By request: Buying games outside your comfort zone

By request of acurran

I confess, I find some of the Talking Time fundraiser topics I’ve been handed to be bafflingly ambiguous. I suppose I could confirm the intent behind them, but where’s the fun in that? No, better to just wing it. It’s the most righteous way of things.

This topic is one of them: “Buying games outside your comfort zone.” Did acurran mean buying games in genres and styles you don’t know and feel intimidated by? Did he mean shopping in parts of town you find frightening? Or did he mean exploring content you find uncomfortable? It is a mystery. So let me address all three possibilities.

1. Buying games in genres and styles you don’t know and feel intimidated by

Simple solution here: Don’t do it.

To put it in a less glib way, there’s no need to do it. To go out and spend $30, $50, $60 on a game you don’t feel confident about. It’s dumb and pointless.

Speaking from personal experience here, I have spent – or rather, wasted – thousands of dollars over the years due to some weird, misguided sense that I need to buy games. I need to be a well-rounded gamer and expand my horizons. I should support developers even if they make games I don’t enjoy. I need to be on top of every single current release in order to do my job. Yeah, that’s all bunk. I don’t owe no one nothin’, and neither do you. It took me years to figure this out; I hope you’ll sort it out more quickly than I did.

It’s good to be a well-rounded gamer, if that’s something you want. It’s good to support developers you like. And even if your job is to cover games, it’s the height of futility to attempt to stay on top of releases, considering how many games come out each week these days through both retail and the various digital venues. It’s OK! Relax! Unless you’re making them for a living, games just aren’t that important. Enjoy them, and don’t force yourself to slog through genres and formats you don’t enjoy (unless you’re getting paid for a review, in which case follow that suffering with a chaser of a personal favorite).

Rentals and demos exist for the explicit purpose of giving you a chance to enjoy a taster of things you’re not sure about. For some reason, once I started working (and thus could afford to buy games) I stopped renting. That was dumb. There’s value in trying games in new genres and styles – I picked up games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Klonoa, Pikmin, Marathon, and many others not expecting to enjoy them and ended up loving them. But at the same time, I’ve wasted a crapload of money buying lots of other games I hated, or that gathered dust. The misses grossly outnumbered the surprise successes. I could have so much dough in the bank if I’d had the sense to rent instead. Don’t be me, kids. I’m dumb.

2. Shopping in parts of town you find frightening

Yeah, upscale malls weird me out, too. What are you doing, risking your life amongst the yuppies? Just buy online, jeez.

3. Exploring content you find uncomfortable

This one’s a little trickier. What content makes you uncomfortable? Sexual content? Violent content? Cute? Grim? Austere? Emotionally raw? Whatever the case, there’s value in pushing your own boundaries. In challenging your assumptions. If only to reaffirm them.

These days, I’m most put off by (mostly Western) excessively violent games and (mostly Japanese) games that sexualize characters who clearly couldn’t legally be sexualized if they were real people. I’m perfectly happy to avoid those games whenever possible… but I’m also willing to listen when people tell me, “There’s more here than the surface appearances you’re reacting to.”

I recently did that with Senran Kagura, which some people swear has super engrossing game mechanics and excellent characterization that more than makes up for the fact that the entire cast consists of 15-year-old girls with enormous breasts presented with a camera that embodies the concept of “male gaze.” OK, I said to myself. I will review the game for USgamer.

I managed to survive about three hours with the game before abandoning ship. I could feel the sliminess oozing over me with each new mission I played. I guess the text-based narrative sequences were meant to offset the camera-zooms that focused on their butts and breasts whenever their costumes exploded from taking damage, but it doesn’t matter how many visual novel segments you shoehorn in to talk about these innocent girls’ hopes and dreams. It doesn’t change the fact that the game action revolves around stripping those innocent girls down to their underwear while zooming up close to their massive wobbling secondary sexual characteristics. I ended up not reviewing it, and also deleting it from my 3DS.

Hmmm… I’m not sure what advice this constitutes, besides “Senran Kagura is pretty gross, y’all.” But you know, at least I gave it a shot, even if it turned out to be every bit as terrible as I feared. On the other hand, Yoshi’s New Island turned out to be much better than I expected? But then again, I didn’t pay for either game, so I can’t really say I would have felt good about taking a failed chance on Senran Kagura.

