Monday, June 16, 2014

Get On My Level!

E3 2014 is officially up and running now. Every gamer is bustling with excitement surrounding the next year's releases. Fanboys are buzzing on about why their favorite console or game or company is going to blow yours out of the water this fall. Non-next geners are waiting, cash-in-fist, to be convinced either to toss it at a next gen system or to hold on to it until Black Friday (where they will inevitably make the same considerations again)... And then there's is me... staring at the opening press conferences like this...
Actual selfie.

Okay, okay. I confess that it isn't quite that bad. It actually looks more like this...

Notice the angry reluctance at unhanding next month's rent.

I do have to admit, however, that each year when E3 comes around I do find myself less and less enamored by the goings on. Anyone who knows my taste in gaming wouldn't find this shocking in the slightest. But for the other 7.6 billion of you out there... Well, you could say that I am an indie-hipster gamer, of sorts. Don't let that scare you away. I could have a conversation about how cool Halo 5 looks or how excited we all are for Mortal Kombat X, but I'm somewhat of a devil's advocate when it comes to what's worth buying myself and what's worth heading over to a friend's house for. There are methods for my madness. Three fundamental principles that have defined my gaming nature since I was a wee lad. Hear me out and understand why the opinion of a self-proclaimed hipster may not always be bad.

A screenshot from a fantastic game you've never played: Endless Ocean: Blue World (/hipsterism).

#1. I'm a SNES era gamer at heart.

Yes. The old fogey's defense, as I refer to it. I imagine what this will sound like this in about 10 to 20 years: “Back in my day I used to bike to the laundry mat in hurricane force winds just to play the House of the Dead arcade game! And the light gun on the right was miscalibrated so badly that you had to shoot at the ceiling to hit anything! And I had to bike through an overflowing river to get there! And I had to bring all of the family's laundry to wash with me! And I still had to be home before dark!”

So many wasted quarters...

You get the picture. Old people tell stories about the good ol' days because it's memorable to them. They can relate to the things that they have already experienced. For gamers, it tends to be that way too. Almost anyone my age (that's about thirty for those keeping score) will remember games that they owned in the past fondly. Even if those games weren't their favorites when they did play them. Because I know this, I like to reexpose myself to the days of yore as often as possible to make sure that I am not misguided for suggesting that Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City isn't a bad game (and I stand by that assertion... but that argument is for another article).

This is a thing that actually happened... And I, at some point, will defend it...

The important idea to understand from this rambling is my first foundational idea of gaming:

*If you enjoyed it then, you will likely enjoy it now.

...and if you enjoyed this, you're probably a sadist... but more power to ya'!

#2. I don't/haven't ever kept up with the current gen.

It's true. When I was four I received an NES and a TV for Christmas. That was 1989. Four years after the release of Super Mario Bros. Guess what my first game was? That's right. Super Mario Bros. And guess what game was still fun when I played it for my first time, years after its release? Tetris! Oh, yea, and Super Mario Bros.... but that was hard, so I didn't play it as much.

When the SNES debuted in '91 I was glued to my television every time I saw an ad for Super Mario World. After owning and playing Mario Bros. 2 and 3 I knew that this next game was going to be absolutely amazing. My mother, in an unsuccessful attempt to keep me from spiraling toward eternal video game geekdom, declared that I could only have one video game system at a time, and my second grade aged self determined that it would probably be for the best to enjoy my amassed collection of 8-bit treasure rather than to throw it all away for the newest 16-bit glory. Logic held that my friends would probably con their parents into buying one for them, and I could just go over a friend's house to play. It paid off in dividends as I got to experience the best of both worlds, even if it was only on occasion.

Road Rash: The primary reason for visiting my friend Adam.

Eventually, around 1994-95, I ended up bored with my collection and giving in to the 16-bit era like everyone else had.

Me playing NES, circa 2000.

This trend continued on with the Gamecube, Dreamcast, Playstation, PS2, Wii, and even the Xbox360. Come to think of it, I've never owned any console within two years of its release window aside from the Nintendo 64 (that Super Mario 64 was just too good to pass up!)... But I've developed, for myself, an important second foundational principle:

*Buying later means buying cheaper and having (generally) larger libraries.
Oh, these? These are just my instruction manuals.

