RPGs or everything else, but not both

I never owned a PS2, so when I picked up a backwards-compatible PS3 I initially started collecting all the well-known RPG games I missed. I had a shelf full of games that included Nocturne, Digital Devil Saga, Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2, Final Fantasy XII, Rogue Galaxy, Dragon Quest VIII, et al. As more and more next gen games were released I found myself never getting around to playing my “backlog,” as it were. When my gaming time is limited, devoting dozens of hours to a single RPG just wasn’t as appealing as knocking out four or five titles in other genres within the same timeframe. Also, with action or puzzle or sports games I can multitask, and listen to audio books or podcasts while I play. Since so many RPGs are filled with text and/or voiced narrative it’s impossible to do that same thing.

Eventually, I just gave up and sold all the games that made me feel bad for not playing them. What’s the use of having a shelf full of games if you’re never going to get to them?

I think my main problem was that I am something of a gaming dilettante. I like a wide variety of games and I like to play everything that’s current. For me, part of the fun of this hobby is the community, and much of the discussion in the community hinges on being familiar with what’s “hot”. There are, of course, niches you can insert yourself into. For example, on this very website is a forum full of people who are perfectly happy discussing old RPGs from the previous era. So if I really wanted, I could give up my addiction to the new and shiny and focus on old games. There are plenty of places online where I could find a supportive group of people to discuss those games with. So why don’t I?

Maybe I’m using this as an excuse, but I work in games retail, and it is very difficult not to bring the new shinies home with me every week. My customer base is full of people who are also only about the new and the hot, and it’d be hard to relate to them if I were going home every night and playing a MegaTen game, ignoring the new releases. Plus, I enjoy the writing and podcasts that come out of sites like 1UP, Giant Bomb, and Gamers with Jobs, and much of those podcasts assume a familiarity with what is new and what is coming soon. Because I consume so much game media, and because part of my job is to build hype for an upcoming game at the store level, it is very difficult not to be a part of it.

It helps that cost isn’t that much of an issue for me. Between free rentals and the freebies publishers send me, I’ve got access to more games than I could ever play. I might not have gotten past the first few interminable hours of Persona 3 (I have to join the swim team in high school? Really? I just want to fight monsters), but I played every single non-RPG major release this entire year, and many of the minor ones as well.

Sometimes I almost miss the days when I was a kid, and I only had two new games a year to play. One for Christmas, and one for my birthday. I played trash like the NES version of Back to the Future for dozens of hours just because that’s all I had. I feel like I’d get more out of the games I played if I could devote more time to them, instead of breezing through them to add a notch to my bedpost before moving on to my next conquest. I finished the stories in Dead Space and Prince of Persia, but if I didn’t have other games I could go back and finish upgrading all the weapons or collecting all the lightseeds. I am actually annoyed when a game has too much content, because it’s keeping me from moving on to the rest of my list.

I feel like I should stop and smell the roses, and this small lull before Street Fighter IV seems like a great time to go back and squeeze a few more hours out of games that I finished. On the Talking Time forums, someone is proposing a moratorium on new game purchases until March. I agree with the sentiment, and wish I could do that, but I can’t not get new games: they just show up sometimes. Also, in February I’ll be dabbling in Godfather II, Fear 2, and Skate 2 inbetween Street Fighter IV sessions.

I might not ever get the comprehensive gaming literacy I missed when I was either a Nintendo-only gamer (during the 64 era) or a lapsed gamer(missed most of 2000-2006), but on the bright side, in 20 years I’m going to be an expert on the retro that is going on all around us right now. That’s right, I’m a Future-Retronaut.

10 thoughts on “RPGs or everything else, but not both

  1. Play what you like to play! Why does everyone seem to have so much guilt over not playing their backlog? I love my backlog and expand it constantly. When I am in the mood for a certain game all I have to do is walk over to my shelf.

  2. I agree. I started enjoying gaming again this year when I decided I don’t need to be on top of every current release to do my job. Very liberating!

  3. This article is me coming to terms with the idea that while I’m not very good at being a “retronaut”, I am quite enjoying being a “current-naut”. Would having played Kingdom Hearts really make me a more fulfilled person than having played Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space? Probably not.

  4. I agree. I used to be on top of everything. Then I stopped upgrading my computer for games, and now I don’t play every triple A console title. I am very far behind, but I don’t really miss the new games that much. As a bonus, it is much cheaper to play older games than it is to buy every game at $60 as it comes out. The biggest casualty is my geek cred. Luckily the women in my life don’t seem to mind that I don’t know what happended to Dom’s wife.

