As a product of the latchkey generation, I played my fair share of video games and have seen a lot of trends, exclusive to the industry, rise and then play out. What I have noticed lately is the fact that video game developers are making shorter games. Just in the past few months I completed Aliens: Colonial Marines in under eight hours, Tomb Raider in about twelve hours, and Bioshock Infinite in just under twelve hours. Max Payne 3, Halo 4, Dishonored, Far Cry 3 and Dead Space 3 also provided short gaming experiences around the twelve hour mark. Why are these games so much shorter? Will players support these shorter games in a market where games providing more content are in no short supply? Who would these shorter games appeal to?
Brace yourself! It’s about to happen again. Spring is that wonderful time of year when germ-carrying geeks converge in the Northeast for games, good times and drinking at the much loved annual convention, PAX East. As PAX makes its fourth appearance in Boston later this week, many attendees focus on packing and planning various shenanigans throughout the weekend. Though one thing that seems to fall unnoticed until it’s too late is the invasion of the PAX Plague. If you plan ahead, you can avoid this hideous beast of illness that seems to devour even the most healthy of souls. With four PAX events under my belt and no plague in sight, I have some tried and true tips for avoiding the plague.
Tip #1: Start taking Vitamin C supplements....now.
This will help build up your immune system and help you fight off any lingering germs. Any basic supplement will do so don't worry about finding something high-end or expensive. Also a 500mg pill should do the trick if you plan to follow the rest of the tips below.
According to WebMD:
Vitamin C is one of the safest and most effective nutrients, experts say. It may not be the cure for the common cold (though it's thought to help prevent more serious complications). But the benefits of vitamin C may include protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling.
Tip #2: Don’t touch anything or anyone on the way to or at the event!
OK, that’s not really possible, so be sure to carry some hand sanitizer with you, at all times. It is ok to shake hands and hug people, but just be sure to gel up before touching your eyes, nose, etc. Here’s an example of what I do.
Me: Oh hi [insert name], it’s so great to see you! *gives a handshake that awkwardly turns into a hug*
We chat for a minute and then I point over to someone else I know (or pretend to know).
Me: It was so great seeing you, but I really need to go catch up with [insert another name].
*as I’m leaving with my back turned, I grab some hand gel from my pocket and lather it on*
According to the CDC:
Keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water. If clean, running water is not accessible, as is common in many parts of the world, use soap and available water. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to clean hands.
Tip #3: Start taking Airborne the day before you travel and continue it through the entirety of PAX.
Twice a day, every day. Airborne has an interesting blend of vitamins and minerals that is said to boost your immune system. There is a variety of ways you can take this supplement, from effervescent tablets in water (my favorite) to on-the-go packets. They even have a new plus energy formula that I plan to test out this weekend.
I do not consider myself a germaphobe but I saw what can happen to people at these events and I do not want any part of that. This is the one time of the year that I get to see many of my gaming friends in real life and I do not want to miss a second of it. While following these three tips is not a guarantee that you will not get sick (no lawsuits here!), they can certainly help you stay healthy at PAX East as well as any other gaming event you may encounter. They worked for me and I hope they will work for you too!
I first saw a glimpse of the rebooted Tomb Raider series at E3 last year. To say I was blown away is an understatement. I was immediately sold on the story of Lara’s origin as the tomb raider and the ongoing suspense of her survival. And just like that, from one viewing of the game, the seed for my obsession was planted. Fast forward about nine months, and the birth of my obsession. I guess that was enough time for Lara to come to maturity and all this merchandise to become more than just a concept.
Collector’s Edition Survival Kit ($99.99 USD)
Tomb Raider Collector's Edition Content
Lara Croft 8" Figurine
3 Iron-On Badges
Weapon Pack DLC
15" x 19" Double Sided Island Map and Poster
5" x 7" Lithograph
I think that I’m still bitter about missing out on the Borderlands 2 Loot Chest, which is why I keep pre-ordering the collector's editions of games. I will not miss out on awesome gaming merchandise again! While this edition is probably not worth it for most people, I could not pass up on the Lara doll...I mean action figure. She deserves a place of honor with all our other gaming and geek paraphernalia. I may have to glue her down though, so she doesn’t end up cat carnage like these guys.
