66 Games in 6 Months: What I Learned So Far
It has been over 3 months since I left my job, started going to college full time, and began deliberately focusing on a list of games I’ve never completed or games from my past I haven’t revisited in over 6–8 years. Since I’m at the half-way mark that might actually go on for an additional two months past 6 months (my last semester at college turned into two), and it is the holiday season with games aplenty going on sale, I figured now is the best time to mention and talk briefly about the games I’ve pushed through so far. I actually wound up replaying some games not even on my list but hadn’t been fully visited in a few years just because I could. Maybe you can consider this a holiday gift guide for yourself or for others. And at the very least this can provide a good demonstration of the types of things I sought out to learn when I started this process 3 months ago, critical or otherwise. So, here we go, in no particular order:
This science fantasy third person action game that came from a studio that had never really built major video games before is…sadly, not that good at all. It was definitely ambitious and really feels like the people behind it were massively inspired by Halo 1 and 2 but wanted to create something different. But Advent Rising is unfortunately bad on a scale where the main character changes hair styles between some cutscenes. It’s bad on a scale where some cutscenes have actually bad framerates. And it’s bad on a scale where montages are repeatedly used in the game to create filler, but without much conversation or visual demonstration to really drive the montage’s capability to fold time and plot well. This is all ignoring odd control designs that make sense on paper but wind up requiring a separate auto-aim system to make life easier, boss fight sequences that didn’t even make sense, and nasty audio mixing bugs where the music plays much louder than the gameplay and gets cancelled for about 2 minutes by going into the pause menu and back into the game. Advent Rising isn’t good.
Call of Duty 1
The WWII shooter that began as a PC-exclusive and eventually morphed into a shooter than changed the landscape of FPS titles for something close to a decade is definitely worth a revisit. The concept and execution of what Call of Duty is saying about war is still something well done and worth experiencing. This first title definitely shows some signs of age and lackluster problems that FPS titles were still kinda working on leaving behind, things that actually came over from the massive WWII shooter that predated Call of Duty (Medal of Honor). Levels in Call of Duty where you hold a location until relieved, even on regular difficulty, can sometimes turn into a slog of scraping by on quicksaves. One of these levels in particular is in the Russian campaign in which you and your squad have to hold a hotel, but all of the AI companions (minus 1 I think) can all die in the standoff, while you’re left alone to deal with, no joke, something close to 20 enemy soldiers at a time in a game with fixed health systems. It was extremely frustrating to say the least. And a couple levels in the game simultaneously recognize that sometimes incredible feats were performed during WWII by standalone soldiers while making that experience debilitating instead of breathtaking. It’s a time machine video game that makes the 101st Airborne’s actions at D-Day really feel like this incredibly coordinated effort and the re-taking of Stalingrad as something unbelievably filled with countless losses (it’s honestly one of the finest levels in the entire series still), and yet Call of Duty isn’t afraid to let the player feel like they’re in an Indiana Jones car chase fight sequence sometimes. And sometimes, that cinematic approach to these levels in the game manage to fire on all cylinders and take your breath away. At other times, it just made me quit.
Call of Duty: United Offensive
I don’t wanna linger on this for too long but I basically realized that the expansion pack to Call of Duty 1 is possibly better than Call of Duty 1 in every imaginable way and I learned that there’s a lot of good environmental art, storytelling, and level design being done by the team that worked on this game that I never noticed before. The only massively frustrating thing in this game is the train station defense mission that plays as the game’s climax. I honestly can’t imagine how I beat this last level as a kid except for the fact that I always played on the easiest setting back in those days.
Look, odds are that if you play some decently pretty video games today and have a fairly up to date PC build that came from the past three years, then your computer can run Crysis 1 mostly maxed out. And despite the downfall the later games encountered, despite how linear the story gets past the “twist”, every moment up to the twist in Crysis 1 was really something. And even past the “twist” and during that more linear gameplay, Crysis 1 really was, and still is that freaking gorgeous. There’s moments across the entire game that will just make you stop and wonder at the visuals. But for me, the moment was late in the game and an alien cruiser swims up underneath a friendly carrier and it explodes in a great ball of fire against a backdrop of a dark night and rainfall. And the great thing is that now you can actually enjoy all that it has to offer while maintaining 60 FPS (most of the time, I had one or two dips). Screenshots won’t do it justice either. You’ve gotta see this game in motion. On your own PC. In front of you. Preferably at 60 FPS.
