I’ve been playing Dragon Age II (very slowly) for a couple weeks now and I think, finally, we’ve clicked. How do I know? Because the gameplay and my characters from the game pop into my thoughts when I’m not playing. And when that happens, distracting as it may be, I starting thinking about where I’m going to go and what I’m going to do next in the game.
And then I start thinking about just playing the game – being in my house, controller in hand, calm and comfortable, ready to explore the unknown. [happy sigh]
How do you know when you’ve hit your stride with a game? Is it love at first play or does it take awhile to build up a relationship?
With me, the answer has changed over the years. In the beginning, I didn’t think much about forming relationships with games – I played one game and then I played the next. I didn’t latch onto my ship in Defender any more that I hoped to see Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man live happily ever after. I liked Mario and Donkey Kong well enough, but I only wanted to participate in their antics on my time. It really wasn’t until DOOM and Super Metroid that I discovered just how captivating video games could be. DOOM’s visceral, almost primitive nature – kill or be killed – was unlike anything I’d experienced before in games. It was so “in the moment,” and I wanted to be in those moments for hours on end. Super Metroid was simply addicting in its gameplay and secrets. And both games managed to seep into my brain, leading to plenty of thoughts of demons and caverns during my non-gaming hours.
This attachment to a game didn’t really occur again for me until Mass Effect. And I think I was meant to play ME because the relationship I have developed with it is like no other. I didn’t go into the original Mass Effect with any grandiose plans to become so attached. It just…happened. Part of it was certainly the storytelling and Bioware’s way with games. Mass Effect provided me with a significant gaming outlet; and when I started thinking about the game at work, on the bus, in the grocery store…I knew we had really hit it off. When I started writing down strategies, keeping track of characters, keeping track of planetary visits, well…maybe I had jumped a bit too far into the deep end. But I managed to control myself by the time I got to ME2 and ME3.
But Mass Effect also irrevocably altered that previous, albeit quiet relationship I had built up with games. Whereas with early arcade and console games, one plugged or dropped a quarter in a game and played without much hesitation, today’s games require much more planning. And after ME, seemingly “lesser” games just weren’t that appealing (no matter how flawed my logic concerning them was). There’s a lot of talk about quality vs. quantity in today’s games. Is less more or is more less? The strange reality in my world is that when I hear of a game with a 10-hour single-player campaign, I think, “man, that’s short. Who wants to invest $60 in that?” In fact, given the constraints on my time these days, I should welcome games that seem so limited. Instead, I’m continually drawn to wonderful 80-hour RPG time-sucks like ME that I know perfectly well will take me months to get through.
What’s worse is that I now have an innate need to know that I’m going to get along with a game before I play it. I’m trying very hard to break that, to find games that fall outside my comfort zone. Yet here I am, barely a dozen hours into Dragon Age II, finally enjoying it, and knowing it’ll be good while before I relinquish my 360 to another game.
It’s a strange conundrum, evolving with the times and such. It actually helps me better understand why lots of old-school players prefer to stick with old-school games. Having straddled both worlds, it makes me wonder what it’s like being an up-and-coming gamer these days. I can’t quite picture what my gaming life would be like if I had started my foray with Mass Effect. If you’re a gamer of the new millennium, or one who followed a similar path to mine, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
For now, I gotta keep thinking about Dragon Age II. I’d really hate for the momentum that took me several hours to build to come crashing down now.