Xbox 360 Tomb Raider Limited Edition Wireless Controller ($59.99 USD)
This dark red controller is just for the Xbox 360 and comes with a downloadable character to play in-game. The DLC was not part of my buying decision, as I could care less about the multiplayer for this game. The controller is awesome though with great weight distribution, a shiny silver D-pad and some etchings in the actual face of the controller. The etchings, while I thought they were odd at first, actually enable greater grip and less slippage when my palms get sweaty from some intense gameplay. The controller is themed after Lara's climbing axe and you can see it had a rough life. If you are looking for a new controller with some signs of distress, this one is for you!
iPhone/iPad Official Tomb Raider Map App ($2.99 USD)
I’m almost ashamed to admit that I purchased this for the full price. I hardly ever spend more than a buck on apps. It is a very helpful app though, and especially for those of us that are game completionists. The App has maps of the different areas of the game and the locations of all the in-game collectibles. If you played through Tomb Raider already, you know that some of those collectibles are really hidden well. Even when you feel like you’re on top of them, you can not see them easily. You can use the App to not only find the collectibles, but you can mark off the collectibles as you find them. My only complaint here is that it’s really hard to tell for some of the icons if you clicked them already. Is the magnifying glass supposed to be black with white outlines when I mark it or white with black outlines? The whole black/white to white/black icon change is annoying and a terrible design decision. Other than that one complaint, this is a great companion to help you around the Island.
BradyGames’ Official Tomb Raider Strategy Guide ($24.99 USD to $36.99 USD)
I love game guides, which is odd because I don’t buy physical copies of books anymore. I obtain all my content digitally and think it’s a waste of money to do anything else. So why do I love these game guides so much? I think it is the collector’s aspect to them and the quality of information they provide. They have beautiful, high-resolution photos and some really great, in-depth content. I really enjoyed reading the background stories on the Tomb Raider characters and wish I had this guide before I completed my first play through of the game.
In general, I do not think that strategy guides are any better than finding walkthroughs on the internet and this BradyGames guide is no different. With the cost of the Signature Series ($24.99 USD) and the Limited Edition ($36.99 USD) versus the cost of the Map App, I can not in good conscious recommend this for most gamers. If you are a fan of the series, then by all means, this is a must have! I have a copy of the Signature Series version and I really enjoyed reading through it so far. It's interesting that 80% of the book is focused on the single player and the multiplayer section is weak at best...just like the game. BradyGames also has a Limited Edition version of the guide which has a hardcover and a custom designed amulet. Both versions include codes for multiplayer characters, which again, I could really care less about. This game is all about the single player experience for me and spending some quality time with Lara...alone.
Quick Summary for Tomb Raider Merchandise
Collector’s Edition of the game: Not worth the additional $40. Not at all. Don’t waste your money.
Xbox 360 Tomb Raider Limited Edition Wireless Controller: A great option if you need a new wireless controller...or if you like the distressed look of a well-used axe.
iPhone/iPad Official Tomb Raider Map App: Worth the $3, especially if you want to find all the collectibles.
BradyGames’ Official Tomb Raider Strategy Guide: Not worth the money unless you’re a hardcore fan of the series. In that case, I'd recommend going with the hardcover Limited Edition as the Standard Edition feels cheap and flimsy.
Be sure to check out our full review of Tomb Raider on the home page!
Special thanks to LB for an intellectual asset and the use of the word "merchandise".
The Forza series is proof that racing games have come a very long way from the early days of Turbo and Pole Position. Forza, Italian for “force”, developed into a force to be reckoned within the racing genre for the level of detail, depth of car customization, massive garage capacity, exciting replay cameras, and tuning and livery options. The size of the 2Old4Forza clan indicates the popularity of this sub-genre racing series. The series’ progression has met with both praise and consternation: for every addition to the game something else is taken away. For every bright spot in the Forza community, there lies a dark secret. For every car made awesome, another is undeservedly nerfed. I have raced the Forza series since its inception on the original XBox, and I have a few suggestions for Turn 10’s development crew to get the series back on track. In order to make an ultimate edition, the next numbered entry must have cars intended for and worthy of track racing, better track selection, a career mode and event list that parallels real world racing events, better leaderboard options, and a revamped replay system.
The Hybrid Hubris
It is an interesting place I find myself having played video games for more than 25 years (more than half my life). I’m in a place where I’m pretty unimpressed with most of the games that have come out. Most recently I have acquired Assassin’s Creed 3 and Far Cry 3. I love the Far Cry games (even a huge fan of FC 2 – owned it on both consoles) and a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed series (and a huge fan of anything to do with American Revolution era) but when I got these games (both of which I wanted very badly) and fired them up I was like “meh”. And there is nothing wrong with either of these games – they look amazing and perform great etc.
