As you may be aware, I’m a pretty big fan of games of any sort. I love pen and paper games. I love board games. I love physical games. I love video games. I’ve found as I’ve gotten older, though, that I’ve become a little more picky about the video games I play. It used to be I would play pretty much anything that was put in front of me and I was going to do my best to master it. That’s still true to an extent, but my enthusiasm for doing it in some genres is just not the same.
Shooters in particular have fallen out of favor with me. I used to be a huge fan of first-person shooters. Doom, Quake, Wolfenstein, even something a bit newer like Serious Sam. I played them all and I loved them. At one point, I was pretty darned good at them. In high school, though I sure wasn’t a pro at it, we regularly LANed up XBoxes to have huge Halo parties, and I loved it. Since then, though, I just can’t play those games the same way.
Or, honestly, multiplayer in general. And, well, I think it’s telling that a whole ton of players have never even touched the campaign in games like Gears of War. It’s geared toward the multiplayer experience. The campaign is an afterthought. There was a time I would have been fascinated by that, but I think I still would have played the campaign through. Maybe not, though. It’s hard to say.
Maybe it’s a generational thing. When I was growing up, if you wanted to play a game with somebody, they pretty well had to be sitting right there and hopefully you had more than one controller. And if you had a whole party over, well, you better hope you had a multi-tap.* Then there were computer games, which were a little better. They were still generally plagued with horrible lag and more of a niche thing, though. Ever try to pay Quake II with a 56K dial-up connection? Or a 28.8K connection? It’s a bit of a challenge. Maybe if I had cut my teeth in an age were consoles were just assumed to be online and you were forced to play with split screens, I would have been into multiplayer in a bigger way. That wasn’t my experience, though, so I really learned how to game alone.
*I did and do, though who knows the last time it got used.
Or, you know, relatively alone. I still love Vanilla WoW. Clearly that’s a multiplayer game. But it’s a different experience than a shooter, and that makes all the difference. First off, I have come to absolutely adore games with a good story. It seems I almost exclusively play RPGs now, or at least games with RPG type elements. I might be the only person in the world who likes StarCraft for the story and campaign. I like to get lost in games, and I just can’t do that with endless brown and gun sights any more. I want to feel like I’m a part of the world, immersed in it, without necessarily being the only person in it. True, in something like Mass Effect, Shepard is probably the most famous person in the galaxy, and maybe the most important, but life goes on without him. People still talk and have their own little daily dramas on the Citadel and whatnot. Same idea with Fallout. Sure, your character has a big role to play, but not everything the wasteland* necessarily revolves around what you do. Morrowind has the same ideas, but I never really played those. I’m sure I’d love them, just haven’t gotten around to them.
*Whether that wasteland is in the west or east doesn’t really matter here.
I think that’s why World of Warcraft works for me. At least the first two iterations. You could immerse yourself in the world, you did seemingly important things, but the world never really changed. At least, not directly from anything you did. It felt more real in that sense. Later things just got too silly for me. When I saw gnomes riding motorcycles around Stormwind, I knew I had reached my limit. The original, though, is still awesome.
So what is it about shooters that I can’t immerse myself in those? I mean, many of them do have stories now. Part of the issue is how that story is handled, I think. Most of the story action takes place outside of gameplay, in cut scenes and orders coming from outside your character. It’s the proverbial railroad. While many (especially older) RPGs are on rails, it doesn’t do it quite so obviously. I think that’s another problem I have with latter-day WoW, too. I don’t want my hand held directly to where I’m supposed to go. Let me explore and figure it out on my own.
Maybe related to that, I’m going back and filling in some big gaps in my gaming history. As you may be aware, I did pick up Earthbound a few years ago and liked it so well I wrote a book about it.* First, I decided to play through A Link to the Past. I started that one some time ago and just never finished it. No idea why not, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Just never picked it back up at some point. I’m fixing that now. I also have Chrono Trigger to play, which typically ranks highly in all-time rankings, let alone SNES or RPG rankings.
*Available at Lulu! I’m closing in on actually getting a check sent to me for something I’ve written, so I would encourage you to buy it. Also available electronically, if you’re into that sort of thing. I’d also encourage you to pick up my latest book, as part two of that series will likely be written this November. That one is also available on Amazon.
Maybe that’s why I like RPG’s so much. It’s more like playing a book, and Lord knows I love me some literature. I dunno. All I know is I probably won’t be getting the next Call of Duty for myself. My wife, though, is a different story.