So I had started my run through of Dying Light maybe a week or two before I really started this journey. And I really felt compelled to do so because of the long-form critique and re-analysis of the good things in Dying Light by YouTube’s best video game essayist Noah Caldwell-Gervais (his videos are worth every freaking second of his less-than-stellar video and audio recording capabilities, seriously, go find a review of his you’d be interested in and just watch it). Noah’s video on revisiting Dying Light talked about one of the game’s best moments involving the player going to a bridge massively overcrowded by zombies and having to climb up to the top of the suspension bridge at night, when the most dangerous form of zombies are active, and remove the blue lights that provide safety from these extremely dangerous forms of zombies. Then you have to find your way down and choose when to do so. This alone convinced me I needed to try the game out. After about 45 hours of gameplay I finished Dying Light and found it to be another one of those more recent amazing examples of sandbox games that finally figured out how to not overcrowd or overpack a sandbox with filler. I’ve praised Nier: Automata and Horizon: Zero Dawn in the past on these accomplishments through various means, and the Witcher 3 got some major kudos as well. But Dying Light deserves special recognition for being of the finest games that makes traversal and scaling upwards through the daily difficulties of living with zombies forever as the game’s strongest experience. Players start practically having to always avoid combat with zombies before getting enough abilities and strong weaponry to manage small clusters of the zombies but it definitely feels like the first game in a while to really, truly, make the daily grind of having to live in some sort of a zombie apocalypse an actual daily challenge and routine. And I loved the dynamic design of this. I have really fond memories of just trying to loot one shop and having the biggest difficulty doing so, and it wasn’t even worth it. Techland did a superb job here and people who loved the movement in Mirror’s Edge but wouldn’t mind some (see: GOOD) melee combat in the mix need to look no further. It’s a treasure of a game to muck about in as your go-to “big world” game to play for a month or two. Sadly…I can’t say the same for the DLC/expansion pack.
Dying Light: The Following
I didn’t finish this one (I hope to) but I feel like I should mention it anyways. I learned in The Following that Techland seemingly threw out every lesson learned about good traversal-based melee action games by making a separate story DLC that involves another very large map, a really good story setup, and…practically entirely open fields and a dune-buggy to get you around the map. The game that involved free running and difficult enemy encounters has suddenly turned into a slog of an open world game experience. It also tries to overcrowd the DLC with a lot of fetch and challenge missions that pad the experience way more than the core game did. I have a feeling I’ll revisit it and finish The Following one day, but then again, Dying Light 2 is in the works.
Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (Breakthrough)
So I had already recently played Allied Assault and its first expansion pack, Spearhead. They’re both good, but for the purposes of self reflection, I played the second and last expansion pack for the game: Breakthrough. It’s perfectly fine and on par with the quality you find in Allied Assault and Spearhead, if not a little less cinematic than Allied Assault’s “western cowboy movie” appeal. That being said, the old Medal of Honor games hold up…weirdly in a world where the WWII Call of Duty games exist because Call of Duty added a depth and dimension to shooters and WWII games in general that allowed us to look at the war a little more seriously than Medal of Honor. It’s moreso in game design and mechanics than actual narrative and character nuance or depth, the Call of Duty games still didn’t address the larger things at play in the war like the holocaust for a long time, but at the very least Call of Duty games felt more grounded with weapon-carrying restrictions and having AI companions constantly. Medal of Honor games, on the other hand, typically involve portraying the player like a movie star from the 40s: Girl hanging off his neck, swinging on a vine, holding a Tommy gun, and killing the bad guys. Sure, Breakthrough isn’t that ridiculous, but its reliance on overblown odds, capabilities, and bravado sure paints older Medal of Honor games in that light with all the flair of its giant orchestral scores. It was at least fun but borders on realism and fantastical missions to really excel at one over the other.
Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
“Outcast” was the pivotal crossroads moment of solo-Star Wars games (games void of tie-ins to the happenings in the films) and being…really gosh darn good (Kotor came later). In this regard, Jedi Knight 2 had it all without feeling stupid or poorly made. It had a good plot involving a character that didn’t really need an introduction because context was built into its opening levels if you missed the previous (cheesier) games. The gameplay starts off as a well rounded arcade-y shooter until the lightsaber comes into play, then it morphs into the most naturalistic Star Wars melee games that ever existed (until Jedi Academy of course), and it’s all wrapped up in a really freaking “believable” Star Wars story about anger, revenge, and the traditional good vs. evil inner conflict stuff, but with a character who couldn’t really care about Jedi and Sith. It’s also worth noting that Jedi Knight 1 (a…very old game at this point that may not be worth revisiting for some) and Jedi Knight 2 are both revenge-based plots. I found that interesting. But Outcast is done in a way that’s much better as Kyle, ever the Rebellion-friendly gun for hire, is much more suited to having his own desire for revenge portrayed and played out by the narrative than the force powers and player-choice driven cheesy first Jedi Knight game. Jedi Outcast would’ve worked stupendously as a Star Wars b-movie I think, and I think Rogue One is really good but it also kinda put the nail in the creative coffin on drawing from Dark Forces games for Star Wars movies. Oh yeah, minor complaint, there’s an early level in the game where you go to the secret base on Yavin IV and there’s some annoying bug where you can hear the droids in the hanger bay at the start of the level throughout…the…entire…level. It’s awful. Other than that, Outcast is still awesome.
Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
Academy is almost even moreso a b-movie story for the Star Wars universe. It creates new plot threads drawn from threads that didn’t matter in Outcast and builds something decent out of it. Academy’s “student mission” design allows for a wider environmental exploration and the team working on the game more or less turned Outcast into a character action game with this one, complete with a pretty large array of movesets for three different lightsaber builds. The Outcast and Academy fanbase kept mods running for these games for years at this point, and Academy was a joy to revisit just as much as Outcast, despite the story being a little more “young”-natured and portrays things in a way that would appeal to young adults more than adults I think. None of this mattered though, the game is a blast to play and it actually works really well on Windows 10 compared to some resolution and brightness issues I got with Outcast.
All right. So, this goes without saying for anyone who already knows about it, but Bioshock is a spiritual sequel to System Shock 2. Bioshock more or less refined designs at play in System Shock 2 to make a sort of hybrid action-RPG shooter that became the world’s favorite secondary shooter market for ideas for…a while. This means that Bioshock 1 doesn’t actually let the players become too specialized in any particular thing, despite the four different categories of “tonics”. You can become pretty resistant to bullets or certain unique attacks or be really good at moving fast and swinging the wrench. You can up your damage against machines and get upgrades to make hacking easier. But the game ratchets up the difficulty anyways, so even though I maxed out the research on every splicer type in Bioshock 1, the game still remained a little challenging on normal difficulty all the way to the end. Does this make it bad? Nah, it just doesn’t mean the game is as “play it your way” as we all once thought it was when we were younger. The game does have a world that reacts to player actions well. You can make your own molotovs with pyrokinetics and telekinesis on bottles. You can throw a proximity mine on a turret and watch it home in on an enemy. You can freeze machines to get all the time you want to hack instead of using tonics because hacking in this game is just Pipe Dream. These naturalistic reaction designs did wow us back then and are still cool today when replaying Bioshock. But I promise you Bioshock 1 doesn’t hold a candle to System Shock 2 in level design and player customized driven mechanics. And System Shock 2 makes Dead Space look like the worst rip-off ever (Dead Space is still good though, just derivative). All this being said, Bioshock 1 was fun to replay and it did have an impact on gaming culture and games at large, even if System Shock 2 did it first. The world was supremely unique and well fleshed out for most of the game. The story and its twist are great and actually holds up really well going back through it again and considering all the implications it has on player control as you play it. But, as we all remember, the game got really poor after the twist. The surprise villain is not at all compelling and repeats themselves far too much. They get old, very fast. Their motivations are senseless. The maps after the twist are only interesting in that a portion of the plot gets told and we see the impact that it had on living quarters, but it’s so much less interesting as a result. Bioshock 1 is fun to play in its remastered form today, I can honestly say there’s some visual improvements having looked at the game for many hours before in my life.
I’m one of those people. I have defended Bioshock 2 for something close to six years as a pretty good game that improves on the mechanical aspects of Bioshock 1 really well: All the weapons feel better, dual-wielding plasmids and weapons is at first weird but effective, tonics are streamlined and plasmid upgrades are actually upgrades instead of damage boosts, hacking is massively improved, and you can have a turret squad that you repair and carry with you. The story isn’t great and Sophia Lamb is an interesting villain but definitely easily dismissed compared to Ryan. Lamb at the very least creates a nice vehicle by which other aspects of Rapture are explored, such as its treatment of people who aren’t massively successful in the market-run society, where they end up, and how they manage to get by. Some elements of it don’t make sense, like this entire cult that worships Lamb’s daughter and your character from the first game, with literal paintings depicting his actions as if anyone was there to document that stuff (Rapture was already in the toilet when you arrived in BS1). But it at least has a decent story to tell, a good climax, and an almost prettier Rapture at points as the ocean is taking over and has a lot of really neat coral-aesthetics that mostly holds up. However, and this is a big one for me, I can’t completely recommend this game today. My revisit to Bioshock 2 was frought with crashes every hour or so, leaving me to always quick save and if I forgot to quick save I’d lose massive progress because the game only auto-saves on map loads: That is, rarely. To add to that, Bioshock 2’s original problems definitely feel worse today: The game is riddled with a padding design in its approach to the Little Sisters. You no longer just fight a Big Daddy and save/harvest a Little Sister for Adam, you do two to three defense escort missions with the Little Sister for each Little Sister in the level (typically 2–3 of them), and then fight a Big Sister once you’ve saved/harvested each Little Sister in the level after the escort missions. This leads to a tremendous amount of tedious gameplay where it would’ve been more interesting to maybe create some new gameplay element instead where Big Daddies are all gone and instead Big Sisters have a hideout or something on each map where you attack a squad of Big Sisters and rescue all the Little Sisters on the map at once…or something other than what is currently there. Anyways, the crashing and the padding lead me to not finishing this game yet. It’s not awful, but it’s not amazing either. I really wanna get to the DLC though, Minerva’s Den.
Dead Space 1
Okay, so even though I kinda dissed Dead Space 1 for being derivative of System Shock 2’s horror aesthetic and designs, this was still a really good game and my own preference of design in the franchise. Dead Space 2 is also really good, but if you like the slower, more methodical and hub-based level designs in games, DS1 is the way to go. I personally think it adds to the horror, at least the first time through. The game, being very similar to a System Shock/Bioshock game, sadly does kinda taper off on quality near the end. The story stays interesting and creepy with excellent production qualities right up to the government-based involvement that takes place near the end of the game, that’s where it feels odd. Even then the horror-design and what’s happening to Isaac is still really well done and holds up even to the very end of the game, the government plot twist is just one pretty dumb protrusion from the IP’s wider tie-in works that makes the story feel flawed. Everything else about the game is really solid as an action horror game and I had a great time revisiting it with practically no flaws. That being said, I have to give a massive shoutout to the Dead Space animated comic that came out in the weeks before the game launched. Despite Dead Space’s story being pretty good, I feel like the narrative and presentation of the unknown breakdown that you see happening in this animated comic actually surpasses anything in the core game’s “stuck on this ship where a breakdown in command happened already” story. It’s super good and a great way to prepare you for Dead Space.
