2-3 Abandoned Systems: *blows dust off of Vita*

Since the purchase of my Nintendo Switch, many of my other handheld consoles/systems have been sitting idle. They sit there in the corner, looking forlornly at me. My PlayStation Vita and My Nintendo 3DS have probably felt a little bit neglected.

Nintendo 3DS

I guess it’s inevitable, this is just something that happens. This isn’t to say that I won’t go back. I will. The 3DS is a powerhouse of a system and has some lovely games worth spending time with. But every time I do venture back, it’s harder and harder.

My Nintendo Switch has spoiled me. It has hit this perfect spot in the middle with regards to how I hold it, how much screen space I have, the games that I can carry on the go (many of which have been ported off of these older systems). I just struggle to go back and play unless it’s specifically for a game that cannot be re-purchased on the Switch.

It’s an evolution, we’re always moving forward. We’re always improving upon the past (or at least we’re always trying).

1-10 Gaming Timeline: From RPG to Roguelike

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how the types of games has evolved over time.

In my youth it was all about platformers: Super Mario Bros. and Mega Man 2. Throw in a little sides-crolling beat-em up: Double Dragon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time. Fighting games were also something I enjoyed playing (though was not very good at): Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter II.

Then there nothing for a long time. I just didn’t game for so many years because I lacked the gaming PC and/or consoles to play said games. I jumped from NES and Sega Genesis to Xbox 360 and Nintendo 3DS. Quite a leap.

In my mid to late 20s, I was all about (Tactical and non) RPGs: Advanced Wars, Fire Emblem, Dragon Quest, Monster Hunter, Final Fantasy Tactics, etc. I played primarily on handhelds: Sony Vita, Nintendo DS/3DS.

I dabbled in some MMORPGs as well and ventured into World of Warcraft & Everquest. It didn’t last long, I grew kind of bored and paying for a subscription was hurting my wallet.

I built a dedicated gaming PC about 5 years ago and I fell hard into immersive sims: Dishonored, Bioshock, Prey, Deus Ex, Tomb Raider. I also discovered 4x games like Civilization, Endless Legend. Other grand strategy games like Crusader Kings and Europa Universalis also consumed my life for a while.

And this is where my gaming life sort of fractured and took a hard turn.

It coincides with that part of my adulthood where I’ve had to focus on my career and my personal life a bit more. Dating, marriage, work, those “grown-up” things that people do, it pulled me away from so much of gaming. I just don’t have time for 80-120 hour RPG sims. I wish I did because I still love these types of games. I just don’t have time.

The Nintendo Switch has been a godsend in this way. Having the ability to play a game on the go and to just stop and start on my terms has allowed me to still be an adult and game. And yet, even though I have the ability to take games like Skyrim and Witcher III to work or on vacation (no longer limited to my gaming PC), I rarely slide these cartridges into my Switch.

Instead, I’m on my 500th hour of Binding of Isaac and my 150th hour of Slay the Spire. These roguelike games are the most perfect cocktail of gameplay for my life. I can jump in and out and go through a dungeon run in about 40-60 minutes, I can also pause at any time and come right back to where I last left off, so even if I don’t have the full hour to play, I’m not in a space where I’m losing progress. The stories for these games are also minimal and don’t require so much of my attention.

I feel like I’ll be playing these games for the rest of my life. I’ve heard these types of games termed as your “forever games”. Games you will never set aside and will continue to play as long as you’re physically capable.

1-5 Guns: Correlation Does Not Imply Causation

Video games do not cause violence. Research indicates the opposite. This is a scapegoat that is commonly used by conservative voices who are pro-gun. We need gun reform.

