Too many games

[DC games]

It’s not enough to like a game – liking (or not liking) a game is easy. Simply describing whether someone liked a game or not is the most low-effort and superficial stance anyone can take, hundreds if not thousands of words or hours of podcast-delivered enthusing/venting completely negated by a single pithy response: “Well I didn’t like it.” or “So what?“. Anyone who really knows their gaming onions will be able to spew forth an article’s worth of information about whatever they’ve been playing whether they’ve been asked to or not: How does the game compare to its direct prequel? To the much earlier title that inspired the whole genre? To the developer’s previous work? Is it a bold outlier in its time period, or chasing the popular concepts of the era? Can you back any of those facts up? How can you have an opinion on this game if you don’t know what the dialogue/targeting/crafting system was like in the third one?

This has to stop.

Whether someone’s interest lies only in indie hits (the Stardews, Terrarias, and Among Us’ of this world), indie indie titles only found on a personal blog featuring an embedded PICO-8 demo, or in “just” the biggest seasonal blockbusters of them all there are just too many games appearing too often for any one person to hope to keep track of them all no matter how narrow their tastes, never mind actually play – and this is before we even consider the practicalities of being able to afford all the consoles, phones, and gaming-level PCs needed to be able to do so.

This is even true for those wishing to focus on nothing more than one treasured favourite: How many hours should someone pour into Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR- before they can say they’ve really played it, why aren’t they keeping their Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R skills sharp at the same time, and how long will they have to invest in Guilty Gear -Strive- before they’re allowed to talk about their experiences with authority? Final Fantasy XIV‘s mainline story missions alone are meaty enough to be considered a series in their own right, and when coupled with all the other content in there a person could seriously commit to the game for years and still not see or do everything contained within. Falcom’s “Trails of…” titles are multi-game epics tightly interwoven with other multi-game epics that have spun off from another interconnected trilogy and you shouldn’t want the one version of that you can actually play either (those English PSP Gagharv games) – and that’s before you worry about which ones have been translated into English (officially or otherwise) or the one-offs (Nayuta, Ys vs Sora no Kiseki) released along the way.

Even retro hardware, their libraries largely done and dusted (outside of the odd niche re-release or newly created labour of love), present unreasonably large mountains to climb. Let’s use a relatively “small” format like the N64 as an example: According to this wikipedia list there are 393 officially released titles available worldwide for Nintendo’s stubbornly cart-based console, and that means even if you were hypothetically completely willing and able to play nothing else for an entire year, and were somehow able to not only clear but clear to the point of disassembled-code-laid-bare completion and master-level excellence one game every single day without fail, experiencing all of its hidden secrets and understanding with utter clarity every reference and connection to every other game before the clock struck midnight… you still wouldn’t have played every game released on the console by the end of the year.

[MD games] (2)

So the only natural response is to cherry-pick the very best experiences, to stick to a healthy mix of “important” games; the historically significant titles, the chart-toppers, the certified classics, the trendiest new releases everyone’s talking about, a disjointed play history that would end up looking like:

But how do you define “important” anyway? Space Invaders is far more important than most, seeing as it’s at the very least partially responsible for the entire industry that came after it – how could a game like that not form a vital component of everyone’s game awareness toolkit? Who hasn’t played Space Invaders?! Well, at this point… a lot of people, actually. The game’s now over forty years old and hasn’t seen a non-Extreme/Infinity Gene/Groove Coaster release treated as more than an idle novelty for decades now (I do like these modern repurposings by the way – we’d all be much worse off without Pac-Man Championship Edition and the sorely missed Galaga Legions) – but does that make Space Invaders historically important, or currently irrelevant? Says who?

Let’s look at another title: What about Devil May Cry V? When someone plays that do they need to know it’s the latest in a series originally spawned from a lightly-repurposed Resident Evil sequel that never came to be? Does that mean someone needs to know what Resident Evil was at the time – and what it is now – to be able to truly appreciate and understand the game they’re playing on their PlayStation 5/Xbox Series/PC at that particular moment? Is their opinion – their enjoyment – less valid because they didn’t find the time to play the similar-but-different Bayonetta, or Platinum’s other “character action” title, Metal Gear Rising?

What does it mean if someone’s favourite RPG is Final Fantasy VII? Does that mean their tastes align with a significant portion of like-minded individuals worldwide, or that they played one of the biggest and most mainstream games in the series and nothing else? Hang on a sec – wasn’t I saying a few paragraphs ago that picking up “big” games was the only sensible thing to do when faced with so many games and so little time? And if we decide the opposite is true and extensive knowledge really is the only way to go, where do we stop? How can someone talk about Squaresoft’s history and not mention their pre-Final Fantasy games or their many Japan-exclusive titles, only available in physical form on hardware that hasn’t been relevant for two or three decades? How can their opinion be trusted if they’ve never logged in to PlayOnline or have no particular thoughts on the company’s later acquisition of Taito?

[PSP games] (2)

While we should never encourage wilful ignorance – broad knowledge and an awareness of a game’s place within a wider context can only improve any discussion of it, and such information can be illuminating to writer and reader alike – we must realise how far general expectations are currently leaning towards an unrealistic extreme and how worthless facts for facts’ sake, often regurgitated simply to prove superiority over another person who clearly loves the same sort of thing we do, are. People – even those who write about this form of entertainment for a living, and dedicated fans who pour every waking moment of their lives into this hobby – not only haven’t played every important game ever made, but they also can’t reasonably be expected to. They don’t want to either – and nor should they. Every year – no, every month – sees more must-play games arrive than anyone could hope to get through before the next batch of equally essential replacements turn up, leaving people with no choice – assuming they’re able to afford everything they “should” be playing with in the first place – but to rush through it all to keep up, just so they could say they were there and yes they really have played it, thankyouverymuch. Internet gaming discourse demands nothing less than constant awareness of everything past, present, and future, and to demonstrate anything less shows a lack of passion for or education in the subject at hand.

“How do you feel?”

Do you remember the bit – and I realise I’m dating myself here – in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home where Spock easily answers a million complex questions at a blistering pace, and then stops dead when asked “How do you feel?. Why does that matter? Why would anyone need to know? Why would he want to know? How could anyone know what the definitively “right” answer to a question like that was?
That’s how gamers think. That’s how we think.
Knowledge is power as they say, and in these search engine dominated times you’re only as smart as the last Wikipedia page you hurriedly skimmed for answers before typing out a single sentence rebuttal to a complete stranger online who dared accuse you of not being aware of the fact the composer of one game, released fifteen years ago on another continent, also worked under a pseudonym on an arcade title you’ve never played. By focussing so resolutely on facts; on who made what and the company they made it for, on what else they did while they were there and oh-so-cleverly noting the subtle link to another work released two unrelated consoles and a change of publisher before it, all to back up pre-agreed opinions on the “best” of everything to further cement our inarguable rightness above everyone else’s… when we do that we not only choose to forget that enjoying what we’re doing is a fulfilling and completely normal way of engaging with a game, but also that having fun is a worthwhile way of spending our precious free time too – this is supposed to be entertainment, not a test. Oh, that sound effect was a little nod to Mega Man, was it? I didn’t know that. That scoring system debuted in an obscure Spectrum game? Genuinely fascinating. Generally considered inferior to a later port due to a minor bug most people will never encounter? OK, I’ll try to remember that. But what’s your favourite level? The piece of music you always turn up loud? The battle you find the most exciting? The cutscene that really resonates with you? The one location you can’t help but stop and stare at?

Seeing as we can’t know everything about everything (and have never been able to anyway), why not concentrate on knowing – and valuing – what we enjoy about the games we’re already playing instead?

22 thoughts on “Too many games

  1. This is a fascinating ramble, I have also thought about these points quite a bit. I get overwhelmed trying to join up with any gaming community as it seems to turn into a pile of recommendations and factoids to the point where it becomes stressful.

    We currently are living through an overload on all types of consumable media. It was always darn near impossible to play all the games with even an unlimited budget and time but in modern times it is impossible to play a fraction.

    This ramble does sort of beg the question of how best to navigate an absolute ocean of content and how best to navigate online communities that feign at a summative knowledge of the content? I keep trying and failing.

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  2. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that a decade ago I was absolutely one of the “you need to play all the relevant things and know all the facts” folks.
    While it can certainly be fun to learn all the facts and play all the related things (can make for some really fascinating experiences), it sure is never necessary. And honestly, I very much don’t have the time for all of that – there’s too much out there to enjoy (going backwards and filling in titles I never had a chance to experience is already too much, let alone keeping up with new releases).
    The gatekeeping aspects of a lot of communities that come along with those attitudes have made being a fan of a thing more difficult than it ever should be. It’s really nice seeing an article reminding folks that they should just chill, enjoy what they can, and have fun talking about it with anyone willing to talk (and not requiring a passing grade on a quiz of their own design prior to being willing to engage).