Fallout: New Vegas
Okay. I haven’t finished this one because it’s huge and after Dying Light it has become my “background rummaging around game”, but I feel like talking about it because for the first time since my original attempt at this game I have gotten further in Fallout: New Vegas than I ever have before. I’m at level 20-something, I have the Explorer perk and I’m actually now just exploring the entire game map because I can, and I’ve gotten like half of my factions resolved for the Yes Man main quest of the game. New Vegas is a standout example of any of Obsidion’s “rushed sequel” games just like Kotor 2. It lacks in larger depth and smaller quests, sadly, because the team had to make this game so dang fast. That’s honestly unfortunate. But at the very least, New Vegas still offers greater consequence and possibilities for choice and outcomes than anything Fallout 3 offered and more interesting stuff to do and find when walking around the world compared to Fallout 3 and 4. New Vegas in recent years has become the talking point as one of the the best “Bethesda” games Bethesda never made or as simply one of the more over-criticized video game works in history, and I’m inclined to agree with that. Going back to this game is one of the larger reasons I’m doing this journey because I got it almost six or seven years ago and the shadow of this excellent RPG has loomed over me ever since. I’m looking to treasure every minute I spend in it. You should too.
So I’m currently on a “backwards trend” through adventure games and what they morphed into. I started at Psychonauts, which I wrote about revisiting it extensively here, and I’m currently on Beyond Good and Evil (more on that below), then I’m gonna go through the Sam & Max Telltale games, then probably finally play all of Grim Fandango, and then play Riven, Myst 3, 4, and 5. But during a vacation in Austin, during some down times, I played Myst again for the first time in…forever. I never read the books in the game when I was a kid, the books that describe Atrus’s explorations and findings of these worlds and the hints those books hold. I played Myst in 5th grade, somewhere between ages 10 and 11, and I needed a solution book to help me beat it. As an adult, Myst 1 really isn’t all that difficult, and so far that’s all I’m going to say about it. I enjoyed it, parts of it are creepy even though there’s no immediate danger in the games at all. The tunnel sequence is probably the worst “puzzle” in the game, even though as a kid I thought the keyboard one was. Not a lot of people care about, or even have the patience to sit through a game like Myst today where story is so decontextualized from gameplay. But if you’ve heard of it and like logical puzzles, you really can’t beat Myst. People who have tried to follow it in recent years just haven’t gotten far. The only way Jonathan Blow was able to follow Myst was by having a setting that vaguely reminds us of Myst, but is still filled with all of his types of puzzles. Myst can’t be recreated. It just is and was the very thing that has gained its reputation for a reason.
It didn’t take me more than a couple years down the road for me to realize that Republic Commando is a pretty lackluster squad-based shooter released in a time where context-based commands in shooters was a neat idea some developers rallied around for a little bit. It has three main campaigns, the middle one is the coolest because it involves a Republic ghost ship under Siege by Trandoshans, which are really cool enemies with neat variety, and the squad banter is sometimes funny. Revisiting the game itself hasn’t really taught me anything new that I didn’t already know except the thought process that Republic Commando came out right at the time right before I turned 13, prime age for wanting to be a little bit more edgy and cool in 2005 to avoid being looked at like a little baby because peer pressure and teenhood sucks. Republic Commando was the vehicle for me to feel that cool aspect, for Star Wars to not just be this story that a young boy was interested in. All my other friends had Halo, but I had Republic Commando and I didn’t feel disrespected by my “peers” for it. We all enjoyed it. And for me, Republic Commando became such an inspiring thing that it was the first, and only, really, fandom I got so hard into I read three of the tie-in novels and wrote my own fan fiction around the game’s cliffhanger ending. The game’s tie-in fiction was a direct line for me to become enthralled with the concept of Mandalorian culture and then looped back around to the game again. It’s a fun little shooter that changed me for a while because I was exactly the age this game was marketed towards.