They use time-series modeling and also instrumental variable modeling, and either way you slice it, when a very popular violent video game comes out, violent crime goes down, not up. The researchers believe the method is what criminal justice scholars call “incapacitation” — if you are sitting on your couch playing video games you are, by definition, not out on the street making trouble. When it comes to ways to spend time that mainstream society finds uncontroversially wholesome, this mechanism is widely accepted. If you have teenagers doing summer jobs, attending after-school classes, or participating in recreational sports leagues, that keeps them off the streets and out of trouble. It happens to be the case that video games are a more stigmatized pastime than playing sports, but the basic mechanism is exactly the same. If you’re busy gaming, you’re not committing crimes. [via: Vox]

Understanding the Effects of Violent Video Games on Violent Crime by Scott Cunningham, Benjamin Engelstätter, and Michael R. Ward

1-4 Rebirth: Reconsidering Your Games Library

If you are like most gamers, you will have a backlog of games that you are not playing. These are games that you likely picked up on a sale or forgot to install. Maybe it’s a game you did install and you only played an hour or two and something about the game just didn’t click. Based on casual conversations with gamers, this is a common dilemma.

All that being said, this is a friendly reminder to venture back and re-install, or pick that game back up and give it another chance. I often find that a game can hit us at a time we’re not ready for it. Sometimes you’re in a headspace where you’re not receptive to a particular genre of gaming. Maybe you weren’t in a place where playing a MOBA was satisfying that gaming itch. And so you bounced off hard of a game that someone recommended to you because you too deep into a JRPG and wanted something with more narrative/story based game-play.

I recently re-installed No Man’s Sky. A game that is notorious for one of the most rocky releases. The developers have continued to make improvements, release expansions, patches, etc. And the game has followed through on what it originally promised.

No Man’s Sky (2016)

When I originally installed it, I was a bit underwhelmed. It was this beautiful place but it was also very empty and it felt kind of soul-less. There was just this “lack” of things to do. There have been TWO major updates/expansions since the game was originally released and a third one is coming out later this week.

The game has so much more to offer. Multiplayer is a thing and you can game with others in outer-space if that is what you’re interested in. Base-building and resource gathering is the heart of this game but if you want to ignore all of that and search out the mysteries of the universe while conversing with aliens, that is an option too. There’s a bit of something for everybody and the game is always letting you know what you can do next (without making it feel like you have to).

I’m glad I went back and reconsidered this game. It might just be that I’m in this kind of mood where I’m wanting to farm in outer-space. Whatever it is, something about this game feels right and I’m glad I gave it another shot. I suspect that many of the games we have in our library are there for a reason, it’s not that we dislike the game, it’s that we dislike the time with which those games have entered our lives. We’re complex creatures and we cannot be everything at once. We’re fickle and we might like something one day and hate it the next, or vice versa.

Do yourself a favor and look through your games library and click that “install” button and give a game another chance. You might be pleasantly surprised.

1-2 Streaming: Why We Watch Others Game

Whenever I mention to someone who isn’t as invested in gaming/gaming culture as I am, that I will often just throw on a stream of someone playing a video game, they inevitbly make some offhand comment: “How is that entertaining? Isn’t it boring to watch someone else play a video game?”

waste of time

This comic from loadingartist.com makes the point very clear.

For me I’m often in the mood for video games but not in the mood to play, I lack that motivation because I’m mentally fatigued. The nice thing about watching a stream on Twitch or YouTube is that it lets me just sit back and chill with someone else who does all of that hard work for me. Often times this is the best way to determine if a game is worth playing or purchasing. It’s also fun to watch someone else who is skillful at certain genre of game or play-style: speed runs, no-kill runs, setting insane challenges for themselves, etc.

I recognize that the chats in many of these streaming sites is a hot mess of bigotry, sexism, and abuse. But that can be turned off, and/or curated by following gamers who are progressive and interested in keeping the gaming community positive and friendly. It is a mixed bag and the gaming community/culture has a ton of work to do when it comes to diversity and acceptance of voice that are often silenced. But watching a stream at the end of a day of work, sometimes it’s just what I need in order to let my mind melt a bit. It’s gaming adjacent.