Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The tide grows ever more relentless

I have a bone to pick with the release of new videogames of quality, and that is that I'm always too busy playing the old stuff to tackle the new. The classic game of catch-up; of course I play this with all other forms of entertainment too, but those cases don't really bother me. I got into the videogame scene back in the days when the Super Nintendo was already well established; not very long afterward I became attuned to the gaming scene - and to a lesser extent history - and it all went downhill from there.

The reasons have always been two, the first economical - until recently I got videogame systems only several years into their life cycle, when the prices had dropped enough that I (or, more typically, someone else) could buy them without breaking the bank. To be an early adopter is to spend lavishly, often enough with little reward other than the pride of early adoption, on which I place little worth. On the software side of the issue, new games are also costly - fifty bucks is a lot to spend on one piece of entertainment when one is on a budget, especially when that experience may only last six or eight hours. As with my first foray into videogames (albiet less of a timing issue), the hardware starts the job and the software finishes it.

When I made the first exception to my standard behavior and picked up a Nintendo Wii on launch day, there still remained the other downside inherent to keeping abreast of the videogame curve, namely that there wasn't much worth playing. Another benefit of waiting until there is an established shelf life is that when one takes the plunge, there is a lot of quality material to choose from and enjoy, rarely if ever the case on Day One. Of course, on Day One of the Wii's launch there was something well worth playing (and promising to last a while), namely the latest Legend of Zelda title, of which I did buy a copy. There I was with a brand spankin' new Nintendo system, one of the first in the country, and a hot new iteration of one of my favorite franchises, and because I have poor planning and cannot in good conscience play more than one game at a time, I proceeded to leave Zelda in its shrink-wrap for the next couple months while I finished up Okami. Admittedly, it was Okami. This brings me to reason two.

Reason Two: I am one of those unfortunates who wants to play as many great games as he can. As I like many genres and there have been a surprising number of excellent titles over twenty-plus years, this presents a significant challenge. I don't like to move on from one system to its successor until I have exhausted the worthwhile experiences on the outdated model, and the truth is that even if the current were to stop flowing and I had all the time in the rest of my life to play the goods from the past, it still might not be enough. Meanwhile the hits do keep coming. This is why I'm still playing the Playstation 2 and have no plans to upgrade any time soon. A couple of years ago, as the launch of the PS3 solidified, I made the mistake of going out to Best Buy and Wal-Mart with the intention of purchasing all of the Greatest Hits / Player's Choice (budget-priced classic) titles in which I had an interest. The rationale was that the Playstation 2 and Gamecube had seen virtually all their best games, and I'd better snap up the ones I hadn't played yet before they vanished from stores. Whoops. I amassed quite a hefty stack, and the results were predictable - as I worked through the stack its sheer girth paralyzed me psychologically from getting or playing anything else (more recent titles, for instance), and meanwhile additional great game after game continued to be released, such that now, having conquered the stack (or The Stack, as I like to call it) and supposedly thrown off such foolish impulses, I could easily go out and build another of equal or even greater dimensions. It's probably best that I don't have the money for this.

Admittedly it is better to suffer from a deluge of entertainment than a dearth, and yet it does make me slightly sad at times - it is nice to feel current and up-to-date once in a while, having the same experiences everyone else is, and with the very rare exception of games I absolutely cannot wait to play, the only times I've experienced anything New lately has been because that particular title has a cooperative mode that I can share with friends who don't share my constraints and have indulged. When something comes out that I'd really like to experience, something I've looked forward to for a long time, but can't justify splurging on while it's fresh, it's a bit discouraging. Those who are not in the know might argue that I should just give up my hopeless venture, forgo the retro, and wholeheartedly embrace what's current; it is true that this is probably the only way I could ever stay above the tide instead of being swamped by it (this season just makes things worse), and yet to argue this is to miss the point. It is not that I play all these for the sake of satisfying some kind of poorly-thought-out completest urge, although I have those in abundance. Rather I believe that each and every great game has something unique and invigorating to offer, something heartfelt and sincere which is worthy of being experienced, in exactly the same way that a good book or movie or TV show or piece of music does. Life is experience, and in my opinion it is worthwhile to try and have as many of the good ones as possible. This is as legitimate in the virtual realm (a medium as powerful and full of potential as any other) as it is in the 'real world.' I take stories where I can get 'em.

No comments: