I didn’t feel myself evaporate

Please allow me to take Mr. Nicolai’s post below a step beyond: I have given up on gaming.

Well, in a certain sense. What I mean to say is that I’ve given up on keeping up with gaming — that is to say, I’m not buying any new releases this fall. Except a couple of Atlus games, of course, because if I skip Persona 4 and Poison Pink now I’ll have to pay twice their actual value in a year. Besides those two exceptions, though — nothing! I picked up Order of Ecclesia last week and played about 10 minutes of it before shrugging and going to back to tending shop with Torneko. I’ve made a few forays into the world of Mana, too. (Via a 14-year-old Mana adventure.) But for some reason, everything else leaves me cold — and the games that actually do interest me aren’t so compelling I feel like paying money for them right now.

I suspect that all of this can be traced back to my random encounter with poverty a little while ago. Scrambling desperately to pay for rent and food for half a year forced me to stop and say, “Is it really necessary to keep up with every single release that comes down the pipeline?” Sure, I work in the gaming press, but it’s not like we have a shortage of people happy to write about Dead Space and Resistance 2 on our staff. Why should I feel obligated to keep up simply for appearances’ sake? This revelation resulted in a round of serious preorder culling; and after further thought, I looked at interesting titles like Fallout 3 and Valkyria Chronicle and realized that I don’t really need them, either…at least not until next year, when they’ve had a price cut. Mind you, I’ve taken great pleasure in dredging up stuff to use on my new Twin Famicom; it’s just the shiny new things that I have little interest in, probably because they all demand a lot more time to complete than something like Kabuki Quantum Fighter.

Not coincidentally, I’ve also quietly bowed out of reviews duty as well, because I can’t seem to drum up enough give-a-crap to bother completing anything these days, and finishing stuff for review got to be painful. Besides, my main interest in game writing has always been researching and writing about the medium’s history, and I enjoy that part of it more than ever. Sooner or later, Fable II will enter the purview of Retronauts. I’ll probably get around to playing it then. (Assuming there are any working Xbox 360s left in the world in ten years.)

That’s not to say I’m completely apathetic about upcoming releases — and at the moment, nothing interests me quite so much as this little gem:

I saw some new screens for Dragon Quest IX over on that one corrupt and evil forum this morning, and it filled my shriveled little heart with happiness. Just look at it! Level-5 always manages to squeeze much more out of the systems it works on than should really be possible, and that seems to go double for the DS. DQIX looks like it’s going to make Matrix’s Final Fantasy remakes feel like amateur hour.

But what interests me most about this Dragon Quest is its multiplayer dynamic. I’m not normally one for gaming with others, but the concept of a traditional turn-based RPG with multiple players taking turns making input and working together to take down foes seems really intriguing and could make the toughest battles even more exciting than usual. Plus, DQ’s tradition of no battle truly lost means you’re less likely to genuinely hate a fellow party member for screwing up; you’ll lose some cash if you team up with some weaksauce mage who wants to attack feebly rather than cast spells, but you won’t lose the game.

The lower image shows the battle system playing out exactly as I imagined, and exactly as it should: each player chooses which foe to attack, moving down the player list in sequence with all commands and targets clearly marked. Player one is attacking; the second player, is casting “Mera” (which I think is “Sizzle”); and player three is trying to decide whether to go after a Slime or a Bodkin Archer. Meanwhile, player four is wishing the others would hurry the heck up.

I was disappointed when the action RPG system Square Enix initially showed off for the system disappeared, but in retrospect it was probably smart move. The Japanese portable market is more or less clogged with Monster Hunter play-alikes at this point, and had DQIX stayed on its original course it would have simply been another in a long line of me-too trend-jumpers. Hardly a description befitting its legacy. Besides, this turn-based approach seems more in keeping with the spirit of the series, not just the mechanics; DQ is about accessibility and playability, and a system that plays out at the party’s speed should be a lot friendlier to the wide demographic spread that comprises the Dragon Quest userbase.

After all, as Nicolai astutely pointed out, “hardcore” and “casual” are just descriptions of gamers, not games. And Dragon Quest is a series for everyone — even curmudgeons like me, it seems.

27 thoughts on “I didn’t feel myself evaporate

  1. Too many games… too many games… I guess we’re in the same boat. There are plenty of games that I would “like” to play, but it’s not like I have time for them or anything. I have no problem contenting myself with all the stuff that I already have. I am, however, surprised that you cut out Valkyria Chronicles. You seemed pretty interested in that one!

  2. I still am, but no sense in bothering with it until I find myself in the mood to sit in front of a television for more than an hour at a time. I can play portables in marathon sessions lately, but console games not so much. I haven’t spent more than an hour at a console since suffering through GTAIV. Hmm, now that I think about it, maybe GTAIV is what killed my interest in gaming….

  3. Actually, in that screenshot they’re casting a multiple of me. Level-5’s paid for my likeness.

  4. As a procrastinator, I know the feeling too well. That said, I’ve been addicted to Order of Ecclesia. While not perfect, it’s the most challenging Castlevania of the Metroidvania era.

  5. Yeah, this is where I’m at. There are games out there. When I feel like playing a game, I go find one. It might be new, it might be old. The only way to keep track of and play EVERY game is to sacrifice everything ELSE, and that’s not a thing I want to do. Also a lot of those games are crap, so who cares if I never play them. I’d also rather blow through a $5-$10 platformer in an afternoon than spend a month on a $60 anything.

  6. I hear ya. When I first went to college, my gaming funds were much lower – all of a sudden, I couldn’t pay for every single major release (plus, like you mentioned, rarer games like Atlus games) that came out in the increasingly huge holiday season. The current generation was the first one that I did not have a console when it first came out – neither the 360, nor the PS3, nor the Wii (though my mother purchased her own, furthering the stereotypes) had any games I cared to play. I bought a 360, then quickly sold it when I realized I don’t like FPSs all that much. I tend to follow Final Fantasy wherever it goes, but more and more I feel that XIII won’t be worth a PS3. Sad story, I know, but true.

    As for your bowing out of reviews and focusing more on history, I’m all for it. Your retrospectives and whatnots are my favorite gaming-related things to read. Much more intelligent than a weekly GoW2 preview, and certainly more interesting. Not to belittle your own professional position, but I’ve completely stopped visiting 1UP. The reviews of newer games don’t interest me any more, and Kotaku (love it or hate it) is simply the quickest fix for news, sleazy as it is.

  7. I’m happy for you that you managed to break out of reviews. That format is so limited, and the audience so fickle, that it seemed a waste of your considerable talents.

    Of course, I was looking forward to reading your thoughts on Mirror’s Edge. But I guess if it’s as good as I hope, you’ll get around to it eventually.

  8. http://www.mcvuk.com/news/32153/Nintendo-Weve-never-neglected-core-gamers

    I think Comment 6. On the website linked illustrates the perception differences that arise when discussing casual vs hardcore (when juxtaposed with your analysis). However the influence that perceived audience demographics has on publishers (and in turn developers) means that although the cause and effect logic of audince vs games (do we play the games they make because the make the games we want to play?) is far from one way. (Further complicated by devlopers trying to balance/reconcile local and international audiences tastes)

  9. Welcome to my world. But then, eventually everyone gets tired of “keeping up with the Jonses” sooner or later. Y’know, metaphorically speaking, or whatever.

  10. I went through a similar thing last gen, where PS2 games started to all look the same and I went retro for months. Strangely, with XBLA, the 360 seems to have the perfect mix for me. But it’s rare that I buy a new console game at full price, when you can get it cheaper a few months later. Also, as my parenting and family duties ramp up my gaming time has shrunk and my backlog has grown. Anyway, a good game is a good game whenever you play it; I’m finally playing Tomb Raider: Legend and having a blast.

  11. The only game I have purchased in the last 6 months is WarioWare: Touched, used, for $15.

    Well, that’s partly because I’m consistently broke, but mainly because I don’t devote much time to games anymore.

  12. Yeah Jeremy, I can relate better than you know. I’ve just gone through more or less a year of tight purse strings, and have been paring down the things I let myself purchase over that time. It looks like there may be something of a financial turnaround on the horizon, but I think the lessons have been learned.

  13. The games of today are not like the games of yesterday. I’m not playing a lot of the new stuff, either. But I’m playing Shining Force 2, Secret of Mana, and Fallout and they still work on me. And I never played SF2 or Fallout back when they were new, so it’s not just nostalgia. The new games have a lot of irritating stuff to get through, like loading screens and endless tutorials, and being forced to grind through egregious story elements. I mean, there’s still good stuff coming out, but it’s different.

  14. We NEED more gaming “historians” like you. Without recognition of the history of games, it’s impossible to find the essence of video games. Until we find what makes video games essentially video games as an artistic pursuit, our medium’s best works will stay insular, without wide recognition.

    That said, GTA4 was kind of a breaking point for me too. After the monumental hype, the result of the schizophrenic game with more issues than I have time to write made me stop caring about hype. It saddens me that it is that hype that makes games king nowadays. It is the bizaare caliber of “AAA” games that people decide before release and refuse to acknowledge games that don’t fit in there. I mean, in my opinion, World of Goo is far better than those “AAA” games but it received so little promotion from anybody. I haven’t even seen gamespite or any 1up blog talk about it, which saddens me.

    That said, I find Fallout 3 oddly refreshing, reminding me of many things I love about big-budget gaming and thankfully somewhat light on what I hate about it.

  15. if anyone needed a topic for new-games journalism, they could certainly write a critique of the industry where new games are concerned. There are so many games being released at such a breakneck pace that the space set aside for them, even in game-only stores, can’t keep up. Shelf life for games is dwindling from months to weeks if they’re lucky enough to get shelf space. I’m speaking of more obscure games here. Time Hollow just came out about a month ago. Unless my area is unique, nobody carries it except Gamestop. And still, its one of those games where Gamestop only has 1 or 2 on hand if they have it at all.