Actually, my advice to you is… make friends with someone who has no impulse control about buying video games and mooch off them. Don’t indiscriminately buy games outside of any comfort zone you may happen to possess. Demo, rent, borrow. Save your cash for the games you like enough to want to own. And for ice cream!



10 thoughts on “By request: Buying games outside your comfort zone

  1. Senran Kagura…I read the articles about how it was supposed to be a hidden gem underneath all the fanservice, and was probably going to put the money into it (wouldn’t be the first slimy game I’ve bought for the mechanics), but I’m richer for knowing that the creepy boob mechanics are just as excessive as I suspected. Its proponents say that it’s actually objectification to think of the characters as only fanservice and dismiss the game because of it, which I think is somehow willfully ignoring “the fact that the game action revolves around stripping those innocent girls down to their underworld while zooming up close to their massive wobbling secondary sexual characteristics. ” (great quote)

    Maybe they have dissonance that makes them justify their investment in the game.

  2. I don’t know, outside of Final Fantasy 1 and 2 on the iPad I hadn’t played a true RPG since the 90’s. And I bought Etrian odyssey 4 based on your recommendation and that was way out of my comfort zone. And also my favorite 3DS game last year.

  3. I actually quite disagree with your number 1. Though it’s quite silly to try to stay on top of ALL releases, even some of the ones that don’t interest you (as mostly an RPG fan, I can’t even keep up with the games I KNOW I like), I like to take a chance and drop $20 on the odd game that never appealed to me a year or two ago. Tastes change, after all, and you never know until you explore new stuff.

    I used to be a fan of narrative driven RPGs (having grown up on a steady diet of FF), but one day I gave Etrian Odyssey a try (thanks Parish!) and it became my favorite series. Mind you, having to create an entire party from scratch, having very little narrative, being in first person, and being a game whose entire purpose is just “explore this dungeon,” it represented pretty much the opposite of what I had come to enjoy in my RPGs. And I ended up loving it.

    Don’t really like Metroidvania games, but I picked up Guacamelee on a whim and loved it… I usually shun the really tense real-time games, but Bioshock and Demon’s Souls had me hooked…

    I guess my point is that personally I’ve found it can be pretty rewarding to pick up the type of games (from time to time) that you wouldn’t normally consider to be very appealing.

    (By the same token, how many times have you picked up a game in your favorite genre and found it disappointing? Happens more often that we care to admit, I think.)

    • I didn’t say not to try those games. And sure, there’s nothing wrong with an impulse purchase now and again. I’m just advising cautious spending.

  4. On PC steam makes this issue a bit murkier. When I can try games out of my comfort zone cheaper than old blockbuster rentals, it leads to a lot random impulse purchases that sting a lot less than taking a chance on a $30 PSP or 3DS game.

    PSN is starting to do the same and my poor impulse control is having fits dealing with this!

  5. This is why game sales are so good. I know they get a bad rap from some people in the media and developers. But if a game is recommended to me and I see it on sale for less then $15, I am willing to risk it. I use this website to track sales for the PC.

  6. I’ve managed to curb a lot of my impulsive game purchases, at least so far as full price games go. If a game is on sale though, I’m much more likely to give it a shot if I think that I might possibly enjoy it.

    Though thinking about sales right now, I wish there was an easy way to pay the difference. Like say if you buy a game for half off and enjoy it there was a way to pay the full price. Right now if you buy a game on a deep discount sale, there isn’t much you can do other than spread awareness for it or maybe buy gift copies for your friends.

  7. I also have spent far too much money on games I didn’t end up enjoying out of a misguided sense of being a well rounded gamer or bowing to the pressure of popular trends in video gaming…

    That ended around the time my backlog went from large to vast beyond imagination (Thanks Steam Sales.) I now have a collection of games that I know I’ll like that is so big that anytime I get the compulsion to purchase something on a whim, follow the crowd, or be a better gamer, I just open up my Steam library and play something there instead…

  8. This is one of the reasons why I’m glad I got a PSN Plus suscription. At a fairly cheap price I can “rent” games from out of my comfort zone. That’s how I got hooked in Far Cry 3, for example, and how I discovered that as much as I loved Burnout Paradise its spiritual sequels are not for me.

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