I think the issue is me. You have to know a little about me for this to make sense. I hate movies (generally) and I don’t watch TV (other than sports) really. I’d rather read a book – or play a video game than watch a movie or TV series. That’s not to say there aren’t some movies that I love and some TV shows that I can tolerate but really given the choice with my time I’d rather play guitar, do art, read a book or play video games and board games. I’ve never really thought about why this is. I chalked it up to most movies / tv shows being mindless and boring (which I still think is a big part of it). But I think more and more that I need to be an active participant in my entertainment. I need to be able to influence it and I have to be able to use my imagination and creativity in order for it to be worth my while.
Ok well playing AC3 or FC2 I would be given this freedom right? Well yes sort of. But what I’ve come to realize is that I’m just doing the same thing I’ve done before for hundreds of hours in the previous iterations of these games as well is in all the games that have come out in the last few years. Mainstream gaming (even Multiplayer which is typically my favorite type of gaming) has just become very sameish. Like yeah – I’ve done that. A lot of the AAA games lack any type of creativity. They just have “better graphics”, some performance enhancements and maybe like one little tweaked game mechanic that makes them somewhat interesting but they just keep turning out the same thing over and over again. In addition to that I think I’m a little burned out on the game showing me everything. Similar to how I like books better than movies. A book lets you create the world in your head. I tell you that the lady was wearing “a red dress”. You would think of a red dress that would most likely be different from the red dress I picture in my mind. In books we fill the gaps with our own creativity and life experiences. Whereas in a video game or movie – they show you exactly what they want. The red dress is very defined in a movie or video game – no room for your creative input. I find this to be not very satisfying at all – it has become boring.
I don’t think this is to say that I’m going to skip all the high end AAA games or anything but I’m certainly putting a lot more of my effort into indie games. I find indie game developers are putting more effort into innovative game play. They typically don’t have the art studio to be able to compete with the AAA games but they can create some interesting mechanics and try doing interesting things with their games. I’m having a lot of fun seeking out and trying all these innovative little games. The most fun I’ve had has been with an ASCII graphics alpha game called Dwarf Fortress. It has been called the most complex game in the world (I don’t know if that is accurate but it is certainly very deep) and yet it has these simple old school ASCII graphics, which even for me initially was a hurdle. I didn’t think I could get into it. In addition to the ASCII graphics hurdle the UI is pretty confusing. I don’t find it as bad as a lot of people seem to find it – but it can be somewhat convoluted and inconsistent (Tarn Adams (he’s the Developer for DF) has even said as much). Yet after playing for a few hours – you become engrossed in the game your imagination is going full tilt – I can picture the whole fortress and all my dwarfs and animals. I spent 4 hours on Saturday night just looking at this ASCII soup on the screen and I totally lost myself in it. It is a fabulous experience especially given all the super unique and crazy game mechanics in the game and how they create these situations and stories that weren’t put in place – they evolved from the AI and systems kind of interacting with each other in the game.
So with all the hype about a new PS4 and a new XBOX etc. I find myself more drawn to the OUYA. Show me what the indie devs are doing. They have something to say that is worth listening too. I’m 100% confident that the next Killzone or Halo or Call of Duty is going to look and perform amazingly on these new machines – heck I might not even be able to tell if it is real life or a video game but I don’t think it will matter. They’ll be showing me games I’ve already played (albeit in a better looking format) and / or games as they want me to see them instead of letting me have some creative input and that frankly bores me.
I think anyone who has played Minecraft or Terraria or any of the Roguelike ASCII games knows what I’m talking about. The graphics don’t make the game – as a matter of fact high end graphics might actually detract from the gaming experience. I’ll take emergent gameplay and the ability for me to get lost in my own head over high fidelity and “tried and true” game play mechanics.
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to put some Nine Inch Nails on and play some Cataclysm or Caves of Qud and get lost in a grimy desolate world.
A few months ago when George Lucas sold the Star Wars franchise to Disney the internet was all abuzz about having their childhoods ruined. What will Disney do with the Star Wars franchise? Can it really can it be any worse than episodes 1-3? Can I now consider Leia my favorite Disney princess?