Beyond Good and Evil
Beyond Good and Evil is and was precious. I get why its getting a prequel instead of a sequel. This game didn’t sell well despite the praise it got and this is one of those weird scenarios where a passionate creator is fighting hard to bring the game back but because an entire generation or two has gone by in video-game land, and so few showed up in the first place, the only way Beyond Good and Evil is going to appeal to the masses is if the game avoids the massive plot happenings and cliffhanger based stuff that fans of the original game know about but no one else does. It’s just been too long and those who haven’t played the first are not too likely to do so now. I can accept that and simply hope for the best with BG&E 2 despite the fact that this prequel looks like it’s nothing I really cared for in the first place and might be relying on fan-based creations to fill the game with art, which is…kind of sketchy. I’ll always have BG&E 1 anyways. This game in retrospect has some elements in it that feel like parts of either the dev team or the publishing house (Ubisoft) wanted to try and make this game appeal to some young adult audiences or even kids. The relationships and friendships between Jade, Pey’j and Double H are written sometimes in ways that feel like the safest buddy-pal conversations you’d experience in a Disney TV drama show. It’s slightly cute and slightly really boring once you live to have some of your own dramatic conversations in life. Despite that, BG&E still grabs you by the feels during some incredible moments in the game and it manages to amuse, entertain, and engage you in a good story. That story, by the way, also feels like its at odds with this “suitable for younger audiences” notion as the overarching plot is one of resistance against a controlling militant state that’s abducting and potentially torturing the population and giving them away to a villainous alien race that is secretly controlling that militant state that swears up and down it’s protecting the planet. It is all obvious as daylight yet feels pretty grim and dark in the face of chasing a cute giant white furball named “Woof” around a lighthouse island and calling an anthropomorphic warthog a cranky old man because he is one. I don’t know that the game actually balances these things well, but I actually don’t know that it even needs to because the people behind this game built it to look and feel so dang fluid and believable. It’s mostly still wonderful to play, except for a few scenarios where the camera controls utterly break, acting as if there is no “middle” view and wildly swinging up and down based on which direction you move your mouse. BG&E is a cult classic for a reason and I’m really glad I dove back into it. I learned to let go of the prequel/sequel thing and just enjoy it as it is.
Half-Life 2 and its episodes
So I semi broke my rules with these. Half-Life 2 and its two episodes are not on my list of 66 games. I played through HL2 and Episode One and parts of Episode Two somewhere around 2013 when I did my first ever Extra Life stream. And I’ve played HL2 more times than I can actually count so I really didn’t need to replay these games. But, Episode Three has more or less unofficially been cancelled by the “leaking” of its storyline by the original writer for the Half-Life games, Marc Laidlaw, who left Valve and retired somewhere in the past two years. His actions didn’t cancel the game, they just solidified what everyone was already thinking had happened at Valve. I’ve read the leak and I’ve been more or less face to face with the truth I refused to swallow for years: Half-Life and its story is kinda “done” in the way that we know it. There’s been recent leaks of a Half-Life VR game in the works and considering that VR is currently the biggest video game gameplay-paradigm inducer, it makes sense that Valve would seek to actually look to make its next “gameplay singularity” with a VR-based full game around Half-Life with customized Valve controllers (also a recent leak). But really revisiting these three games in the past few weeks hasn’t taught me much or opened my eyes to anything (besides reaffirming my beliefs that Half-Life 2 really was that freaking excellent), except when I got to what I still consider one of the best in-game cinematic moments I’ve ever experienced (turn your volume up and go full screen):
The three minute sequence involving the G-Man’s return in Episode Two is really something special. It blew our minds back when it originally happened, but as I’ve gotten older I now have a much larger appreciation for some of the fine detailing in this sequence on an audio and visual level. People in the comments of this video on YouTube even point out some stuff like the screen briefly flashing an image of Dr. Breen when the G-Man mentions quelling naysayers, and the hints as to Alyx Vance’s value no doubt make that episode three leak make total total sense as to where Half-Life 2 was going to end. The creepy organic techno sounds happening in this vortessence landscape mix excellently with the freaking stellar performance of the G-Man by Michael Shapiro. Or just pondering on the really unsettling fact that Valve has always made it a major point to not take control completely away from the players in these games, but when the G-Man shows up he has been allowed to break that rule when necessary. Even with the tragic cliffhanger Episode Two ends on, this is undoubtedly one of the most memorable moments in Half-Life’s history, which says a lot considering its wide array of unforgettable moments that often don’t involve the G-Man.