#3.My scrutinizing eye has rarely failed me.

This might be the most indie thing about my taste in gaming: While many gaming fans already have their money in hand ready to throw it at any awesome thing they see, my approach to anything video game related tends to be more reserved. Generally speaking, in the past ten years or so, there has only been about one or two games that I see at E3 in a given year that make me go, “Yes! This is a pre-order game!” Don't get me wrong, I see a metric-butt-ton of stuff that looks super cool and awesome every year, but it takes more than just looking awesome to pry sixty bucks out of my hands.

E3 is supposed to be innovative and evocative. The games there are supposed to feel new and fresh. Newer and fresher than a regular any other time of the year reveal. If it doesn't stand out to me as being dramatically unlike anything I have seen before or vastly different from it's predecessor (if it's a sequel) then it probably isn't for the E3 reserved cash.

Sadly, I can't explain exactly what I'm looking for when I make those determinations about what catches my eye. Things just... do.

While everyone else was playing Contra, I was feeding gorillas bubble gum!

For example, looking at last years exhibition list these are the titles which caught my eye:

Elder Scrolls Online
Duck Tales: Remastered
Disney Infinity
Plants Vs Zombies 2
Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare
Sunset Overdrive
Project X Zone
The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Mario Kart 8
Pikmin 3
Pokemon X and Y
Super Smash Bros. (for Wii U and 3DS)
Rayman Legends
Lego Marvel Super Heroes
Scribblenauts: Unmasked
Rune Factory 4

Want to take a guess at how many of those games I've actually gotten around to play?

A: 9/19

Do you know how many of them I actually own?

A: 2/16 (Three of them still haven't been released at the time of writing this.)
Project X Zone: An obscure game that references even more obscure games... I don't own it (/anti-hipsterism).
Do they all still look as awesome now as they did then? Certainly not. Do I still plan on purchasing more of those games in the future? Surely. Am I happy with the games that I did get? Most definitely.

What caused most of these to get pushed to the backburner is time and money, honestly. If I bought everything that I wanted I would have a huge backlog of games that I never really played (I'm looking at you, Steam...). As I type this, right now, I have a copy of LA Noire and Batman Arkham City that don't even have 3 hours logged on them, combined. And those are two “Game of the Year” type games. Don't get me wrong. The short amount of time that I spent with them has been fun. The hitch is that I bought them at the same time that I purchased Rocksmith 2014; a game that I'd been waiting to play for ages prior. A game that, in fact, had been demonstrated at E3 2013 (but didn't catch my eye until around Christmas). They had no playable chance upon their acquisition, because I already knew that they were good and fun. Every outlet of media and gamers had already told me. But I absolutely needed to see what Rocksmith 2014 was about then and there. And so, it ended up getting the attention that Arkham City and LA Noire garnered from so many others.

Splendor I have not yet witnessed.
Even now, after my initial infatuation with Rocksmith 2014 has dwindled, been replaced by Hitman: Absolution, NBA 2K14, Saints Row: The Third, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (2nd playthru), Forza Horizon (2nd playthru), and even Rocksmith 2014 again from time to time, it's still probably going to take some time before I delve deeply into Arkham and Noire for one simple reason: The games that I am really looking forward to play have priority over the games that everyone else says I should play. I mean, I already know that they are good. I would rather experience something that you can't tell me about (if that's not indie-hipsterish I don't know what is...). Which vaguely brings me to my final principle:

*Play what you like. Video games are meant to be fun!

This was (and still probably is) your dad's Modern Warfare.

There are all kinds of gamers out there that play different things for different reasons. So, what do you think? What drives you to play the kinds of games that you play? What games do you think I may have missed out on because I've played against type? Do you think I used too many graphics?

Either way, check for my article in the coming week to find out what actually DID catch my eye at E3 this year and compare your gaming pallet with mine.

~Cameron Moore

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