One of these things is not like the other
Adventure? Excitement? A Jedi craves not these things
I am particularly curious about LucasArts IP. That was my childhood. I still have my official Rebel Assault baseball cap! My real favorites were all the adventure games. It seemed as I grew older adventure games kind of faded away. Thankfully, the genre recently experienced a resurgence in popularity and I found, if I had just done a little digging, adventure games never really went away.
Legally Reliving your Adventurous Childhood
Surprisingly there are actually many ways to legally obtain your old favorites and get them up and running on modern operating systems and, in some cases, consoles. Fans and developers will never let the Lucas games fade away. SCUMMVM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) is a virtual machine based on the original Lucas engine that can run the old LucasArts games (and now other studios as well) on the new operating systems. Many titles are available legally on the main site for free or, if you are a hoarder like me, you can still use your old CD ROMs.
Steam has several of the old LucasArts titles available. I just picked up a pack with The Dig, Loom and the Indiana Jones titles. Steam also has packs for the old Sierra adventure games such as King’s Quest and Space Quest. The Sierra games were some of my favorites as a young child. Going back and trying to play through them again now hasn’t been as fun. I tried King’s Quest I and III and they felt much more dated, slow (as in lots of walking around and nothing going on), and not quite as humorous. I do still have a soft spot in my heart for the first adventure game I ever played: Goldrush! My dad, aunt, uncle and I will never get back the hour of our lives trying to properly phrase “Put chains on wheel.” Woohoo graphic text adventures! Goldrush! also wins for favorite fail if you couldn’t provide the license key: they actually sent your character to jail in the game!
Many adventure games are getting high quality remakes with updated graphics. LucasArts released The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition in 2009 for iOS, XBox and PC and in 2010 for PS3. It featured 3D graphics and the neat function of letting you toggle between the old and new artwork. Voice over work, featuring the cast of the later games, was also added. Monkey Island II: LeChucks’ Revenge also saw a high definition re-release.
Where Are They Now?
It is probably not a coincidence that some of my favorite game studios are staffed and even headed by the creative minds behind the LucasArts games. My two favorite studios for new adventure games are Telltale Games and Double Fine.
According to Wikipedia (hey I research my journalism!), Telltale was founded by a group of former LucasArts employees shortly after a Sam & Max follow up they were working on was cancelled. While they were never able to wrestle back the rights to that actual game, they did eventually work with the creator of the characters and comics-Steve Purcell-on new Sam & Max games. Telltale’s Homestar Runner gets my vote for game that most needs a sequel and Telltale did an amazing job with the Walking Dead universe in their most recent release.
Double Fine, founded by Tim Schafer of LucasArts, recently made Kickstarter history raising over three million dollars (after an initial funding ask of only 400K was exceeded in mere hours) to create a new point and click adventure game. I eagerly await my copy! Their other games, while not strictly adventure, feature a lot of the same elements and are a lot of fun. I am about two hours in and loving their latest game, The Cave, that’s been brewing in the mind of Ron Gilbert (also of LucasArts) for more than 30 years. And maybe, just maybe, Disney will give him back the rights to Maniac Mansion. Long live Chuck the Plant!
Ron Gilbert & Tim Schafer
What about those other games you said are out there if you know where to look?
So back at the Boston indie games festival last year I was happy to see lots of small developers producing adventure-like games. One developer I remembered to check out when I returned home was Wadjet Eye Games. They’re a small but prolific studio out of New York. I do tend to prefer my adventure games to be full of cute things and terrible puns. That is not exactly their style, but there is solid storytelling, interesting characters and at least the occasional one liner. To date I’ve only played Resonance and Blackwell Deception. I really enjoyed the latter and can’t wait to play the rest in the series. Resonance featured a good story but with four characters that didn’t really have any distinguishing abilities other than their occupations and needing to combine notes and conversations to get the right dialog options to open up, it seemed unnecessarily and tediously difficult at times. I still look forward to playing through their other titles as long as I have a walkthrough handy.
Resonance: I didn’t even notice that pun when I played!
Another title I just started is The Book of Unwritten Tales. It’s a German point and click adventure published by Nordic games. I’m only about an hour into the game. It has potential but hasn’t quite grabbed me as much as many of the other titles I discussed previously.
Jolly Rover by Australian developer Brawsome is another title I recently found on Steam. It’s pretty much Monkey Island with dogs but I love puns, pirates and anthropomorphic animals so I’m not really gonna complain! Brawsome also worked with Wadjet Eye on Emerald City Confidential, a noir game set in the Oz universe. That’s one title I definitely need to pick up!
