Five video game genres that I stopped playing and why

It’s weird when you look back at your life and see how you’ve changed, grown, and sometimes simply stopped doing things you used to be really into.  While I’m just as crazy about adventure games, RPGs, and many strategy titles as I ever was, I freely acknowledge that there are types of video games that have long departed my sphere of interest.  Here are five genres that I’ve stopped playing and why:

rts1. Real-time strategy

Starting with Dune 2 and the C&C series in college, I was seriously hooked on RTS games.  They offered a high level of replayability and strongly appealed to my lack of twitch-based gaming habits.  Building up a huge base and engaging in epic battles was so much fun, and I played them pretty hard until 2002 or 2003.  There wasn’t anything that made me up and quit them, I just moved on.  I guess I felt that I had been there, done that so many times and the field hadn’t really advanced much.  Prettier graphics and better controls, sure, but where was the innovation?  Starcraft 2, Tiberian Sun, and pretty much all of the other entries since the mid-2000s didn’t tempt me into going back.

sports2. Sports

You know how you sometimes get wrapped up in a hobby or interest that’s contrary to your own inclinations but you do so anyway because people you like are into them?  That was the sports game genre for me.  I had a couple good friends in high school who were major sports buffs, so I played Blades of Steel and baseball simulators and golfing games and too many basketball titles to count because that’s what they did.  But as soon as I left for college, I stopped cold turkey and my brain has thanked me ever since.


3. First-person shooter

Man FPS games were the diggity-dawgity bomb!  Wolfenstein?  Taught me all the German I ever needed to know.  Doom?  Made me think long and hard about the perils of space exploration.  Heretic, Serious Sam, Half-Life (the first, never much cared for the second)… I rode this wave for a good, long time.  I still don’t have a huge problem with them, except that I generally like seeing my avatar more and I’m not into the PvP aspect that most FPS titles focus on.  Trying to play an FPS on a console these days is seriously one of the most painful experiences for a mouse-and-keyboard guy, even though I used to rock at Perfect Dark and Goldeneye.  How much am I dating myself here?

4. Space 4X

I’m aware that there have been space 4X games since Master of Orion, but apart from a brief affair with Galactic Civilizations, I’ve mostly steered clear of them.  Sometimes they seem too complicated and not containing that “personality” that I’m looking for.  But it could also be that 4X games demand so much time and if I’m going to play a game for that long, I’m going to be in an MMO.

bionic5. Platformers

I can tell you to the minute when I stopped wanting to play platformers: When the genre went 3D.  2D platformers on the Atari 2600, NES, and SNES were terrific, but when the N64 and PlayStation started demanding that I master a third dimension, I had a strong and severe revolt that involved throwing a controller across the room and downing an entire Dr. Pepper with a stern expression on my face.  Since then I’ve seen a generation come and go that claimed that Super Mario 64 was some sort of classic, a claim that makes me want to spit like a cobra into the face of the speaker each and every time.  That boxy, ugly, misshapen thing?  Nay, give me Super Mario World and make it double, please.

It’s pleased me to see that 2D platforming has come back into vogue, especially on mobile devices, but my reflexes aren’t as sharp as they were when I was a teen and I don’t have as much patience for them any longer.

Sorting through musical history

I began collecting MP3s back in… 1999, it was?  I remember converting my old CDs and downloading new tunes on Napster via a dial-up connection (one song in 10 minutes… what futuristic technology is this?).  Since then my collection has certainly grown, although mostly I’ve specialized in soundtracks (movies and video games).

It’s also become a huge, bloated mess.  I have a decade-and-a-half of files sitting in various folder categories, and while some are quite organized, others haven’t been touched since I originally attained them.

So one of my recent projects is to listen through and sort out my “pop/rock” folder which contains some 2,000 tracks.  Going through the folder has horrified me how slapdash my previous approach was, since most of these songs haven’t been formatted according to my current (post-2007) scheme.  Some have song titles first, then band names.  Some don’t have band names at all.  Some are all in lower-case.  And so many of them I didn’t bother to rate, which is a quick visual indicator how good I think a song is (one + for good, two ++ for favorite, nothing for adequate).  I don’t even remember ever downloading quite a few of these songs or what I was thinking for keeping them for so long.

