PXOD guest contributor Trjn ran a piece at the end of June that declared July to be “Shameless Gaming Month“, that magical time of the year where there’s not a lot of titles coming out so you can power through your backlog. I, however, failed spectacularly, and haven’t finished a single game. Here’s why.
It’s all about the length of time that it takes to complete said games, and the attention span, or in my case, the lack thereof, it takes to roll through extremely protracted stories in open-world games. Two games that reside in my pile of shame are Mass Effect 2 and Fallout: New Vegas. Hefty stories and a lot of game time to clock up, right? I haven’t played either since not long after they each came out, and while I’m a good handful of hours into both (around 8 in New Vegas and 12 in Mass Effect 2, respectively), I can’t bring myself to go back and restart them again because I’ll have wasted those hours.
Being purely honest, I never really gave the games much of a chance from the get go, probably because of the hype that surrounded them. Mass Effect, from its excellent reception by my gaming PC and 360-playing pals and New Vegas pretty much en masse (having Obsidian linked with them had me worried that it would be a bugged mess, though admittedly I haven’t played since shortly after the first patch came out). I don’t remember many defining moments in the story that I can recap to, and I can’t ask either due to the open-ended mission structure of each. Since missions can have various end results and in some cases be taken in a non-specific order, it’s hard to track how far in I am or compare with others without having the game ruined for me, so that means I have to essentially start from scratch in both, waving goodbye to 20 gameplay hours that I have to trawl through again.
Now, us gamers, we’re a pretty volatile bunch, and we’ll rant ourselves senseless about petty grievances regarding DLC and Online Passes and whatever else have you, but more often than not, people complain that games are too short. While, yes, some of them are rather short, and perhaps with the two examples facing me at the moment, I’ve not left myself much to argue with, I’m alright with the length of games at the moment. As long as they’re well-paced and I don’t have to wade through 20 hours to have a decent set of weapons or armour or get to a particularly good stretch of story-writing, I’m fine. But unfortunately with Fallout New Vegas in particular, I’m find that an absolute trudge. Mass Effect is a little less of a chore, but still, not at a pace that immediately appeals to me.
I made the same argument on my personal blog just over a year ago when I tried to force myself into trying to finish Final Fantasy XIII, another game that’s (still) on my Pile of Shame. I shouldn’t have to wade through so many hours of gameplay time, still not know how everything works, still have to ask questions or consult wikis to figure out what’s next or where I go from here. That’s not how you should have to play a game. It’s also one of the reasons I’ve struggled to keep up with playing Dwarf Fortress, the sheer inaccessibility of it is a huge turn-off and, while there was a point in time where I could play it without internet consultation, that’s long past and I probably need a primer to get back into it again.
I actually find it rather amusing that most of my gaming time this month was spent playing games you can’t “finish”. Open-ended games like Terraria, or sports games like NHL 11 and NBA Jam (I’ve barely been able to put it down since installing a Genesis emulator on my Xperia Play) have eaten up my time a lot but don’t seem to bother me as much as the former games do. Yet somehow, I can sink 200+ hours into Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, still not have seen and done everything, yet not bat an eyelid at it. It’s a bit baffling, and somewhat hypocritical of me, yet that’s the way it is and I haven’t been able to change that.
The last reason I’ve not finished anything last month was probably the same thing that held a lot of people up: Steam had a colossal summer sale and our stacks just grew tenfold. I didn’t pick up a lot this year, but I did snag Europa Universalis 3: Chronicles, Terraria, Beat Hazard Ultra, Jamestown, Flight Control HD, Frozen Synapse, Penny Arcade Adventures, and all three seasons of Sam & Max. Funnily enough, I’ve not finished any of these either, not even Jamestown (which is a relatively short run-through).
Perhaps I’m having a sort-of falling out with what gaming has turned into, that its modern form comes across as too much business-oriented with its constant talk of DLC, DRM, Online Passes and everything like that, especially when most games only perform optimally (or even at all) if you’re connected to the internet while playing. Remember when gaming used to be just going to the store, getting your game, playing it and having fun without worrying about what’s already planned around the corner, or feeling shafted because your game isn’t complete since you didn’t pre-order it from Retailer X, or bought it used? Can we have those days back?