Jolly Rover clearly innovates on how you solve adventure puzzles!
There is no Certainty. There is only Adventure.
Thankfully adventure games are alive and well. Many of the old ones stand the test of time (for me anyway) and there are still new minds crafting fun games and interactive stories. If you have young children I highly recommend exposing them to these types of games. It’s what I grew up on and I turned out OK! And it really was my foundation for a life long love of games that many years later led to my house being full of consoles and pinball machines. Now if someone would just make me a Monkey Island pinball machine...
I left PC gaming on November 15, 2001 with the launch of Microsoft's Xbox gaming system. I believed in Microsoft's pedigree in the gaming space back then and their ability to build networked systems and data centers. Both of which would be key to realizing their vision for Xbox Live which released a year later and recently celebrated it's 10th anniversary. I had been totally dedicated to Xbox gaming ever since, that is until part way through 2012.
I am sitting here in my hotel room in Holland, Michigan with not much to do but watch HBO and miss my 360. Forrest Gump is on HBO right now so I REALLY miss my console games. I am here for almost an entire week and while I have only been here for a couple of hours I started travelling at 3am this morning. I played my last XBOX game almost 24 hours ago and its all I can think about. I WANT to play my XBOX.
I didn’t hate Reach right out of the gate. It took a bit of time.
I mean, sure, bloom sucked pretty much immediately. Why in the name of Thor would you add a game mechanic that makes getting headshots, things that are already, if not difficult, then at least challenging to come by, more random? Is latency not enough?
Even after two years, I fail to understand the logic. Randomization of that element doesn’t make the game more enjoyable. It makes it more frustrating. Though, it does give the guy running around with the AR a better chance of survival. Instead of achievements, maybe Reach should give out participation ribbons.
After Reach came out, I played roughly 600 multiplayer games, and then we took a break. It’s not me, Reach, it’s you. I made out with other games. “Drost, you know Halo never loved you as good as I do,” said MW3. My team quit. Malice moved to the sticks and lost internet. Chibi wandered off into CoDland. Killa … I don’t know what the hell he did. I think he gave his Xbox and gamertag to his kid.
That was kind of a big deal to me. I mean, I’d had a “team” since 2005. I’d played thousands of games of Halo, Halo 2 and Halo 3. I loved Halo, and possibly in a socially incorrect way.
After the team disintegrated, I pretty much quit gaming entirely. I bet I went five or six months without playing anything at all. It took a couple of my clan members – Dixon and Hoplite – giving me epic guilt trips about letting my clan run aground to get me to dust off the “trusty” DMR. Even then, if not for the Anniversary maps and playlists, I would not have come back.
The Anniversary stuff felt like a breath of fresh air. No bloom, which meant my shots hit where I thought (reasonably) they were hitting. I moved a little faster, which felt … right. And then the maps. They didn’t feel like the afterthought, campaign-borrowed clusterfucks that are the normal Reach maps. They had flow. They had firing lines. They made sense, especially if you’re not a close quarters combat kind of guy.
For a while there, we had plenty of guys showing up again, and we’d play some Anniversary BTB, which was kinda fun.
And then they killed that playlist and our options became a bit more limited. With four, we could still play Anniversary classic. With five, we had to go back into Team Objective, and anything past five, we were playing normal BTB. Sure, there were “TU” games, but most of those still had … issues.
Playing normal Reach feels like playing Halo underwater. You move too slow. Strafing is devalued. Your gun is inconsistent (and don’t give me any of that shit about pacing my shots better; my kpd is just fine, thank you very much). I would be doing the things Halo has taught me to do to be successful playing it, and they would not consistently work. We’re already on the Internet. Inconsistency is part of the deal. Don’t build more of it into your game on purpose.
It’s frustrating. But more than that, it’s unsatisfying. It’s gimmicky. It is not Halo. Not any kind I want to play, anyway.
I feel like Bungie let the interns make Reach because all the vets were already transitioned over to whatever space-faring adventure they’re working on now. I feel like they pulled a Prince, and threw a game together to complete their contract so they could get out from under the thumb of Microsoft. I feel … betrayed is too strong a term, but certainly “let down” isn’t.
