Sick day

I feel pretty confident in saying that most of the people who are among the niche enthusiasts who read this site have all had a similar experience growing up: too sick to go to school, spending the whole day curled up in a blanket in front of the TV playing Nintendo. As an adult, with a job and responsibilities, the opportunity to spend a day like that is pretty rare. Still, I can remember with fondness spending something like 14 hours fighting giants in the first Final Fantasy, grinding for levels long before that phrase had ever entered my vocabulary.

I spent the day yesterday too dizzy and light-headed to concentrate on a movie or a book, and just the thought of trying to stare at a blank screen and fill it with words was enough to make my brain feel as though some Lovecraftian creature had laid eggs of non-Euclidean geometry in my skull. Video games to the rescue!

These days, my “comfort game” of choice is Burnout Paradise. I spent five consecutive hours in Paradise City yesterday, which is more time than I sometimes get with a controller in a week, much less a day. I am even more convinced now than I was when I wrote this piece arguing for its consideration for game-of-the-year that Paradise is not only one of the best games of the year in which it was produced, but one of the best games of its entire generation. The variety of things to do in the world is amazing, and the post-launch support has been nothing short of phenomenal, with an optimal mix of free and paid DLC.

Here we have a game, released in the US in January of 2008, that has a substantial downloadable expansion being released. The new modes of play in Big Surf Island, as well the more vertically dense world, are ideas that could have easily supported a sequel set in a new city. Instead of a $60 retail product, though, it’s a $12.99 download. I can’t help but compare this to the news of the Left 4 Dead sequel coming out this year. When the first Left 4 Dead was released, complaints that I and others had about the length of the game were pooh-poohed by defenders who were quick to point out Valve’s historic post-launch support of their games. After just one pack of DLC, though, and only a year later, there’s another $60 full retail release on its way. While each consumer ultimately has to make up his or her mind as to whether or not that amounts a good value, I think splitting the audience on a game where an active online community is a prerequisite for enjoyment is, frankly, wretched, and it only reinforces my stance that spending money on a game where I have to rely on other people in order to make it worthwhile is a waste of money.

[[image:090609_burnout.jpg:Big Surf Island:center:0]]
Besides, if Twitter has proven anything to me, interacting with people while suffering from flu-like symptoms is a really bad idea. Jokes that seem really funny while sick are just embarrassing in the harsh light of day. I suppose this is what it must be like to wake up after a night of drunken bacchanalia, but as I have never been drunk I haven’t had that pleasure. I can only imagine what kinds of things I might have said on XBL or PSN had I chosen online games as the way to make it through my sick day.

6 thoughts on “Sick day

  1. On my first day of 8th grade I went to a new school I hated so much that I got a psychosomatic illness the 2nd day, which I used to rent… wait for it… Tetris 2 on SNES! Yes!

  2. Burnout Paradise is really that good eh? Maybe I should give it another go… I bought it fairly cheap and played it a little when I first got it… but it seemed like all the other Burnout games I’d played before… didn’t give it much more than that.

  3. I actually spend more days calling otu from work and playing games in my adult life when I was a kid. My parents were excruciatingly strict about letting me stay home sick, and if I did, I wasn’t allowed anywhere near the Nintendo.

    Paradise didn’t really do it for me. I really never felt the open world worked with racers, because I would often end up making a wrong turns and end up on the wrong side of the map. It was too much to keep my eyes on race while also figuring out which why I’m supposed to turn. The answer to that question should always be “You don’t need to turn, just go straight.”

  4. I just started playing Burnout Paradise the other day, actually. I don’t usually play a lot of racing or driving games, but I’m completely impressed with this one. It’s everything I’ve wanted racing games to be since I played San Fransisco Rush back on the N64. I loved exploring the tracks and looking for shortcuts and secrets and stuff in that game, so I was really happy to find that there are so many of them in Burnout Paradise. It’s also the only game I’ve ever felt the urge to play online for more than twenty minutes. :P

  5. My suspicion, and I might be wrong, is that if you are interested in making fairly radical core-level engine and AI functionality changes, as Valve is doing for L4D2, and which I’m reasonably certain never happened in B:P, then a new disc of new game is probably the only way to do it. I have trouble envisioning that as a viable download. If all a publisher wants is to release new maps/cars/zombie models/weapon shapes, that’s manageable. If the new version contains extremely significant differences, then I think “new game” is pretty cool. It doesn’t mean I’m going to have the cash to buy it immediately, but it’ll go into the queue.

    Hope you’re feeling better!

  6. As much as I longed for sick days as a kid so I could do exactly what you’re describing, I never actually played video games while sick. If I was only mildly or moderately sick, I was still well enough to go to school, and shoved out the front door. I like to think this has made me a tougher person, but I think it was mostly so my parents wouldn’t burn through their own sick-days too fast. That said, when I was at home sick, I was usually too delirious and exhausted to sit up, let alone move my fingers around frantically. My sick days were spend with TV and VHS tapes as my friend, since the are far more passive, and I can fall asleep while watching them.

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