More and more, I’m finding that, for me, every year as a gamer is wholly defined by one game. Generally one game that explodes a lot.
Last year, it was easily Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the soundtrack of which I’m still grooving to work with. The year before that, Fallout: New Vegas. This year, it was The Darkness II. At least, I thought it was until Far Cry 3 pretty much blindsided me with its endless litany of uproarious possibility. I’m a gamer torn: Jackie Estacado’s cel-shaded brutality or Jason Brody’s accidental pyromania? I thought it’d be Mass Effect 3 all the way and while I loved it to bits, the experience was marred externally somewhat by all the snotty hate that surrounded it.
I have got to stop reading the internet.
The world is ending this week though (actually, I think it was supposed to end two weeks ago and didn’t, but let’s hold out hope here, there was a fierce wind the other night), so this indecision must become decision: What game, I wondered as the outdoor cinema’s giant projector screen curled over in the possibly apocalyptic evening breeze, would I most want to be playing if the world was going to end? And also, quick follow-up on that: Am I ever gonna get to see Looper? I want to know what happens to Bruce Willis. I worry about him.
Tough one, huh. One game to rule them all. I think back, and think hard. It’s weird: I don’t think “present”. I think past. I’m not sure if that says more about me or the state of gaming. Maybe a little bit of both, but I can’t help but feel games in the ‘90s and early 2Ks – where I had most of my formative experiences – were a lot less self-conscious than they are today, and thus free to just be games as opposed to living a conflicted double-life as an enterprise beholden to a whole new demographic they often don’t really seem to understand. Games now are fun. I don’t get worked up about ‘em or their perceived or actual wrongs. I just switch on and switch off. Back then I’d just be switched on.
MechWarrior 2 showed me crushing scale was possible. Wing Commander III taught me the value of great supporting narrative and execution. Duke Nukem 3D turned the environment into a playground. I was more afraid of Realms of the Haunting than is reasonable to admit. Deus Ex floored me by not letting me get away with murder for once. I can’t think of one new thing this generation that’s really turned me on quite like the defining qualities of the aforementioned.
Games look prettier now. That’s nice, but if gigantor tidal wives were lapping at my windows and I had but a precious few moments left with which to do naught but game, it wouldn’t be Human Revolution, or New Vegas, or Far Cry 3. It’d be pin the tail on my DOSBox piñata.