What I Learned About Myself
A lot of these games are ones I had played in the past. In fact, I had played all of these games before across either my childhood, teenhood, or early adulthood except for Dying Light and Advent Rising. Re-treading ground from my past revealed a lot to me about the things that sucked me into games in the first place and how that developed my own taste over the years. There’s been a variety of influences over the years, including the recently “departed” Super Best Friends video entertainment group, but I think it’s safe to say these are some quick notations I can rely on when considering my taste in games and how it developed:
- Star Wars was fundamental. As a kid raised under a conservative household, Star Wars was an IP my parents could trust to not have anything they would consider “bad” in it as the games would likely tie back to Star Wars fiction and market to kids. I loved Star Wars and Errant Signal has a great video about how I and others watched video game designs grow and mature by using Star Wars that more or less sums up why Star Wars actually exposed me to a diverse array of video game designs over the years.
- Story became king. While I was born into a time where games did have stories and worlds and narratives, I at first played games that resembled more arcade-y style mechanical focuses. A lot of this has to do with the development of the FPS almost mirroring my own aging as a human being and so it was often built to be marketed towards me. But, a handful of games in this process made me realize the depth of stories and how they could be told. Homeworld’s ability to tell you about a nation/culture’s struggle to survive in the vastness of space, Call of Duty’s time machine elements that helped me understand the vast struggles and losses that came to be in the World Wars, Half-Life 2’s narrative by…everything that can inform you; all of these games presented me with worlds to lose myself in and narratives to follow.
- Creativity and aesthetics were the gateway into stories. It’s also pretty obvious to me that graphics were making major strides every year while I was growing up and playing video games as newer and newer ones came out. And so games that either just looked visually stunning for their time or had a unique style about them were ones that I gravitated towards. The almost Nickelodeon-esque zany art styles of Scott Cambell definitely drew me to Psychonauts. And until Pixar’s Coco and the film that came out not long before it (The Book of Life), Grim Fandango completely introduced me to concepts of noir and art styles influenced around Mexican culture and the Day of the Dead itself. Pretty, or unique looking games drew me to games that often had interesting stories and narratives to unwind. This even applied with Star Wars, each of the video game classics in this arena all having their own unique Star Wars “feel”, the best Star Wars games often just barely took from the movies and set out on their own specific feeling. Kotor’s unique soundtrack, interface sounds, and Old Republic designs made a world of difference, while X-Wing Alliance told an entire story without human faces, just space horizons, voices, and ships. This later became solidified with games like Bioshock and when I got old enough to have some spare money floating around, I went back and got a hold of those games I saw during my childhood and just never gave them the chance (Beyond Good and Evil, Grim Fandango, etc.)
- I…kinda suck at multiplayer games and maybe always have. So this is likely to spawn another writing of its own but there’s been a fair amount of video games played with my friend Michael over the past couple months to varying results of enjoying them. I got into multiplayer games around 2005 at age 13, it was pretty much exclusively Battlefield 2 (and 2142) until 2008 when I started playing Team Fortress 2. And here, ten years later, I’ve realized that I was never really good at games that required more twitchy finese to shoot other players in games. It’s kind of a spooky thing to come to terms with because I definitely grew up playing lots of shooters, but they were almost always single-player experiences. It’s a little debilitating when trying to play Battlefield V today. Regardless, it’s just another one of those things I learned so far.
I’d encourage you to look back into your past with video games. You might not have the time to ignore current gaming trends and abandon the release cycle to play almost exclusively old games. But maybe you’ve got the time to look back and consider how your game taste evolved and came about the way it is. Being able to look back and notice good/bad things about games from your past is fun and is definitely helping me comprehend what I value in the entertainment and art I consume. But if you can’t quite get into that depth, at the very least you can consider for a day or two why you do / don’t care about certain things happening in games right now. You may find something you didn’t expect. I sure have so far.