I’ve been deleting, renaming, and re-rating a lot of them, which should feel really good once it’s all said and done.  Next up after that with my music projects?  Finishing listening through the Elder Scrolls Online soundtrack and then going through 250 new video game music tracks from the latest Game Music Bundle.  Hey, $10 for 250 tracks is too good to pass up!

The Secret World: A fistful of bees

Our Monday night Secret World group reconvened to tackle the second of the four investigation missions: Immersion, AKA “The Game.”

game1The mission started out with one of the very few alive Orochi in the game, this one in the camp in Scorched Desert.  I didn’t really catch the purpose behind this mission, other than to grab an Orochi tablet and try to make contact with Tokyo.

Once we connected with Orochi headquarters, the tablet started us playing “The Game v1.0″ — a bonified, electrified, genuine text adventure game. In an MMO. Yes, chalk this up to another thing you’ll never see in any MMO other than this one. It’s a pretty robust game despite having a rather weak text parser (sometimes you have to be very precise in what you’re asking). The weird thing is that the entire game mimics the world — what happens in the text game and the places it describe can be found outside of The Game. This is actually the point, as you need to play through each leg of The Game to find where the SD card with the next version is hidden. We ended up hopping all over the world, from London to New England to Korea.

Despite the occasional frustration of “what do I do now?” The Game was pretty entertaining. It was fun to do while chatting in a group, because we were able to groupthink it and laugh about the funnier lines. And we died a lot — once on purpose because the quest demanded it.

The encounter with the Hive Hum — the bees — in The Game gave me chills, especially as the bees themselves seemed to be very aware of the meta nature of this exercise.

Best line ever? I agree.

I can only imagine how long it took this developer to make The Game and how much of his or her sanity was sacrificed in doing so. It’s a pretty lengthy quest, with five versions of The Game needing to be found.

The Game eventually led us to one of the Council of Venice “holodeck” rooms, which started up and displayed a few eerie messages before shutting down.

And the last word displayed before the quest closed out was the name “John.” Who is John?

One other thing: Each stage of The Game gave you passwords to continue into the next stage, and these passwords seem to be telling us a lot about what’s to come:


Gabriel Knight 2: Reunited at last!

(This is part of my journey playing through Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

gr1The final chapter of the game (stick with me — we’re on the home stretch now!) begins with a long, trippy sequence.  First there’s a portion where Grace is making out with Ludwig II who then transforms into Gabe.  Then Gabe has “last week on Gabriel Knight 2″ flashbacks to everything we just saw in the last chapter, with an emphasis on two wolves and the Black Wolf and DUDE VON GLOWER IS THE REAL ENEMY.

gr2Then Gabe falls off of his bed and realizes that the bite from Von Zell is most likely turning him into a werewolf too.  Fortunately, Ludwig II — now in ghost form — shows up to Gabe and gives him ghostly flashbacks to show how Luddy hid that secret Wagner opera all over his castle.  Since that music looks like it’s the cure for werewolfism, I can see the path that this game is setting forth.

gr3Finally, Grace shows up and the two have a tender reunion, by which I mean that Gabe shrieks “GET OUUUUT!” and Grace locks him up in the town dungeon.  Theirs is a love story for the ages.

re1Grace is all concerned and Gabe is all regretful and this scene is just so dang cheesy to watch.  I really have started to hate the music in this game, but at least the over-acting is entertaining enough to compensate.  I guess they both know now that Von Glower is the Black Wolf, although Grace doesn’t fully explain why she hauled Gabe down into a dungeon to recouperate instead of his luxurious castle.  Maybe I should give her a lot of credit to think that she’s doing it in case he turns into a werewolf and the dungeon will keep him locked away from innocents?  Nah, I think she just wanted to bust his chops.

