Thursday, November 6, 2008

Realising Change

This may sound rather stupid but I think I am evolving as a gamer.

By that I mean, well, I seem to be going through a period of change with my gaming. I am still the completionist I have always been, I still have a keen interest in racing games and despite having access to Xbox Live and a whole bunch of friends, I am still generally a lone gamer. Yet this year during the typical rush of games that are all trying to release before the holiday period, I have come to the realisation that something is different. Now what that exactly is, I couldn't tell you but with every day that passes I find that I am noticing the change more and more and personally, I am finding it both intriguing and fascinating.

Take the recently released Fable II for example. Here is a sequel to a game I never had the chance to play yet as it came close to release I found myself interested in it more and more. It got to the point where I was thinking to myself that I would get it and give it a try but not straight away and after I had gotten the games I was anticipating first. The week of its release I saw it lying on the shelf of my local games store and before I knew it, I had purchased it, brought it home and had put it into my 360's disc drive ready to play. I don't know why I ended up buying it that day but after playing it that night, I was glad I did and do not regret a thing. I have barely played the game since that night, though. Why? Well no reason other than I thought it would be best to save the experience until a time when I can appreciate it more, so instead I continued to focus on the games I was playing beforehand in order to try and get them finished. That is irrelevant though; The short time I have had with the game has already impressed me and I am finding it very hard to resist firing it up each night. Of course it doesn't help when I see my friends playing it, but even so the allure of the game is compelling and again I find that fascinating. I plan on going more in-depth with my thoughts on the game in the near future when I play it more and can summarise my thoughts and impressions a little better, but in the meantime I want to point out that I think part of the reason why Fable II is alluring to me at the moment is because of how the gaming community at large has discussed the game. Reading this discussion (especially the blog posts) is, I think, presenting the game to me as an experience and when I combine that with the short time I have played, I think it is actually an experience rather than just another game. There are so many different aspects of the game being discussed and each one can inspire its own in-depth conversation from the community.

Another thing I have found interesting lately is that games I wasn't really interested in, or was not planning on looking at until a later date have now found their way onto my radar. Fable II was one of these games and another is Mirror's Edge. While I appreciated what EA/Dice were doing with the game and also the fact that it was rather original, I didn't really care for it because of a few reasons: one being that the game could go either way (success or failure), another being that it just didn't seem like it should be a priority of mine at the current time. Playing the demo earlier this week however completely changed my perception of the game and as I said, it is now on my radar and I am hoping to be able to pick it up on release. Now obviously demos are meant to be a taste of a game to give you an idea of whether you will like it or not, but the experience of playing this demo was different to how I come away from playing other demos and it did surprise me. Again I can't really pinpoint why (seems to be becoming a regular occurrence these days...) but the surprise meant that I find it intriguing.

Another EA game has also changed my perception of it recently and I think it is in part because of the gaming community. That game? Dead Space. Again while I appreciated that it was a new IP and that it was a Sci-Fi Horror game (I love my Sci-Fi), it never really seemed to be interesting until very recently when it released. First thing I noticed about it was that it seems to have a BioShock vibe about it. By that I mean atmospheric and isolated, yet almost an experience that could feel real. The other things I noticed come more from what people within the gaming community have been saying than anything but even so it is a game that went from a possible future purchase to a game that I want now.

To take this in a different direction, this Friday sees the release of Gears of War 2. That alone makes the day a good day and myself excited, but, thanks to quite a wonderful birthday I have found myself in a position to buy not one game, not two games and not even three. I am able to buy FOUR games on Friday and honestly, I can't believe it. While I am lucky enough to get the majority of games I want within a year, I don't generally get them at or near release and I definitely do not get more than one game at a time when I make a purchase. Fable is an example of that despite it being an unexpected purchase. Yet come Friday I find myself lucky enough to get four games and I almost feel guilty about it. If I weren't getting these games, I could get a Wii! Or, I could save it and get something not gaming related instead. It is definitely an interesting position to be in personally and like everything else I have mentioned so far in this post, it intrigues me. For the record the games I am getting are Gears of War 2 as I said, Fallout 3 (like Fable, another sequel to a game(s) that I haven't played) and probably Dead Space and Midnight Club LA.

The last thing I have noticed that seems to be changing and is again, intriguing me is how I feel about RPGs. Playing through Eternal Sonata recently, a Japanese RPG, has been quite a mixed bag of feelings for me. During the first playthrough of the game I found myself really enjoying it and as an overall game it was worth playing, but during the second playthrough I have honestly found it to be a chore. I don't HAVE to play through it this second time but I am because of the completionist trait of my gaming. The reason it has been a chore though is what is quite common with RPGs and that is the grind. This entire second playthrough has basically been a grind as I am skipping the cutscenes (on a side note: thank god you can - all games should have this option). That means all I am really doing is walking either to the next battle or to the next location. As it is a 'New Game +' the enemies are stronger this time around which means even more grinding to make sure I am strong enough to take them on and yeah it has not been fun at all. Because of this grind and how hard it has been to motivate myself to continue with it, I have found myself reflecting on Japanese RPGs in general and how I feel about them. In the past I could play them over and over again with no problem, my multiple playthroughs of Final Fantasy VIII in particular can attest to that, but as I have grown older my patience for these games seems to have decreased as I realise that I haven't played more recent JRPGs as much as I did the older ones and that some games were hard to even finish the first time let alone multiple playthroughs.

