I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched Star Wars, M*A*S*H, or the first five seasons of Red vs. Blue. The number is somewhere in the vicinity of “a lot” though with certainty. There used to be a statistic thrown around in video games that some very high percentage of players finish some very low number of video games in their library or collection. And while I have my doubts about how these numbers are nabbed, I have no doubt that everyone who buys video games during massive sales on the various digital platforms eventually runs into the same problem at some point: Too many games, never enough time to play them all. When anyone was younger they probably had a lot more time to consume video games. It’s a simple concept: Less responsibilities, more time to consume entertainment. And while I’ve definitely played Half-Life 2 some countless number of times and listened to my favorite albums so many times they’ve become background noise, video games still remain one of the largest time consuming pieces of entertainment on the planet, right next to books I’d say. I have no doubt it was easier to sit down and enjoy some older video games from start to finish in less time than it takes today with the advent of massive sandboxes and developers trying to push services or games that capitalize on endless replay value because there’s some wild belief generated somewhere that this is what the market wants.
I think that’s a falsehood too, by the way, I think people who play video games fairly regularly can juggle two games at a time, maybe three: A “service” game to play with friends and regularly enjoy as it is updated consistently, a narrative game that encourages you to shut off YouTube and social connections and to instead be wrapped up in its world and story, and a “mechanical satisfaction” game, one that you play with YouTube on (or Netflix, Hulu, Crunchyroll, whatever) in the background while you soak up XP, explore, or just try to make progress in a game that requires little more than your mechanical focus (Souls games are great for this IMO or the currently popular indie roguelikes). But what I think is really at stake is unfortunately the lack of a cultural rally around re-exploring video games. When we’re younger this seems to be an easy thing to do, but as we get older and we inevitably become interested in either more video games or less video games, it’s hard for us to turn around and say, “Yeah, let’s just replay that great 12–30 hour game from 3–8 years ago” when we’ve got 60–120 hour experiences sitting in front of us and they’re new and the talk of the town. I’ve heard critics that have tried to make a living on YouTube complain about this as having to “chase the algorithm” and I’m simultaneously conscious of the dangers of and yet wrapped up in that very concept of experiencing a game right at launch or when everyone’s talking about it. I think the bigger reason we might want to be afraid of this reality is because we actually might never get around to those games in 2–8 years from now when something else is new. Replaying a game from 1998 takes 6–12 hours, replaying a game from 2015 has taken me over 135 hours and counting (but boy The Witcher 3 really has been worth it). This rule isn’t universal, The Beginner’s Guide should take you no more than an hour to play and complete and it’s pretty new. But “keeping up” is something people might still today think as a possibility instead of what we might really want to start considering.
You see, it’s not just the things we’re not playing yet that we’re robbing ourselves of, it’s our ability to understand the very things we’re playing now and what they mean to us or what they might be trying to do or say. We’re robbing ourselves of depth, nuance, and a greater understanding of what is and isn’t possible in video games, and our own personal exploration of this artform in general is at stake, all because we just don’t have the time to revisit games and rethink them, let alone time to play all of the newest ones we want. The only reason I have played Half-Life 2 so many countless times is because I got the game at age 15 on Xbox and had very few friends I was able to hang out with in real life. So my time went to digesting art a lot. Star Wars is a film that has been critically lauded and picked over to death and back to the point that we know the craziest of details about its development, experience, and why it was culturally relevant and successful to the world in so many ways. We might know things like this with Half-Life 2 but only because there were people to document it. The same doesn’t go for games like Homeworld, one of the strongest RTS games of artistic merit and accomplishment in history (IMO) and what’s worse, I haven’t even beaten it even though I know all this to be true through my experience playing it. Why is this a thing? Well, with Homeworld it was a matter of genre and availability (PC strategy game in the 90s, some entire markets weren’t going to hear about this). But for me, with games like 2017’s “Night in the Woods” it can be something as simple as my friends having issues accepting the player-character in the first hour of the game, or something as complex as my issue dealing with Mass Effect 3’s terribly designed quest system making me just not play it. Make no mistake, we are constantly losing this fight of enriching ourselves with quality (or not!) video games and revisiting them years down the road with new lenses and perspectives to the demand to play XYZ now and then never again.
