The weekend was extra long: I took a day off to work on completing Halo 3. I have a review of Halo 3 elsewhere, so I’ll spare the extended talks on that subject. But in the meantime, let’s go over how my weekend went down, shall we?
Archive for September, 2007
This edition of $60 a Month shows how a semi-impulse purchase can have a big impact and finds me questioning the value of Gameznflix in light of some recent shennanigans. Also, the big AAA title this month was meant to be a long-lasting addition to the library, but I’m already considering trading it away. Read on to find out why.
It’s not that often that I allow my raw desires to dictate my actions. For example, if given half a chance I’d probably eat an entire package of Pepperidge Farm Sausalito cookies for dinner. But I refrain because my desire to eat 52,000 calories worth of cookies in one sitting is mitigated by my sense of responsibility to my own body.
I guess that’s what being an adult is, to the best of my observation: The impulses of childhood continue to exist and, to a certain degree, drive. But a conscious decision to ignore those impulses separates man from boy.
Still, occasionally, you have to toss the inner child a bone. As such I’m conceding to my id and ignoring the principles of maturity: I’m taking a day off of work tomorrow with the sole intention of playing Halo 3 all day.
What’s a little strange about all this is that I’m not even a super Halo nerd. I was far more enthusiastic about BioShock; I anticipate Orange Box and Mass Effect to a greater degree. But while those games offer experiences I crave, Halo represents a phenomenon I identify with. This isn’t just a game I’m interested in and looking forward to playing, it’s a cultural milestone that I want to be on the forefront as I experience. Halo 3 isn’t the kind of game I can snatch up in the bargain bin two years from now and say, “Oh hey, remember this? I should grab it now that it’s only ten bucks.” As an American gamer, someone who in a certain respect chronicles the progression of this hobby, it’s kind of a requirement that I experience this now.
And I do like Halo. It’s easy to fall into the trap of distancing oneself from the franchise because it’s almost trendy, like Madden. Gamers are a curious bunch, not entirely unlike music fans, feeling possessive of their passion and suspicious about any influx of new enthusiasts who might try to take away their carefully built communities of insular nerd princes. Many who spend days and weeks tucked away in some corner of a Halo multiplayer map will denounce the whole series publicly for fear of being too closely identified as a casual gamer.
I’m not so worried about all that. But Halo isn’t the end-all-be-all of games. What it does well it does very well and part of its strength lies in the way it crafts a very competent SF storyline. If no one cared about Master Chief and Cortana and the Arbiter, the series protagonist would have become just some other faceless (literally in this case) drone in the long line of power-armor wearing first-person avatars. But he does have appeal and his fate does matter because Bungie makes it matter by drawing us into the story.
Above all, this is why I won’t be working tomorrow. I confess that as patently ridiculous as the marketing deluge has been for this game, from my perspective it was hardly necessary. You know when they had me? The end of Halo 2. When Master Chief swore that he was here to finish the fight, I took the oath with him. I aim to see this thing through.
And I can’t let a silly thing like work get in my way.
Being outnumbered is sort of a staple for video games. It hasn’t even been until the last couple of generations that AI-controlled team or squad mates were viable (I’m sure you could argue their viability is still in question) but before then it was always just you, a few extra lives and some power-ups versus a flood of oncoming foes.
Some games really highlight this solitude and the sense of overwhelming odds that you must confront in order to emerge victorious. Halo does a good job at this, as do the Metal Gear games. Other games manage to create a sense of desperation even without the loneliness, all the way back to Contra and Ikari Warriors. You may have allies, but you and your few friends are all humanity/your country/the Earth has to rely on.
Typically, it helps when you’re a super soldier or encased in some sort of hyper-advanced body armor. Or at the very least, you carry a sword as large as your body.
I try not to let my… ahem… fascination with Xbox Achievements color my game playing too much. But the truth is that beyond just the inexplicable delight I find in watching my gamerscore rise, I find myself ceaselessly lost in such statistical marvels as the Badge Calculator from 360Voice.com and other data tracking services that make similar use to the public profiles your Xbox presents when connected to the Internet.
Don’t ask me why this sort of meta-information about a time-passing activity like video games could entrance me so, I have no excuses. But whatever the cause, I occasionally find myself doing things I might not otherwise in the name of earning those cursed Achievements and their associated points. I’m talking about things like playing Alien Hominid HD twice or putting far more time into Rumble Roses XX than it deserved. On a different platform, these ideas wouldn’t cross my mind. When there are points involved, it doesn’t seem so crazy. Well, not until after the fact. Perhaps this is what drug addicts feel like? All callous carpe diem when the sun has set and a reflective flood of self doubt each morning? If so, I am thankful my addictions are focused on fringe forms of entertainment and not more destructive pursuits.
Some weeks my efforts to maintain a steady stream of new titles pay off handsomely: I’ll spend the weekend pulling new games from the mail like pulling grapes from a vine. As my wife commented a couple of weeks back when this payoff was in effect, “It’s like Christmas every day for you with all this mail-order gaming.” However, the stars can also align such that I go for a weekend with practically nothing new at my disposal. Such was the case this weekend and the circumstances conspired to send me dipping back into some older titles I mean to complete and looking forward to the weeks ahead.
I had a discussion with a friend about $60 a Month and he suggested that the concept has merit, but it remains overwrought and unnecessarily complicated. As a result I continue to streamline and this first month’s report shall reflect that. Essentially it is now merely a breakdown of what new games I acquired and played and how good I did at keeping within my budget. No ratios, no scores, no complex rulesets: If something seems wonky or it appears that I’ve cheated in some way, call me out in the comments section. Let’s see if we can make this thing worth reading, hm?
Some time ago I compiled a list of my top 30 games of all time. It was about a year ago and for some reason I had call to revisit the list today and noted, with some dismay, that I have altered my list internally since this was published.
In an effort to correct the flaws inherent in the previous list, I’m reprinting it here, updated and revised to include games I’ve played since and games that I’ve reconsidered. Note that my criteria may have changed somewhat but it still remains rooted firmly in games that I’ve played that I feel have delivered the best experiences. Some games I recognize for their base brilliance and others because I just played the heck out of it in spite of some perhaps obvious flaws. For the most part whenever a game has several iterations or minor variants, I chose the one that I feel is best overall which is not meant to diminish the brilliance of the others, but mark that a game can be refined over time and also can in some cases be reduced to less than its original promise. For example, I wouldn’t put the GameCube Resident Evil and the PSOne Resident Evil on the list spearately, I’d merely include the former as being the superior version of the same game.
Finally, it should be noted that there are several games which do not appear because my memory of them is lost in a haze of thousands of games I’ve played and while I recall their general brilliance, I can’t remember enough at my advanced age to know what made them so great. They are on my short list of games to re-play but their omission here is a product of the continual refinement of this list and not of some slight against them. The notable examples are Chrono Trigger and The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
Full list after the click.