I blame the quality of Reach for putting my clan on life support. I founded Profanity (with a bunch of other guys) on Oct. 26, 2004 on Bungie.net. We officially moved to 2o2p in August of 2005. At the time we had 14 or so members. Over the next couple of years, it grew to about 80ish. That was in the halcyon days of 2o2p, when there were clan challenges every week, and tournaments every weekend. Hell, there were epic clan rivalries. It made the game more than a game to a lot of us, and no doubt forged many a friendship on 2o2p.
Reach pretty much shit on all that. Maybe it was Halo fatigue. Maybe after more than six years, we were all burned out and tired of the Spartans. But if the game had been better, we’d have weathered the storm more successfully. Frankly the numbers support my claims. Reach has not been as well played as its predecessors. Sure, there is more competition in the market, but by that rationale, if the game were better, it would’ve stayed at the top of the food chain.
Why this rant? Why now? Because Monday, Oct. 22, was the last time I’m ever going to play Reach. Enough is enough. I took Reach out of the tray, carried it to the garage, and smashed the hell out of it with my best hammer. Three shots. One to the chest, two to the head. Was the only way to be sure.
I did not smash it out of anger. Okay, maybe a little. But like Capt. Ramius said in The Hunt for Red October: “When he reached the New World, Cortez burned his ships. As a result his men were well motivated.”
I will never play that game again. I had that realization while playing it Monday. Each of the Halo games prior to Reach, I have gone back and played again. I remember them fondly. Halo 3 had some of the best competitive matches I ever played. Halo 2 had that beautiful BR, and, frankly, it built my clan and this site. What’d Reach do to be remembered fondly? Well, it finally acknowledged the entertaining fiction surrounding the Halo universe. Hello, Dr. Halsey. That's something, I guess.
Maybe I should’ve called this The Fail of Reach instead.
At the end of the day, I’m a Halo guy, and that means that all my gaming hopes pinned to one game: Halo 4.
It’s difficult not to be bitter, to not be jaded. But as I look at the dregs in the bottom of my coffee cup, I see portents of good omens. There are signs. There are people in charge saying the right things. We’ve seen the clips. The BR is back and it has no bloom. The DMR is there, too, and it has no effing bloom. And both guns are hitscan, which is awesome (for those fans of how the BR functioned in Halo 2, anyway). You appear to move faster by default, and still have sprint (which was the only armor ability I enjoyed in Reach). Now, can we strafe properly again? Yes?
We have some guys in the clan who’ve managed to play Halo 4 at various events, and they say it plays like Halo 2.5. Now, don’t freak out about that. It still has all the accumulated debris from Halo 3 and Reach, crap like armor abilities. But the basic mechanics … shooting and moving and jumping, those allegedly feel more like the spiritual successor to Halo 2, which is a good thing. It’s a better base to build the future on. Even Halo 3 had that hitch in the Chief’s step that made strafing feel not quite as precise as it did in the game before.
I still wish they’d incorporated button combos into the code as actual things. Actual CQC. Holy hell. Layers of things to get good at. Alas…
Then again, maybe I’m just happy that I don’t have to play Reach anymore. Less than two weeks and ticking …
Author’s Note: Although I’m a 2o2p site Admin, the views expressed in this rant are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect those of management (heh. “management”). They may, however, reflect those of my clan. Possibly. Please feel free to disagree with me in the comments below, or in an appropriately titled forum thread. Thanks for stopping by!
It’s my fault. It is entirely my fault. I know this deep down inside yet I can’t bring myself to overcome it. I created the problem. My girls won’t play softball, baseball, soccer, ringette or hockey no matter how hard I try. I would gladly coach. Instead, I sit through dance classes and gymnastics. Don’t get me wrong, watching them learn and grow at those is still rewarding but I sit, watch and I can’t participate. I figured maybe at least I might be able to get them to play games with me. I brought the DS’s, 360’s, Wii, and PS3’s into the house and made each available to them. I hoped that we could enjoy one of my favorite pastimes together. That is, until they did.
Playing most video games with my girls requires a level of patience no man can possess. They don’t play games the same way I do and they don’t play games the same way the other one does either. It isn’t the game that we play as I can get over a bad game if I am having a good time...I am just not having a good time.
Looty Loot Loot!
In many games that I allow them to play and play with them (think Mario, the Lego series of games, Skylanders, Disney universe, etc) I like to bash and collect the loot. I like to find the secrets that I can without it becoming too much of a chore for them. I like unlocking other characters or upgrading the ones I have. Collecting and upgrading is mainly the point of these types of games. Loot is required to upgrade, upgrade is required to advance and not die a humiliating death or at least have enough lives to survive. For some reason this concept is completely lost on them.
