Decade’s End

We’re coming up not just to the end of another year but a whole flipping decade this time around – it’d almost feel rude to not contribute something to the gaggle of end-of-year round ups currently clogging up the internet’s tubes. The slight problem is I struggle to remember what I played last month never mind whatever the heck caught my attention back in February 2014 (and not helped at all by my tendency to skip around gaming history like the wibbliest and wobbliest of Time Lords), so there’s a very good chance that even with the best of intentions I’d end up talking about a few obvious big releases and the odd weirdy thing that recently caught my eye and it’d all be a bit samey and pointless for everyone.

Fear not – there’s an alternative! And that is… to go back through every achievement, purchase, and screenshot folder I’ve created in the past ten years and painstakingly create an accura-OK that’s not a good idea either.

Luckily for all of us there’s an alternative alternative: Instead of looking back at all of the games I’ve played this decade I’d flip the whole thing around and look back on me playing them over the past 3600+ days – “A Decade of Gamer” rather than “Games of the Decade”, if you like. It also helps that there’s only one of me to worry about and I usually know where to find me if I’ve got any questions for myself like “Have I improved?” “Has anything changed for me?” and “Do I still buy the same stuff as I did a decade ago?” so this should go a little more smoothly than the usual “Best fighting game I’ve played in the last ten years” and the like.

 

I’d say my most obvious this improvement this decade in terms of raw skill has been going from someone with such crushing anxiety about MMO parties I would have rather whacked individual enemies solo forever than even attempt to group up to someone who is all healer, all the time – and does a pretty damned good job of it too (honest!)! It’s really all thanks to Final Fantasy XIV and the largely impeccable manners and can-do attitude of everyone playing in my server group (even if, or perhaps because, dungeon chat never goes beyond a “よろしくお願いします!” at the beginning and ending with a “お疲れ様です!”), that was the game that gave me the confidence and the tools to learn the job and learn how to play well within party without making it feel overwhelming or that the instant I was wearing anything less than latest-raid gear I was just going to drag everyone else down (and if you’re interested at all in playing XIV, I’d just like to emphasise how good the game is at keeping everyone in the loop without having to dedicate your whole life to it).

The other thing I’m most proud of is finally understanding how to enjoy a few games I’ve previously maintained a distant respect for but never really got the hang of: Vagrant Story was one of the big ones and I’ve already talked about Baldur’s Gate II and Devil May Cry V on this very blog. Dragon Quest as a whole is another – I finished X, I, and XI (in that order) this past decade, and while I’m not in a huge rush to get through the rest of them I can at least appreciate what I’ve been missing out on and I hope to fill in the gaps sooner rather than later. Funnily enough Pokémon was another one I found myself coming back to after being away since Silver, thanks to Sun/Moon’s assistance for casual players (I’m always getting my move type effectiveness confused) and it’s rather sweet story (also ROWLET, GREATEST STARTER OF THEM ALL).

I wouldn’t say my interests as a whole have changed much – maybe I’m happier to “waste time” replaying a game I’ve already beaten than I used to be (maybe I’m just beating better games) but on the whole it’s pretty much business as usual. Then again I’ve always been happy to play just about anything anyway, so really it’s just more as opposed to different. There’s definitely been a strong change in which platforms get played the most though – I’ve gone from barely touching PCs to not being able to live without them now, and in the past few years handhelds have had a lot of love thrown their way as I try to find a way to enjoy older games on original hardware in a way that fits in with what little free time I can muster.

How I purchase games has definitely changed – and then changed back. After years of drifting towards digital storefronts (thanks to a mixture of more readily available import games without the dreaded courier “handling fee” and some ridiculously good sale prices) I’ve made a conscious decision in the past year or so to go back to physical games as far as is reasonably possible, even when it comes at my own expense. There’s been no single spectacular bank account lockdown incident that’s brought this on but more that I’ve had enough account sign-in scares and seen once easily accessible digital storefronts become nigh-impossible to access over time (PlayStation Network for PS3/PSP, and to a lesser extent, Vita. Lots of games just vanish or retire from various e-shops too.) that it’s clear physical is the safest and most straightforward way to go if you’re the sort of person who tends to get around to playing games a generation or two too late. Digital’s still great on the whole – there are so many brilliant games out there now that wouldn’t exist if they had to go through the traditional publisher/retail gauntlet – but it’s nice to have something until I decide I’m done with it and I do find being forced to pick one CD/cartridge off the shelf and playing that game specifically has helped me concentrate on and clear games I might have otherwise fiddled with for a bit before heading back to the long list of alternative titles at my fingertips to see what else might grab my attention for a minute or two.

And now it’s time for a little segment I’m imaginatively calling: “QUESTIONS FROM LOVELY PEOPLE ON THE TWITTERS”:

@glovesalwaysup “Are there genres that don’t appeal to you, and do you still feel a push to play the classics of those genres?”

I’m not a fan of these open-world survival build ’em ups that seem to keep popping up everywhere, or MOBAs. I’ve got absolutely no urge to play any of them whatsoever no matter how popular they are or whatever their latest tie-in event is, which is probably just a side-effect of me being old and uncool, really: Everybody else seems to like ’em.

