I love video games. My parents were pretty dubious about the whole idea, but I do remember that convincing them to get me a Nintendo 64 for Christmas was a huge victory. When I got it, there was some kind of condition about number of hours per day, or homework, or something. Ha, ha. Ooh, hello Ocarina of Time, why yes I will play you until my eyeballs bleed, mmm, that’s nice.
For something that I once got so much happiness out of, it still kind of surprises me that I haven’t played (seriously) video games for almost 10 years. It’s been a combination of things – college, work, friends, other interests, and finances have played a role. Mainly it’s been hardware. I needed a laptop when I went to New Zealand (long story) to study abroad (oh wait, I guess it wasn’t), and I haven’t looked back. My state-of-the-art 2002 gaming PC became a relic, and though I love my MacBook Pro, it’s not exactly gaming-friendly. I moved around a lot after college, so it never seemed like a good idea to buy a nice TV and a console or another gaming PC.
Which brings us to today. I find myself with a stable enough job, and no plans to move. While I won’t be buying a sports car anytime soon, I have a bit of disposable income and a deep, yearning desire to find out what I missed in the gaming world in the last 10 years. So, I need your help, Unreality readers.
With the PS4 and Xbox One recently released, and Cyber Monday just around the corner, (or post-Christmas clearances after that), I feel like now is the time to jump back in. But I’m completely overwhelmed. It’s option paralysis – the seventeen different kinds of peanut butter; I just stare at them.
It’s all a bit much. There are so many games out there I’ve only obliquely heard of. I’m alive and on the internet, so I’ve obviously heard of them and know something about them, but I’ve never actually played: BioShock, any GTA past Vice City, any Halo past II, any Elder Scrolls past Oblivion (Oblivion was the last game I can remember buying, the last game my old gaming rig could actually run), Portal, any of the Mass Effect games, any Gears of War game, any Fallout game, any Call of Duty game, basically anything released in the last 4 years. So yeah, I have a lot of catching up to do. It’s hard to know where to start. I guess that brings me to question number one, the big one:
Console vs. PC
I have no bias. I loved my old gaming rig that ran Windows XP; I love my MacBook Pro. I had a Nintendo 64 and enjoyed the hell out of it. I had an original Xbox that I played the hell out of. I never owned a PlayStation but I did have a girlfriend at one point who got me addicted to Final Fantasy X on her PS2, and I sank many, many hours into that. So, which way to go?
That’s why I need your help. With so much to catch up on, do I just dive right in with one of the new consoles? Considering their age, I could probably get a PS3/Xbox360 and a bunch of games for a roll of quarters – or is that not true? Or do I choose perhaps the most expensive option and buy a top-of-the-line computer? I’ve heard PC gaming is kind of dying – is that the case? Help me, Unreality readers. You’re my only hope.
To give you an idea of what I’m into, I’ll tell you briefly about some games that I remember fondly / sucked down months of my life.
EverQuest – Oh, yes, I was well and truly aware of how massively EverCrack was a timesink and manipulated you into grinding, but accomplishment is accomplishment. Being in high demand as a high-level cleric felt awesome, and being good enough to raid elemental planes/Time back when Planes of Power was the latest thing took skill, dammit. Back in my day, you didn’t go so some fancy-shmancy graveyard to find your corpse and equipment all convenient-like, you ran NAKED through 14 ZONES and you LOST 2 WEEKS WORTH OF EXP and you LIKED IT. I stopped playing when I realized that I, in fact, did not like it.
Diablo II – I saw a screen like this maybe 5,000 times. That’s not bragging – I know for serious players, 5,000 Hell Mephisto runs was also known as “a weekend.” There are gamers and then there are gamers. I’m not exactly a casual gamer; it’s definitely a part of my personality that I want to get all the items, all the skills, all the levels. I’m a completionist. And that’s kind of problematic when a game doesn’t end. It’s also kind of awesome, because the question of “how high can I go?” is answered with “how high can I imagine?”
Final Fantasy X - this bring back any memories for anyone? If you’re getting a handle on my personality, then you’ll known that of course I dodged 200 lightning bolts. My girlfriend looked at me, shook her head, and went to bed after the first 30 or so. This was my one and only experience with PlayStation and Final Fantasy as a series (yes, I tried FF7 and couldn’t get past the graphics. Before you jump all over me, ask yourself this: if you’d never played any of the FF series, and picked up FF7 today, so you had no attachment or nostalgia, could you get past the way it looks?)
Knights of the Old Republic – You’ll notice a trend – roleplaying games, especially turn-based. Yeah, I like them. I like to be deliberate, methodical. We’ll get to some non-RPGs in a moment, but I wanted to point out an Xbox title I really, really liked, and KotOR was a blast. Bonus points for having one of the best twists in any video game, ever. I was playing this while I was in high school, and when I got to the part on the Leviathan (you know the one), I literally woke my brother up to tell him about it, I was so blown away. So yeah. Roleplaying games with either lots and lots of loot/XP/skills, or a good story, or preferably both.
Ninja Gaiden – Does this count as an RPG? I guess. It’s fast, and action-oriented though. I liked Sands of Time, too. But it’s more intense, like a first-person shooter. I mean, I loved Halo, too. And GoldenEye. And we haven’t even gotten in to RTS yet – Warcraft III and Starcraft got a lot of playing time. And I haven’t even mentioned spaceship games, oh my god, FreeSpace 2 and X-Wing. Or regular flying games. Crimson Skies, Falcon 4.0 – you know what? This is going to be a long list. Oh right, I love baseball games, too. The last one I played still had Jamie Moyer on the Mariners, so…
(Oh yeah, I also completely immersed myself in story-centric, one-click interaction games like Grim Fandango, Myst, and The Longest Journey)
You know what the crazy thing is? I haven’t even mentioned the game I’ve probably put more time into than any other: Baldur’s Gate II. That game was just THE BEST. When I was 15.
Anyway, you see my problem? I don’t really have a niche game that I want to focus on, and I don’t have a medium/console preference.
That’s why I need your thoughts. I’m lost in the woods. There’s so much out there. I don’t need a detailed plan, but a nudge in the right direction would be amazing. A few articles to read, a site to check out, a Getting Back Into Video Games For Dummies, something.
I have massive holes in my gaming lexicon. I knew nothing about video games until 1995. I stopped playing altogether in 2005. Everything before and after is a pretty big blank.
So, give me a hand, modern gamers. Game recommendations, console vs. PC thoughts, what kind of TV/monitor to pair with the console/PC, current gaming trends, things to avoid, things I should avoid saying/doing as a modern gamer – everything would be helpful.
I want back in. I have the means, I have the desire, all I need is a nudge in the right direction.