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  3. The funny thing of that “you must know the full history of this franchise” mentality is that i’ve basically gatekept (is that even english?) myself out of a franchise like Dragon Quest because i feel i’m not worthy to play DQ XI unless i played ALL the previous entries (i only finished the first and played some VII and VIII). It’s weird what we still impose ourselves even as an adult to feel like we belong to the community.
    But much like i’ve stopped trying to find all hidden chests in my JRPG nowadays, perhaps i too can accept the fact that i missed out on some games and that’s ok.
    Great article as always Kimimi, you have a knack for nailing how it feels to be a gamer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh goodness no, you’ve got to give Dragon Quest XI a go! If it helps at all my play order went X, I, XI and I honestly had a great time with all of them :D

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    2. Oh my, I too have some weird mental gatekeeping to tell.

      Very often I will postpone playing games I would like to play to after having upgraded PC components, because hey I’ll probably only play the game once because yes there are too many, and so I might as well play it in all it’s gorgeous graphical fidelity. (all the while admiring YouTubers like ‘LowSpecGamer’ who graphically DESTROYs games to make them playable on bad laptops and the like)

      Another mental blockage was trying to get all achievements in some games even when I realize that sometimes it’s just too hard or too random to get these and could have moved on to the next game already. Really ironic, considering how when trophies arrived on PS3 I was like ‘Eh, that’s alright but I don’t really need them.’

      And the worst gatekeeping for me is trying to finish games before starting others, because hey can’t have this pile of started games get too big!! As such I carry those started games around as mental baggage and have them pop up in my mind whenever I think about or do start a new game, stressing me out, sort of.

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  4. My feelings on this one subject are a little complicated really! On the one hand, I think you’re absolutely right, expecting everyone to know all the ins and outs and All Of The Things of so many games is completely unreasonable. As long as other people are enjoying games however they like, that’s good enough for me and it’d be nice for other people to be the same with eachother too (although Twitter is not an ideal avenue for this I’ve found, you can only type a thread on a game so fast before someone @s you with the exact bit of trivia you are typing ~right now~)
    On the other, for myself if I’m writing about them or plan to, I do like to get as full a picture as possible of the context of its release and other stuff like that, but that’s because I actively enjoy that kind of thing, and while it may not enhance my enjoyment of the game, it can often help explain why a game is the way it is. If I’m just playing for fun or curiosity, I don’t need that, I’d just dive right into something like Hellnight or Plok or whatever and figure the rest out later~
    … Of course all of that is about old games. I am hopeless at keeping up with the games everyone else is playing, and that’s fine, no-one should have to keep up.
    But this was a good bit of food for thought, so nice job writing it up~

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    1. That all makes perfect sense to me! So long as you’re having fun doing whatever it is you’re doing then go for it! o/

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  5. Well argued! For me, the facts (while they can be interesting) are less important than the experience of playing. The happy-sad tingle I get from hearing Secret of Mana’s music means much more to me than knowing which other games the composer worked on, and I’m more interested in how people react to the games they play then lists of trivia.

    One of the things I enjoy about your posts is that while you do include some factual information, there’s always a reason for it. It’s connected to the point you’re making about the game. You also tend to do it with a tone of “hey, here’s a snippet of cool info I found out, isn’t that fun?” rather than proving your credentials.

    At some point I decided to stop keeping up with releases. I’m currently two console generations behind. And part of the reason I’m drawn to niche game formats/genres (first Xbox Live Indie Games, then roguelikes, then Pico-8) is because there’s less expectation to be current.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ooh, what a juicy subject! The way of thinking you described really can get out of hand and become a burden on those just looking to play some games and have a good time. Which, lest we forget, is kind of the point of all this~

    Being an ~old fogey~ I do love it when I get some obscure game in-joke that only someone who played the past 5 games would appreciate… but there’s so many avenues nowadays to get that information from. Wikis, videos, etc. There’s no need to slog through a bunch of older games that are a huge pain to acquire and get running JUST to get the joke. And to be honest… the joke might not even be all that funny anyway? Whether someone gets it or not isn’t as important as them playing and enjoying themselves. Same thing with “well in the previous games we had to use a TENT to recover our HP and MP!” which is a 5-second bit of trivia moreso than something people are duty-bound to experience.

    I do admit, I’ve been around for the beginnings of most major game series, so when there’s a series I’m suddenly aware of that has 6 games in it, I’m very much tempted to start at the beginning and work my way up. Usually, I’m able to enjoy myself and appreciate the series changing and evolving (and then I can totally dunk on the “insert number here” game in the series that everyone agrees is kinda bad, and that’s always fun), but hey, I don’t expect anyone else to do that.