@Des_Roin “I wonder was there anything that really surprised you? Like a game you’ve heard about that was either surprisingly amazing or surprisingly uninspiring?”

I didn’t expect to like the new Doom or Titanfall 2 at all but I loved them both enough to play them through a few times each. Titanfall 2 especially was an absolute delight, and if they ever announce a single-player sequel to that I know I’ll be there impatiently waiting for it to unlock on launch day instead of picking it up too late for it to count towards the game’s success (Doom Eternal‘s already been preordered). As for uninspiring… That dubious honour goes to Resident Evil 7. The demo was an intriguing new direction for the series (even if it couldn’t decide if it was trying to scare me with the undead or something more supernatural) but the main game felt overly-scripted and even if I did want to play along the events themselves just weren’t that interesting or frightening to me. I’ve finished Resident Evil 6 and really disliked the game, but 7 felt so tedious I haven’t got anywhere close to the end and I feel no need to go back and change that.

@UrzasRage “Did your attitude change in regards to story vs gameplay/mechanics? Are you more into little details/music now than you used to be? How has your taste changed and is that because of changes in your lifestyle or maybe being more knowledgeable of the medium?”
I think I’m more about gameplay than story now, probably because I rarely have the time to spare for long RPGs these days and also because when modern RPGs are long, they’re really long. Sen no Kiseki, Persona 5, and all of those multi-part epics are probably super-great but I just can’t buy a game I’ll probably never finish anyway only to hope the revised edition or the sequel’s sequel actually finishes the story off. A good action game can be wholly satisfying even if I only get to play it for half an hour, whereas in an RPG I can’t guarantee I’ll even manage to reach a save point within that time.
@TepidSnake “What handheld/portable-only games did you enjoy this decade?”
The two stand-out moments for me were finally getting my hands on the first two Game Boy Castlevania games after a lifetime of yearning for them (and loving them both! YES BOTH OF THEM) and going back to the PSP’s library as a whole and falling in love all over again (especially with Exit, although that’s not handheld-only any more).
@Pixoshiru “What changed about the way you play, if anything, over the decade?”
Free time became very short, very suddenly, thanks to the arrival of my son so I had to re-learn how to engage with the hobby and find games and hardware that would allow me to play in short bursts – and they had to be family-friendly too! On an unrelated note: As taking screenshots is easier than ever (officially as well as via emulation) I like to think I’ve developed an eye for a pretty landscape and sometimes catch myself doing things because they’ll look good rather than serve any useful purpose.
@_sharc “Given how the landscape of games has changed (digital distribution, streaming, etc) are there any forgotten games or commercial failures from earlier generations you think would have found way more success had they come out now?”
I like to think classic Sakura Taisen could have carved out a worthwhile foreign niche for itself now visual novels are more widely available and accepted, and there are an awful lot of shmups that used to sell two copies as $70 import titles that would almost certainly do better as $20 shmups on Steam.
@GassiTheCat “Favourite albums of decade?”
Ooh, Final Fantasy XIV soundtracks are a safe bet for me and most other people seeing as everyone involved in their creation is happy to use whatever genre of music best fits the action, and AM2R’s music does a fabulous job of updating classic Metroid tunes without losing the lonely atmosphere that made them so special in the first place.
@DurianMilkshake “Most revolutionary game(s) (that are actually good?)”
I wouldn’t say they were revolutionary but I’d like to thank Kirby’s Epic Yarn and The Untitled Goose Game from reminding everyone that games without any direct peril and violence in them can be both fun to play as well as commercially successful in a traditional gaming environment (all I mean by that is that they’re “real” games and not a digital art project, a puzzle, etc. game that technically counts as non-violent but only because there’s nothing to create conflict in the first place, or something made for mobile).
@Richmond_Lee “Has being a parent affected how you approach/enjoy/understand games at all? If so, how?”
Being a parent has shown me just how many hidden rules are written into game design that people really can’t expect to be aware of unless they’ve grown up with them (1UPs, everything in RPGs, why you should want to play a game for score/rank), and that there are still a lot of barriers to “proper” gaming becoming a mainstream hobby in that regard. It also brought the predatory nature of the worst parts of F2P/booster packs/loot box mechanics into focus for me, how careful we all have to be to not fall into the trap and how little sympathy and understanding there is of those who do or how easy it is to get caught up in those purpose-built money sink loops.

While it’s not going to be a great shock to anyone I suppose at the end of the decade I’m the same but different: Hopefully a little wiser and a little more talented but really I’m just doing what I’ve always done, there’s just more junk to be navigated before I find what I’m after on the shelves. Looking towards the future goes it’d be lovely if I could find a way to do this blog malarky for a living but as far as gaming itself goes I’m quite happy to keep on as I am, so long as “As I am” means always trying out new, old, and unusual games and then sharing them with everyone else.

4 thoughts on “Decade’s End

  1. Wonderful write-up, very interesting to read about your changing (and occasionally not-so-changing) experiences!

    I totally feel you about FFXIV and comfort in online groups. I went from dying alone in some obscure part of the map in FFXI (and being far too shy to ask for any help) to casually queueing up to tank raids in FFXIV like it’s no big deal (because now, it’s not!). Not being held back by my own anxiety due to the game being designed so well in that regard is definitely why I’m still playing after all these years.

    Like

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