  16. I actually think the Atlus stuff is safe (though I’m getting it anyway because I’m excited to play it) since I can’t think of anything in the past couple years that I know of having gone up in price a lot. Etrian Odyssey did for a little while I guess, but I think it went back down, and before that the next thing can think of is Digital Devil Saga.

  17. shrugged off Castlevania… culling Valkyria Chronicle? someone needs to check your head for a Brain Slug…

  18. After buying pretty much every major release last fall, I got fed up and swore off ever doing that again. This year I’ve spent more of my gaming efforts on rebuilding a lost GameCube library than on paying attention to new releases, and I’ve had a considerably better time with that than with being endlessly disappointed by game press hype.

  19. Between work and my personal life I just don’t have time to play games, and like nunix, I don’t think it’s worth sacrificing spending time with friends to hole myself up in front of my TV. I used to at least purchase RPG releases the day they come out and wait until everything else price drops but I don’t do that anymore. I get more excited hearing about new games than I am about actually playing them and I’m not sure when that change occurred.

  20. I’ve always been really picky with games, so I don’t quite have the same experience there, but I am definitely going through the same thing with music these days. There are too many new bands hitting the radar to keep track of, most of them are crap tossed out by the music blogs as the next big thing then forgotten about a month later, and I have too many bands that I care about already whose new stuff I want to keep up with.

  21. I had to go cold turkey on games a while back thanks to cash and time issues, and I found that I couldn’t get back into games afterward. Breaking my addiction to news and purchases just left me wondering why I ever enjoyed some of this when I tried to play again. RPGs especially feel very un-fun now. The only games I’ve been able to get into are party games like Smash Bros or Halo, and old school games like Mario Galaxy, Metroid, Megaman 2, Earthbound, Zelda 1 [which I had never played before]. My theory is that, over the years, developers didn’t have to make fun games to succeed anymore, they just accumulated so many genre cliches/staples/tropes that they could recycle the same flavourless mush endlessly and people would buy it out of habit. A lot like Hollywood blockbusters, really. I just cannot touch Final Fantasy anymore, it’s so rooted in all the RPG conventions I find boring now [XII is the sad, lonely exception].

  22. I’m all in favor of the mindset of holding off on non-Atlus games and grabbing them used a couple months down the road. If I actually had access to a PS3 (and wasn’t flat broke) I’d try to make an exception for Valkyria Chronicles though. Overworks has this weird niche in the world as the developer of the best games everyone picks up used after the platforms they’re on are dead and buried. Would be nice to help them break out of that some time.

  23. Yeah, I’m still undecided on Valkyria. I doubt I’ll have time to play it this fall, but it’s so dang pretty. Also: so dang good. My finger keeps hovering over the “place order” button to reinstate my intent to purchase it.

  24. I’ve been doing this since I quit my job at GayStop last October. I had a large enough backlog to play that it just wasn’t worth it to pick up something brand new at full price. For example, I just finished the first Gears of War last week and am currently playing Fable: The Lost Chapters. Also thinking about starting Minish Cap really soon. The only game this fall I’m jonesing for is Mirror’s Edge but I did the same thing with Assassin’s Creed last fall and ended up getting that this past April. Damn it feels good to be a cheapskate.

  25. “Eventually everyone gets tired of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ sooner or later.” I’ve seen it stated that most people don’t have trouble keeping up with the Joneses – they have trouble keeping up with the payments.

    With my (fairly) well paying full-time job, singleness and spartan lifestyle finding money to spend on games isn’t a problem but finding time to spend on them is. Especially really long games like RPGs (my game ‘drug’ of choice). I haven’t bothered to get a new console for the two generations (current and previous). I don’t even bother to keep my PC on the cutting tech edge because I mostly just play Flash games or the one browser based game which can (barely) hold my attention. I can’t even remember the last I turned my PlayStation 1 on.

    When I visit my friend during the holidays we play games but the most advanced system we play on is the PS2. And we usually prefer to play the NES (River City Ransom and Contra) or Super NES (Street Fighter).

    I do find the concept of Wii’s Virtual Console very tempting but not the execution of it.

  26. As a newly converted DQ fan, I´m still lamenting the decision of retrofitting DQIX with turn-based battles. Color me skeptical, but my limited imagination simply can´t, well, imagine the multiplayer battles being any fun this way.

  27. I’ve felt like I wanted to keep up with everything I could, but I realized I should just play the games I really want to play. No reason to try to “catch-up”, just try to play as much and enjoy as much as I can. I’ve put in less gaming time, my backlog has grown, and there’s nothing coming this quarter that I’m extremely interested in like a Zelda or Mario. I’m slowly playing through Eclessia since release, but I’m not sure I was done with Mega Man 9 and haven’t dipped into the DLC, Chrono Trigger DS comes out in a few weeks, and FFIV DS is still unopened.

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