After going out to the post office, Grace finds a letter from Von Glower to Gabe.  It’s pretty revealing and corrects a few misconceptions that I’ve had.  Von Glower hasn’t transformed the entire hunting lodge into werewolves; he’s surrounded himself with like-minded people to indoctrinate into his hunting philosophy in the hopes that they would make good candidates for the “change” and become companions to him.  Von Zell was an experiment and that failed badly.  Von Glower hopes that Gabe will adjust well to the change and come hang out with him after.  Awesome.

re2Grace finds Mrs. Smith in the tavern and the two of them have a conversation that’s mostly meant to fill in exposition gaps as to what’s been happening over the past day or so.  They did lock Gabe up in the dungeon for protection and the two say that Von Glower’s death is needed to help Gabe.  But Grace is also hot to go after the lost opera, so she’s got her hands full.

re3Speaking of having her hands full, here’s Grace kidnapping a pigeon and shoving it into her coat.  I find this game’s visual portrayal of inventory acquisition hilarious, since Grace and Gabe are forever putting things into and pulling them out of their bottomless trenchcoats.  So Grace, is that a live bird in your pocket or are you happy to see me?

Weekend gaming report

gwwwwwwI had a very busy if scattered weekend of gaming, so here’s what I’ve been up to:

LOTRO: I’ll write up a longer post later on about the continuing adventures through Update 13.  It definitely feels like a much smaller edition so I’m trying hard not to zoom through it too quickly.  If nothing else, it reminded me how much I dislike the visuals of Isengard and am very glad I’m leaving that place behind forever.

Guild Wars 2: Nothing super-special here, just logging in to do dailies.  Dailies definitely seem to take a lot longer after the feature pack drop, mostly due to a smaller selection of options.  Some days I can breeze through them, but I’ve had at least two days where it’s taken me a good hour or more to wrap them up.  My Mesmer is level 41 and more or less doing well.  I haven’t really figured out a build with her yet, but since I won’t even hit the second tier of traits until 60, I have plenty of time to figure it out.  Hilariously enough, I’ve yet to leave the starting zones (I’m on the last one, the Sylvari zone).

The Wolf Among Us: I took an hour and a half to do the third episode, The Crooked Mile.  I really lament how short these episodes are, especially since there are no puzzles to slow down the rapid pace through the story.  It was definitely interesting and kept the twists and turns of the plot coming.  I also decided I must grab this soundtrack if it’s available.

Diablo 3: This actually sucked up quite a bit of my time.  Maybe I’m just in the mood lately for mindless action-RPGing, but dang if it wasn’t a fun couple of sessions.  After poking around a bit on a Monk, I rerolled a new Witch Doctor because throwing spiders on things is far too awesome to ignore.  I even joined a guild (er, clan) and appreciated the more social aspect of the game that’s arisen since the expansion.  Speaking of, I’m debating getting Reaper of Souls, but I think I’ll wait to see if I stick this out through the end of the storyline.  Other than the Crusader class, I don’t think the lack of the expansion is limiting my play experience at all.

My WildStar crew, part 2

And here are my efforts to create fun-looking characters over on the Dominion side of things:

cass1It might just be me, but it seems as though Cassians get better options, especially in the hairstyle department.  Seriously, how could I *not* choose this ‘do?  She’s classy and bossy and has far longer arms than I do.

cass2Well there’s a face that only a mother could run screaming away from.  Since I almost never roll characters with horns, I don’t see myself playing a Draken.  So might as well have fun with the look, right?  In a weird way, I could see this growing on me.

cass3The Chua have some of the best character creation options, I have to say.  You can go super-cute, but you can also ugly/weird them up something fierce.  A chubby Chua with torn ears, a black eye, and snaggleteeth?  I’m kind of in love with him.

cass4Props to Carbine for allowing a few Mechari faces that look far more robotic than pseudo-humanoid.  I really like this “tennis racket” design and the color scheme that went with it.

Interestingly enough, after creating eight characters from all eight races, I must say that Dominion has more looks that appeal to me than Exile.  At least I have options depending on which side my guild rolls!

Quote of the Day: Trait revamp

“Between the level increase to unlock traits (seriously, waiting until level 30 is terrible. If it had to have been changed, it should have been to level 20, at the highest), and the requirements to then unlock traits, I see this as being something that is more likely to hinder and put off new players, rather than make it easier, as was the intention.”

~ Under the Pale Tree