Now it could be a case of these games just not having a compelling enough story and therefore reason to continue playing, or it could be a case of myself going off (for lack of a better term) these games in favour of other experiences. I love a good story and RPGs provide them in the bucket loads but it just seems like I want to have these experiences elsewhere. Where? Perhaps ironically, in Western RPGs. The more I think about it the more I am realising that here I am re-assessing my interest in JRPGs while also absolutely loving the Western RPG experiences I have had. I haven't played many WRPGs but the recent ones I have like the aforementioned Fable II (although small) and Mass Effect have absolutely been brilliant and I can see that continuing with Fallout 3. Which brings me back to the whole point of this post, things seem to be changing within my gaming lately and while I clearly can't explain it or even what these changes are, it has been quite intriguing for me. The last few weeks have been very interesting for me as a gamer and what I have said above are only a few examples of what I have been thinking about. Change is afoot in the land of Nismo and what else can I say other than that I look forward to seeing where these changes end up taking me.

It's interesting though, isn't it?


Pete said...

Nismo - really enjoy your writing! :)

Four games or a Wii, eh? Well, I *know* you've gone for the games option - saw you playing GoW2 on the weekend - but the Wii has certainly provided me with some of my most enjoyable gaming in the last year. No More Heroes and Excite Truck alone are worth the console cost, and Super Mario Galaxy is really as good as everyone says :)

But it's awfully hard to consider games that don't contribute to your GamerScore... ;)

Nismo said...

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption alone is enough to justify the purchase of the Wii for me, with Galaxy and others just being really awesome added bonuses. Next year will be the year of the consoles for me I think, where I will buy both a Wii and a PS3 so I can finally own all three consoles again like I did last generation.

As for the four games, it ended up being five instead... I am definitely in gaming overload now and I must admit I am rather overwhelmed with it all.

As for Gamerscore, believe it or not but I don't actually care for the score. Just the actual achievements and completion percentage. ;)

pete said...

Ah, see, Metroid Prime 2 annoyed me mightily for some reason (and yet the original Prime didn't - weird, eh?), so I never went for Corruption.

As for the PS3... well, there's nothing there that I'm interested in... yet. As soon as Suda51 or Miz (or maybe Team Ico, as long as it doesn't look as navel-gazingly pretentious as Shadow of the Colossus) release something exclusive to the PS3, I may swallow my pride (still haven't warmed to Sony after the 2006 E3 presser) and get one of the black behemoths :}

Nismo said...

Metroid fanboy right here so yeah, that's why Corruption is enough justification of the purchase. Most people seem to have liked the original Prime but not Echoes, which I find interesting because I also loved Echoes. Maybe I'm too much of a fanboy of that franchise though...

As for the PS3 well I'm pretty much with you on that one. Nothing (including MGS4 and LBP) has been released that justifies spending so much money. Heavy Rain is that game for me though and I am really looking forward to it, so I shall be buying a PS3 before that releases. MGS4 and LBP can be bonuses. ;)

The other title that would justify a PS3 is whatever Team ICO are cooking. You don't like SotC though? I loved it...


pete said...

I love the Heavy Rain movies, but not that keen on the "gameplay" ideas.

SotC just seemed to try too hard to invoke the same sort of emotional engagement as Ico - but failed miserably, in my opinion. A lot of fawning for SotC revolves around the mixed emotions associated with killing the Colossi, or your attachment to Agro - but I completely missed that (and I played through it at least 8 times to satisfy my OCD requirements ;)

This from someone who teared up at *that* moment in Ico, and again at the "happy" ending...

Nismo said...

Ha, I also played through it eight times. Was planning on a ninth at some stage...

Anyway Shadow of the Colossus did engage me on an emotional level which is perhaps why I love it so much. Not only did the events involving Agro get to me but physically taking down the various Colossi (especially the first one for the first time) was also hard for me because I have a thing for beasts. Seeing it (and the others) go down in that way, with the chilling music just had me in a state of shock and regret at first. ICO also got to me though, so as far as I am concerned that is two from two for Team ICO and it is definitely why their next game is a major selling point for me and the PS3.

As for Heavy Rain, I am pretty much with you on that but at the same time I don't think I care too much if the gameplay doesn't match up. With Heavy Rain, I am more looking forward to the overall experience that it looks like it will provide rather than how it will play, look or whatever. It isn't everyday that games are an experience so I definitely find myself latching onto them when one seems like it will be one.