    The best path to follow is always “the way to play games that makes me happy” and that’s different for everyone! Choice is good! Variety is good! I always encourage people to give older games a chance and try out things outside their usual zone, but at the end of the day, those comfort food games are what this hobby is all about~

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    1. Absolutely! If you want to immerse yourself in a game’s history or find out where a particular old thing came from then you should 100% go for it, but that’s a whole world away from “How can you possibly appreciate FFXIV’s Gilgamesh storyline if you don’t know and haven’t played the FF he first appeared in?”

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yesterday, I expressed to a friend how NieR: Automata and Death Stranding changed my life. It so happened that, I managed to discuss both for their own merits, but also for how they made me feel: “I went into that game for a sexy maid robot…and then I got conversations about humanity, a story about love,…and I completely forgot the sexy”.

    Before that, I used to discuss Death Stranding through its whole history, beginning from Kojima’s early days. I think your words are right and I will try to focus on what was important from there on, thanks! :)

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    1. Hey! Sorry to interrupt but I noticed you’re a Death Stranding fan. I bought the game, started it (I’m 9 hours in) and I really feel it’s not… clicking with me. Too many menus and little icons and details I can hardly understand, and whenever I go from point A to B (usually finding a ghost along he way, and having to mash square for a couple minutes), I just find myself with even more orders, menus, lots of stats and some NPC telling me that I now have to go from point B to C.
      The thing is, I don’t want to bash on the game, but would you say the gameplay will change for the better, soon? I don’t know if I should wait a bit longer till it gets more…playable?,or if the game is just not for me.
      Thanks in advance, I supose you must know better about the whole experience and progression.

      Like

      1. Hey! No need to apologise :)

        However, I’m afraid…that Death Stranding is the same from beginning to end. Not sure where you’re at exactly, but I feel like you’ve seen “all” the game will offer you and if this doesn’t feel appealing now, the gameplay may feel more diverse, but it stays “deliver stuff from point A to point B” until the end of the game.

        The changes you will encounter if you play to the end are:
        – you will get some easier transportation methods soon (trucks, motorbikes, asphalt roads, ziplines,…), and won’t have to walk that much, but it’s still “go from A to b to deliver X”.
        – you will encounter cooler NPCs giving you missions, I liked delivering videogames consoles to Sony’s CEO, or movies to Conan O’Brien, and some even have wholesome stories (the artist <3 ). However, it's still "please deliver that thing for me" or "I lost my cargo please bring it back".
        – you may find the story evolves in cooler ways, with a few "set pieces" where you get into a whole new ambiance, but it's around two hours of gameplay, out of fifty (I think I hit the 80 hours mark because I wanted to do all of the 500 optional missions on highest difficulty).
        – you may find cool online interactions with players, some giving you likes, or giving likes yourself, but if you've already done it and didn't love it, it's all the same.

        Bonus point: you can strangle Mads Mikkelsen in the jungle.

        I apologise myself, because the game really resonated with me a lot, but I've looked at it deep enough that I can see all of its flaws (seriously, Kojima can be the worst of writers sometimes if you don't embrace his silliness, and the game got rhythm issues), and I know that it's not for everyone but…I would love if the whole world could feel as "whole" as I did when I played through it to get out of my depression :)

        Unfortunately…I believe Death Stranding didn't click with you :/

        Liked by 1 person

  8. This article is great, and I just stumbled upon it at the right moment, when I’m spending most of my free time on playing/beating games that I “should have played before”. It’s a mostly self-imposed, peer -influenced backlog of “essential” titles with a heavy focus on nes/snes/arcade/pc, plus some other stuff for other platforms here and there. I’m a having a great time with it, though! Did some crazy stuff like learning and beating the 3 NES Ninja Gaiden games in just one week (with the headaches and anger episodes that such task implies, mind you) or beating all of the Metroid 2d games back to back.
    It’s awesome to read you, though, as your article is a very positive reminder that there’s no RIGHT way to play stuff, or a perfect criteria to choose the things we play. And I feel less of an “ignorant”, in lack of a better word, for missing on most of today’s big games, or even completely skipping sagas and genres because they’re not really my cup of tea (sorry, FPS and sport games, I don’t have any feelings for you)
    Anyway, I just wanted to give you props for these type of articles, where you show your knowledge of several things without coming off as a know-it-all, but instead, putting focus on the human side of being a video game fan. Reading you is like reading a friend :’)

    Liked by 1 person

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