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?”
@TepidSnake “What handheld/portable-only games did you enjoy this decade?”
@_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?”
@GassiTheCat “Favourite albums of decade?”
@DurianMilkshake “Most revolutionary game(s) (that are actually good?)”
@Richmond_Lee “Has being a parent affected how you approach/enjoy/understand games at all? If so, how?”
4 thoughts on “Decade’s End”
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.
Wahoo! Happy XIV stories are the best! Heaven knows Eorzea needs more tanks, but I’m not sure we’d get anything done if they all looked as fashionable as you!
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Very good retrospective, and it’s indeed quite interesting how things have changed for the player as a person than just a list of games! That was a great idea!
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