve been disillusioned with a lot of games. Game series aren’t necessarily bad; clearly the designers and developers have created something that people enjoy, and that’s great. Maybe my tastes are becoming more specific, and with everything that is going on in my life, I find it harder to dedicate my time and focus on a game. With more indie developers creating games and a few I’m interested in coming out soon, I hope that changes. read