  5. Yeah I quit trying to keep up once I finally quit working at GameStop. It’s nice playing 2 to 4 year old games whenever I find the time to. Plus my gaming life is now far cheaper than it would be buying new releases. Getting a game that came out 6 months or so ago at $20 to $40 less is far more rewarding to me and my wallet.

  6. Same here. I could care less about what’s new, when what’s old is usually cheaper, and many times more suitable to my tastes. (Turn based strategy, turn based RPGs, 80s style arcade games.)

    I used to make the comment “Is your life really gonna be that negatively impacted if you don’t play the newest game on day one?”

    Naturally many people say YES. These people are wrong.

    Hell, one of my favorite games is the Atari 5200/8 Bit computer Gremlins game. First time I played it? 2003-04.

    I’ve had people all but flip out at me for DARING not to buy Bioshock till it got cheaper. And by this point it doesn’t really sound like a game I HAVE to play anyhow.

    Heck, I got Orange Box for 20, played Half Life 2 for 2 hours and thought “Ya know, I think I am pretty much done with this genre, just like MMORPGs. Its all the same thing, and unlike some genres I seem to be getting LESS fun with every new game I play.”.

    Maybe Portal will blow my mind whenever I get around to playing it, but its ok not to follow the herd and play what’s hot.

    Heck, 2 weeks ago I decided to take advantage of my huge unplayed or unfinished library of games. I set a D20 roll, picked a bunch of games I could play easily (and a couple of Wii VC title options), and rolled the die: 1: Beyond the Beyond 2: Lunar Eternal Blue 3: Wild Arms 4: Arc the Lad 2 5: Final Fantasy 5 6: Vagrant Story 7: Final Fantasy 9 8: Secret of Mana (Wii VC buy) 9: Super Mario RPG (Wii VC buy) 10: Paper Mario (Wii VC buy) 11: Final Fantasy 10 (continued game) 12: Final Fantasy 12 (continued game) 13: Dragon Quest 8 (continued game) 14: La Pucelle (continued game) 15: Disgaea 2 (continued game) 16: Ys Ark of Napsthim (continued game) 17: Silent Hill 3 18-20: Action game. Reroll. (Aka: Make a list of action titles I want to finish and roll again.)

    It worked rather well, though I gave myself a self pitying its the holidays reroll since I got FF12 which I am kinda bored of and is the most recently played game on the list. (60 hours in and I don’t seem to be anywhere near the end.)

    Outside of wanting new Atlus games I have realized I just don’t NEED any new games. The fact I am sick of grey, brown, FPS, RTS, MMO, Gangster, Realistic Sports, and Diablo clones helps this of course.

  7. My strategy has been to buy a Wii, and thus not have to worry about new releases anymore.

    Atlus keeps disrupting my strategy by releasing new games that feel old, so you don’t feel guilty.

  8. This post and the articles contained in this thread sum up my feeling on the current state of gaming precisely. My backlog is so huge, I could literally open a new and used store. I’m a sucker for the latest and greatest of all genres (except sim sports…stuff like Blitz, Strikers or MLB Power Pros is cool tho). I rarely finish a game, and it feels like a chore to drag myself back to play. I think the last game I finished was Dead Space, which was amazing BTW.

    I’m currently about 20+ hours into The Last Remnant, and right now, I could care less if I ever turn it on again. It feels like a game I might have to play forever just to get to the 2nd disc, which I feel is a waste of the little bit of gametime I get nowadays. Same for Fallout 3…I LOVE the game, but it’s a bit too sandboxy for me. In my older age, I have new found appreciation for linearity.

    I’m currently playing Suikoden 1 on mah PSP when I’m at work, and I’m loving it (1st time playing). Luckily, my job provides ample gametime, and to me it’s like bonus free time, because I’m at work. Thank God too, cause with my 1st born due next month, I’ll be hard pressed for ANY gaming for awhile. My goal in life is to somehow retire early enough to play every game I own or will own before I die. I used to say beat every game I own, but the reality of my situation is slowly becoming clear.

    Bah, I’m ranting now, but yeah. Other than SF4, Madworld and Sin and Punishment 2, everything else can wait awhile. Matter of fact, I secretly wish that this recession will slow down releases a lot just so that I can attempt to catch up on my backlog with no distractions. Not saying I want another crash of ’83, but then again, I probably woundn’t mind it. Hell, I still need to get back to God Hand!!

  9. A system I’ve taken to is just dabbling in the first few hours of a game, and if it doesn’t compel me to keep playing, I drop it in favor of the next. If something isn’t completely enthralling and hooks you in the beginning, it doesn’t deserve your time of day. Like writing a good book or paper, games should have an interesting hook in the beginning in order to immediately differentiate themselves – especially in story-reliant RPGs.

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