I call my oldest daughter “The Runner”. Her main goal is to get to the end of the mission as fast as she can. That is all she cares about. No matter how many times both Mrs. Soup and I explain that you need to explore to find coins or Mickey ears or Lego studs to unlock more of the game it doesn’t register. When we play co-op we keep having to tell her to stop running ahead as more often than not we get stuck, eaten, beatup, exploded, in a bubble, cursed, shot, etc. “Stop!, Stop moving! STOP!...just STOP!” and then I / we die. “sigh...”
In many cases she is then left to fend for herself in the game at which point she either dies or hands me the controller to get her through. Meanwhile I sit and listen to her grumble and complain that its getting hard or that she doesn’t want to play anymore. “This is so much fun!” I think to myself in a very sarcastic fashion. Worse yet is when she does this and offs her younger sister. “Great! Tears and yelling...I love my kids, I love my kids, I love my kids...”
The S... Disturber
Speaking of the younger one, she is a bundle of joy and happiness. She loves making others happy and I enjoy her spirit immensely. In the game world though, she has the makings of becoming a world class griefer. When the older one is running ahead the younger one is shooting, clubbing, batarang-ing, spell-ing everything and everyone except what she is supposed to.
Spell blast pushed me off the edge? That was her. “Sorry Daddy..heehee”
Being shot at when no baddies are around? That was her. “I’m sooooorry dad...hahaha”
Getting smacked by someone from your own team? That was her. “heh, heh, heh”
Someone destroyed your house/crafting table/ furnace/minecart etc...that was her too.
God forbid you go AFK for a minute. That is a golden opportunity for her to do whatever her evil little heart desires and my character is more often than not the target. I put up with it for a while. I asked her to stop, told her that it wasn’t nice to ruin other peoples games/experiences. “okay daddy. Can you get me a drink please?” I agree, I leave, I come back, I’m dead...she’s killing herself laughing...I walk away.
Even through all of this I will play games with the kids. Some are better than others. Mario Kart is one where it is mostly civil save for a turtle or two being thrown at each other. The Hasbro Family Game Night series actually works quite well even though it too has it’s moments (I’m looking at you Jenga and Sorry). Board games like Bingo, Monopoly and Pictureka work fairly well also.
Anything but that!
I play those games with them when they ask and I will even pick up the controller for some of the others but there are two games that I will not and CAN NOT play: Minecraft and Little Big Planet. Don’t get me wrong, I fully understand why both games are popular. Each game lets you build your own world and level and they love that. They spend hours customizing their sack person in the most ridiculous fashions they can. They have spent days upon days digging out caves and caverns trying to find gold and redstone and whatever else is down in the middle of Minecraft earth. I don’t play like that. There is no “point”. I like direction, a purpose, a reason for doing what I am doing. I know there is a level and a purpose in LBP but they don’t play that way. They found a skateboard level where they hang on, ride down and fling off. They will repeat that level for hours.
As for Minecraft. You mine...you craft...you sleep...you mine...you craft...you sleep. When it was first available for the 360 they saw the little ad scroll by and asked what it was. Next thing I know I was downloading the demo. Two months later I shelled out the coin for it as they were tired of always starting from scratch. In the beginning I had to teach them how to mine...craft...sleep until they were capable on their own. At that point I was out and let them be.
The issue that really gets under my skin the most about all of this is a feeling that I’ve lost my “fun”. I hear screams of laughter, terror and discovery as they build things because they can, not because they need to. They ride that skateboard watching their sack persons stretch and tumble and fling and never get bored. They find a pig to ride that farts toxic gas that kills baddies.
Maybe one day I’ll come to appreciate that type of play and live in their world for a while. Maybe, but for now I’ve got some looting to do in Borderlands.
About the Author
Tim “ChunkySoup” Dorscher started his gaming career with a bit of luck. His Tiny-Mite hockey team had a “pay what you pull” draw that netted his parents $300. The next morning, his parents foolishly let the family put their wish lists in a hat and drew a name. That fateful day started it all as not only was his name picked, he came home with an Atari 2600 with Combat and Dodge’em. Many consoles and PC upgrades later, he still likes blowing stuff up and refuses to use his brakes. He loves playing games on his own or with his two kids, fetch with his dogs and sitting on the couch for a little co-op gaming with Mrs.Soup.