Sadly, I don’t have a true answer for this other than “be careful what you give your time and money to” and to recommend that you enrich yourself in the best ways you can and where you can. This means sometimes starting over and trying to see the other route through that game you only played once instead of just going right to the next game. It also means maybe checking out some critical discussion on a video game you really liked to hear unique perspectives you might not have considered. I’m a big fan of seeing what grabs other people’s attention in video games I like so Let’s Plays are great and being able to sit down and watch a friend or my girlfriend experience a game is even better. Or, if you’re super lucky and have the opportunity, you’re gonna do what I’m about to do…
I’m leaving my my full time job soon to open up the time needed to finish the last 6 (or maybe 9) months of college for my bachelor’s degree. It wasn’t an easy decision but I realized I was too focused on my job to finish college at the rate I wanted, and was fortunate enough to be able to save up for a nest egg and depart on this journey at age 26. But three courses a semester compared to the one a semester I have currently been taking won’t quite fill up daily obligation needs like my full time job will. And so I’m expecting a considerable hole of free time to start appearing when I leave my job soon. I have a lot of personal productions I plan on filling daily tasks with, but video games is definitely going to be one of them. I went through all my digital and physical libraries and asked myself two things: Have I played it since 2010? Have I beaten it? Ones that had “No” to one or both of those questions have gone on the list, which currently totals 104 games. But of those 104 games, 66 of them have never been beaten. A great deal of them haven’t ever been touched, even though I’ve wanted to get to all of them at some point or another because…well I’ve bought them. I plan on documenting as much of it as I can, but because actually recording that process would be horribly demanding I plan on simply streaming it whenever I can. If something compels me to write about it, I will put it here on Medium like most of my discussions. Some will simply be enjoyed for my own personal journey and growth. And the other 40-ish games are ones I just really feel like revisiting, games that I played and thoroughly enjoyed but have long since forgotten what really made them good (or not), how well they have aged, and so on.
These choices of restrictions were made very intentionally. I graduated from high school in 2010 and in the eight years that followed I’ve dug deeper and deeper into understanding art and the ways you can read into it, but so rarely took these lessons into video games that I treasured. All the while, I had trouble going back and recollecting the games of my younger years, the ones we tend to treasure most dearly and hold such fond memories of, all thanks to just the reality of growing up and running out of time to reflect. Naturally, pre-2010 games became the dominant focus of my selection process (though some games post-2010 got in the list just because of my own desire to revisit something special). I also wanted the expanse of games for variety’s sake so that I wouldn’t get stuck on one title that takes longer to finish and nothing else (the plan is one big game & one smaller game at a time). Getting ready for this has also meant trying desperately to wrap up The Witcher 3 on time (I’m on the last expansion back but jeez it’s big) because it’s such a timesink I didn’t want it in the way of these other games. I wanted to be able to possibly farm out decisions to the crowd if people actually get involved in watching me do this. And I wanted to be able to pick some favorites for a charity stream (Extra Life, most likely) since I’ve really wanted to do another one since my 2013 Half-Life run.
Some of these I knew would be un-streamable though but are so very worthy of visiting in ways I couldn’t even comprehend eight years ago, let alone five. TIE Fighter was perhaps one of the neatest Star Wars video games ever made in which you play as the bad guys, experiencing secret missions in which you’re turning in Imperial Officers to secret agents of the Empire. I hadn’t even heard of Pathologic five years ago and now its remake is in Alpha stage right now, being tested by fans and people who helped fund this weird eastern European game that I think I would’ve loved and hated at age 8. And some of these games have been the dream of my life, something I’ve always hoped to get back to and occasionally get further on but never remotely close to finishing (I’m looking at you, Riven). These games informed so much of the things that fascinate me but somehow have gone unfulfilled for me for what’s creeping up on often the 10–15-or even 20-year marks. And it’s unbelievable to me that the little kid in me daily visiting the Lucasarts website to scour over the webpages showing off their video games and downloading demos so I can at least try them out still hasn’t grown up and played Grim Fandango to the end. 10 year old me is super mad at 26-year old me for having never found out how to beat that stupid puzzle in the Curse of Monkey Island demo involving the cannon. It’s ludicrous.
I’ll admit that I’ll be “cheating” in some scenarios. I’ll be playing Homeworld in the remastered edition because it’s just an altogether mostly improved product that still honors the original to a great deal (though IIRC it doesn’t have Adagio for Strings, sadly). Some games I’ll be (sadly) using a guide when needed just to get through them because some of these games never got beaten by me for a reason (Homeworld’s HARD, OKAY? And Riven’s always been way more confusing than any other Myst title to me). But the end result of enriching myself as much as I can with video games that I just never forced myself to get around to is vastly going to be worth the wait. Little 10 year old me is going to be so thankful I decided to finally get around to playing Rogue Squadron 3D, and the Oddworld Abe’s games, and I’m pretty sure my best friend will disown me if I never actually finish Fallout: New Vegas. I’m also pretty sure I won’t finish this list, sadly. But the journey is going to be monumentally worth it and what I’ll be able to experience and accomplish as a result is something I likely won’t get again for a very long time. Finishing college will (hopefully) mean a career that keeps me more occupied with work and my personal life than ever before. But some of these beauts are too good to go unnoticed.
My journey will begin the third week in September and I’d love for you to join me on this experience whenever the possibility arises. I’d love to hear about games you always wanted to try but never got to, games you are finally finishing after decades of putting it off, and what you learned as a result of your reflection. We tout video games are the medium worth recognition, then I suggest we try to give some of our time to recognizing them. Don’t worry, we’ll never run out of new stuff to try. The old stuff only goes away when we find a way to truly complete it.
If I’m streaming any of these games you’ll be able to find me on twitch.tv/thetyper , announcements will come via my Twitter handle (@The_Typer)