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Changing Focus

If you've been reading this blog, you'll know I've been posting game reviews of mostly old games on a not-at-all-regular basis. If you haven't been reading this blog, I'm not sure why you decided to now, but cool. It's been a little while since I've written an update on here, but there hasn't been anything for me to update you on. Until now, that is. I don't have anything major to share, but if you like to follow me I'll share with you how I'm going to sort of pivot this blog's focus.

Lately I've been playing through games in my backlog at a very leisurely pace. Usually when I'm looking for a new game to start, I'll sort through my library by release date and play the oldest one that I find interesting. My reasoning being that if I already own the games, I might as well play them. I guess I sort of feel a sense of a sunk cost fallacy, as I don't want to have bought the games only to never give them a shot. However, this leads to me not really giving myself the chance to experience games when they are relevant in popular culture. (Shit, it took me more than a decade after its release to play though Half Life) It makes me always feel years behind, like a recently released convict trying to adjust to modern life in a quickly changing world. I know this is all self-inflicted, and may seem silly, but I get a bit of a FOMO feeling if I don't play all these great, but older games.

Currently my list of owned, but not yet played games is floating around 300, and my list of games I've been wanting to buy and play is at roughly 150. I realize that I'll never realistically be able to finish my backlog and play all the games on my watchlist, and even if I could somehow play every game I currently own, the rate of new games being made isn't slowing down. Not to get morbid, but it makes me sad to think that there is a finite amount of games that I'll be able to play before I die. (And that's without mentioning all the other great things in life that I want to experience) I know it's not healthy to think like that, and it's not like I'll be on my deathbed wishing I had gotten around to playing Halo 43, but I can get into a hole thinking about these kinds of things that is difficult to climb out of sometimes.

So, given that there will always be way more new games that I want to play than I will ever be able to, I'm going to sort of take a Marie Kondo approach to choosing which games I am going to play. (Let me finish) To start, we all know that there are tons of big budget, mass appeal games that are released every year (think Call of Duty, NBA 2K, Assassin's Creed) that really only try to push those intense action, shut-your-brain-off entertainment buttons, a la Marvel's Avengers movies. There's nothing wrong with that of course, but for me, these games don't really leave me with a lasting, satisfying feeling when I play them. In fact, I tend to not play these games already, or if I do, I usually don't finish them. I usually stick to smaller games, usually made by indie developers, such as Undertale by Toby Fox, or Transistor by Supergiant Games. Now don't get me wrong, there are real gems out there made by larger studios like God of War (2018) by Sony's Santa Monica Studio or Metal Gear Solid by Kojima Productions (rip). What these large and small games have in common though, is that they all have a very defined theme and a cohesive message that leave you feeling like you came out of the game's world with something more than you had when you started playing. It's this feeling that I love to have when I play a game, and something that I'm going to focus on trying to find when I choose which game I want to play next.

However, I also have to try to keep myself from only playing older games, even if they are great. Since I have such a large backlog, I don't find myself buying new games anymore, even if they look like something I'd like. Because of this, I often get excited about a new game, but then quickly lose that excitement when I add it to my ever-growing list of "games I want to get one day" and then eventually forget about it as time goes on. By the time I do buy a game off this list, the excitement of it being a fresh new game to play is gone, and it becomes just another entry in the backlog. I've slowly come to realize that I need to let myself get excited, let myself buy a new game (after making sure the reviews are good), and let myself play something that has grabbed my attention before the hype fades.

With these two points in mind, I'm going to do the following:

  • If a new game excites me, I'm going to let myself get excited, buy it close to release date, and play it

  • If I decide to play a game I already own, I'll look for something that looks really fun, or has a cohesive theme

  • And lastly, if I'm looking for an older game to play, I'll try to prioritize newer games

By now you may be thinking, why am I still reading this? What does this have to do with the blog? Well, if you are for some reason still reading, this is where I get to talking about how I'm going to slightly change what I do with this blog going forward.

This all sort of sparked from a conversation I had with a friend not too long ago. We started out talking about how the world would be a much more pleasant place if everyone was more empathetic towards one another. I sort of derailed the conversation by mentioning that one of the strengths of the video game medium is the ability for games to put you into somebody else's shoes and give you an experience from a different perspective than your own. For example, in Celeste by Matt Makes Games, you play as the young protagonist Madeline on a journey to climb to the top of Celeste Mountain. On the way up, Madeline struggles with anxiety attacks and feelings of inadequacy, which are reflected in the game's cutscenes, dialog, and the game play itself. Another great example is Death Stranding by Hideo Kojima / Kojima Productions, in which you play as Sam Porter, a sort of outcast from society that is on a mission to cross what remains of the USA on foot to find the woman he loves. Playing through Sam's journey gives the player a real sense of loneliness and a need for connection, and when you finally see a friendly face, you can truly feel the same sense of relief that Sam feels after a long, hard journey.

There are countless examples like these that show how games can be more than just entertainment, pushing the limits of what video games as a medium can do. I believe that a well designed game can help the player explore the human condition in a way that no other art form can. Thus, this brings me to what I want to do with this blog going forward. Up until now, I've been writing reviews of games that I've completed. While this is generally fun for me, I feel like it's sort of a waste of time as usually I play older games that have been out for forever. Additionally, I've been reluctant to give up on some games that I didn't find entertaining, just so I could write a review on them, which becomes a bit of a slog. So, I've decided to stop writing reviews of every game I play. Instead, I'll focus on just playing games that I want to play, but if I come across a game that has a real message, I will try to write a sort of analysis or commentary on what makes that game special and unique in the video game medium. This will of course lead to me writing less overall, but I think that I will have more fun talking about the games that really leave a lasting impact on me. Additionally, after writing a few reviews, I've noticed that text reviews leave something to be desired as you can't see the game in motion, or hear the great sound design that a lot of games have, which is often integral to the overall experience. Therefore, I've decided that I'll be doing this new type of video game commentary in video format. I'm not sure how this will work out for me, and whether or not I'll like all the extra effort I need to put in, but since I'll be making less content overall, maybe it won't be a problem. In the future, I'll still post the transcript of my videos on this blog, but I'll also have the YouTube video embedded in this page.

Don't expect anything soon, but I am working on my first video already. I haven't really nailed down what I'll be talking about, but the game I'll be discussing is Mutazione by Die Gute Fabrik. This game has something really special going for it, and I can't wait to share it with you.

If you've stuck around to the end here, I want to say thanks. I know some of the people that read this and it really does make me happy to hear if I've influenced a decision to buy a game. I also like to hear what you think of the games too, if you've played them. This certainly isn't something I think I could do as a career for money, but it is fun to talk about games with other people, and share my thoughts on gaming. I hope you stick around, and tell a friend about the blog if you know someone who might like it. Also, if you have any advice, tips, or game suggestions, I'd love to hear them either here or on my socials. Thanks for reading y'all.

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