This week’s podcast was centered around our games of the year this year. We talked about a bunch of games, and if you have the time to listen, I think it’s a good show. I go off on a bit of a tangent once or twice, hopefully it doesn’t detract too much from the show!
Picking my games of the year is a bit weird for me this year. I didn’t play very many games by my usual standards, and it’s gotten me thinking about how I interact with video games. Since I landed my first job as a game designer, I made it a point to own every console and play every major release– every game people were talking about whether I was interested in it or not. I’d usually play eight or nine new major titles a month for the entire year, and as indie games got more numerous and relevant, I played a ton of those as well.
In 2012, I paid for 418 games and expansions, counting content DLC but not cosmetic or unlock purchases. I know this because I itemized them all on my taxes. I knew I had the number, and I looked it up, but I couldn’t even start to tell you what most of those games were. I’d be hard pressed to name a game that I knew for certain came out in 2012, but I almost certainly played it. A cursory google search for “game of the year 2012” brings up a slew of titles, and seeing the names I can say with certainty that I played every single one.
What I do remember was a conversation about games of the year in 2012, and I remember being able to deconstruct nearly every game I played into tiny pieces that I evaluated. The thing is, I don’t know if I really enjoyed them. I played so many games that I barely had time to process them, much less take the time to have fun with them. I played games like it was my job, because I believed it was. I was (and to some extent still am) of the opinion that a good game designer should have experience with as many games as possible, and be able to talk intelligently and at length about pretty much any major release.
In forcing myself to play a lot of games I wasn’t interested in, I found out that I really liked a bunch of kinds of games that I never thought I’d enjoy. It broadened my horizons a lot, and while there are still genres that aren’t my thing, even those usually have a handful of games that I really like. I can also cross-reference games– seeing what a fighting game does with animations and frame pauses suggests to me how to make floaty-feeling hits in MMOs feel more solid and satisfying.
This past year, I enjoyed far more games than I think I did in previous years, despite playing a fraction of what I usually played. I skipped a lot of the big releases this year, and spent the time on games I was interested in. It was refreshing, honestly, but I miss the feeling of being connected to the overall gaming sphere, knowing what’s good, what’s overrated, and what’s a sleeper hit.
I’m probably going to play a lot more games this year, try to catch up on the big stuff I missed, but I’m going to try to find a happy medium between the utter deluge of games I’ve forced myself to play in the past and the trickle of niche titles.
A couple of friends have, at various times, commented that they feel like they should jump on a game that “everyone’s playing” just because it’s the thing in the moment. I’d say play games that are fun for you right now, if you’re playing games for fun. I don’t always play games for fun, sometimes I play them for work, sometimes I play them to hang out with people, and I think they’re all valid reasons to play a game, but it’s nice to know which one(s) I’m choosing.
Play what you want to, not what “everyone” thinks you should. Only do that latter thing if you have a good reason.