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.