Games over RIP 2017?

Warning: This is basically just a long complain about videogames, but I had to write something to fill my quota and I felt like complaining at the moment I started typing.

I’ve been trying to play videogames lately and not having much luck with it. It could be that I’m largely limited to playing stuff easily available on the PlayStation Network thing or borrowable from the lab I work at, but everything I try just drives me away. Here’s a tiny little “What I did so far this Summer” report on games I’ve looked at recently.

Don Bradman Cricket 14. It’s a cricket simulator. I played it quite a lot because it taps pretty deep into childhood dreams of being any good at cricket (I wasn’t and am not). Nonetheless I eventually had to stop because I started to realise the horror that it would never end. I’d just stand there hitting front-foot drives for the rest of my life with nothing interesting every happening. This is a pretty classic feeling between me and videogames - even games I know, intellectually, have an ending just seem like they will never actually end, even if I play them forever. It conceivable that should be a good feeling, but it ain’t.

Ico. Played some of the start of this with Rilla because she’d never seen it. It’s sort of de facto in my pantheon of important games, but damn if it isn’t a tedious, tedious exercise in wonky platforming on my return to it. It’s still pretty beautiful in terms of concept and aesthetic (I quite like the PlayStation 2-era chunky graphics). In some ways it comes down to the realisation that when you describe what you really do you start to hate yourself? And I’m forced to describe these things to Rilla in response to a kind of “is that it?” feeling I get from her. Yes, you really pretty much walk around, up and down stairs, clamber onto the odd ledge, and drag around possibly the most passive young woman in videogamedom.

Psychonauts. This is the only game I’ve played that had a real glimmer of pleasure to it. I can really see why people recall it fondly - the voice acting and tone is actually pretty fun and well done, it even holds up today (and points out glaringly that there isn’t much that lives up to its level). Nonetheless there came a point where I suddenly realised, like in Don Bradman Cricket 14, “oh shit, I’m going to be doing this for the next 20 hours” (or however long the game is). And I just couldn’t stomach it.

Dark Souls II. I’ve been semi-dying to play a Dark Souls game for quite a while because people I know uniformly love them. Admittedly from my research it seems like Dark Souls II is not so well regarded as any of the others, but holy shit it was boring. I kind of get a small sense of the pleasure of complex, drawn-out, arduous combat, but again that feeling that I’m expected to do it sort of “forever” really extinguished my flame. It’s not that I don’t think I could do it - god knows I’ve stuck with other games for eons - it’s just somehow unacceptable now. I’m probably just old. Shit.

Mafia II. I wanted to play something open-worldy so I could kind of wander around and drive cars, but I could not get past the representation of women here. I instantly quit at the scene of some woman in a bar eyeing up the hero, then went back, then quit again when we meet the mother, then went back, then quit for good when my first real ‘action’ in the game involves beating up some dude who threatened my sister in the street. Argh.

The Division. I’ll probably go back to this because I know someone who worked on the environment and I want to look at it, and I liked the fact my character defaults to a middle-aged-seeming African American woman, but damn if it didn’t rapidly devolve into go here, shoot these people over and over. I know that’s just the way it is with many games, but it sucks. Shooting people needs to take a back seat for like ten years while we all try to think of something else to present the world’s youth and others with.

Infamous. This was last night’s attempted entertainment. There was something intriguing about the way you jump in the game - really nice to have jumping off a building and surviving seem to powerful. But of course eventually people with machine guns turn up and you have to kill them and I turned it off. I was particularly offended by the explanation that these machine gun types were apparently “junkies” who were magically turned into bad, exterminable types by being electrocuted by something.

So there, I’ve complained extensively. I’ll keep trying, because the weird thing is I really feel like I need videogames right now to take the edge of life, but I just cannot play this stuff that I’m running into.

23 June 2017
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