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.