If I was placed under duress to name one amazing aspect of modern gaming, (because there are many) it would be accessibility. Simply put, one need not stray far from common technologies to access video games. They are available through consoles, desktops, laptops, streaming devices (i.e. Roku), tablets, and phones. And perhaps most importantly, a good many available games are FREE. Well…make that “free,” at least in some cases.
When I first got a phone that was capable for playing games, I loaded it to the brim with free fodder like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. Same thing happened when I got my first tablet. Only with the tablet, I expanded my game gobbling to include paid titles as well as freemium games like The Simpsons: Tapped Out and Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff. And I was happy. I was happy to have nothing less than a plethora of quick and easy games right at my fingertips for any occasion: my morning commute, waiting for an Xbox One game to load, or trying to ignore a “fun” family conversation. If you had seen my tablet just a couple weeks ago, you would have seen a full page of game icons. Because even if I didn’t really like one of the free games I had shamelessly installed, I still liked having it around just in case I changed my mind or got really, really, really bored.
I said “a couple weeks ago” because as of today, that home screen looks completely different.
Yes, I recently said goodbye to nearly all of the free and freemium games cluttering up my life. (I even made Google Play “forget” me in case I feel off the free games wagon.) And you know what’s mostly to blame for the extreme purge?
At the tail end of January, my family got together for pizza and games. It was a fun evening made all the more memorable by my brother handing me a copy of Xenoblade Chronicles. “I’m not playing it right now; would you like to borrow it?” he asked out of the blue. I was taken aback, as I don’t recall recounting to him my sad ordeal with the game. (TL;DR, I quit the game due to its extremely long main story.) “YES THANK YOU” was about all I could sputter in the moment. (And part of me still can’t believe that the game is sitting in my house right now.) I had been pining for Xenoblade Chronicles ever since I called it quits, and witnessing the fine prospects of Xenoblade Chronicles X made me regret that decision even further.
I loved the time I spent with Xenoblade Chronicles. Despite some graphical drawbacks, it was truly captivating in story and scope. Colony 9 was a seemingly limitless world filled with vast places to explore. The game’s control scheme was unique and offered something new from your same ol’, same ol’ real-time combat systems. If I had had the time to rightly sink my teeth in to the expansive game when I first played it in mid 2013, I absolutely would have. But time was not on my side then.
Is time on my side now?
Well…no. If I’m being honest, my current path to Xenoblade Chronicles is littered with obstacles. Yes, I wanted to get rid of the fluffy games because they were becoming little more than un-enjoyable distractions. But beside tons of real life duties that constantly beckon, I’ve got tons of other non-fluffy games to play! Let’ see…so there’s Metroid Prime and continuing with the series. There’s my slow restart of Dragon Age: Inquisition. There’s Batman: Arkham Origins, which I recently started (and love!) in preparation for Batman: Arkham Knight. There’s the Bayonetta games that I can’t quite stop playing because I might just be addicted. Oh, and because I’m crazy, now Pokemon Emerald.
But one thing that binds all those games together over the “fluff” is meaning. This is not to say that Angry Birds is meaningless, but for me, at this stage in my gaming career, playing it is nowhere near as close to my heart as delving back into Xenoblade Chronicles, a game that’s replete with story and wonder. Because of that, priorities must be set. And I could probably devote a whole post the strange joys/evils of freemium games. Suffice to say here that though I truly liked the games for a time, both The Simpsons and Family Guy games eventually became dull and formulaic. Plus, both displayed some really obnoxious ways to try to get you to spend real money on in-game stuff. I’m sorry Homer, but not even your loveable, self-deprecating humor and coarse, ultra-self-aware jokes about EA could sway me. (Besides, millions of other people are keeping those games alive and well, and they have every right to do so.)
Of course, it’s easy enough to say “no more distractions from fluffy games; time to play what I’m really passionate about,” but it’s hard to put into practice. Because the fact of the matter is that though I really, really, really want to complete Xenoblade Chronicles, it’s not a huge priority either. I still can’t quite get past its lengthy gameplay, and I haven’t been in the RPG mindset much of late. But, if anything, just having the game once again is motivation enough to place it on the soon-to-play list.
How do you deal with setting gaming priorities? What factors do you take into consideration when you choose to game? Do you think that “fluffy” (free/freemium) games like The Simpsons: Tapped Out serve a greater purpose beyond simply filling time?