The lights are on
Long before Steam sales and mail-order game rentals, we were limited to playing the games we owned. Sure, an occasional trip to a Blockbuster or its ilk spiced things up, but we were largely bound to our libraries (which were hopefully filled with solid games). Compared to the past, social networks and generous digital sales have made it easier to keep up with the steady stream of modern titles. Indulging in this flow of high-quality games is not only a blast, but it also enables us to take part in relevant discussions among other gamers.
Something can get lost in this constant drive to play the latest and greatest. Anybody with enough time and resources can inhale and quickly digest today’s game of the day. But it’s the games you’ve played the most that define you.
Being able to discuss the empathetic nature of Papers, Please is important, but don’t forget how awesome it is that you can beat Ocarina of Time in eight hours. Or how you can name each of the 150 original Pokémon and know which year the Spartan Program began in the Halo universe.
Deep knowledge of specific titles and franchises is just as important as keeping your head above the tide of new titles. It allows you to click into deeper, more intimate conversations about specific titles and connect with one another on a different level. I met one of my best friends debating which Robot Masters to battle first in Mega Man 2, and it may not have ever happened if I hadn’t obsessed over the game.
Established knowledge in past franchises from your early gaming years is valuable to your gaming identity, but it’s built up from a considerable time investment. For example, my familiarity with the Resident Evil series comes from playing each game in the series ad nauseam as a teenager. I maximized the efficiency of each playthrough, read every file, and memorized lines of dialogue over the course of my time with the series. That level of knowledge on a particular series doesn’t come quickly, and nobody can expect to develop it with modern games if each new experience is a one-off.
With this in mind, I went back to the original Dead Space after loving Dead Space 3. I remembered adoring the first Dead Space, but was struggling to remember intricacies of the plot, the overall flow of the story, and forgot some of the biggest moments. I resolved to get every achievement on the 360 version of the game, figuring I’d be plenty familiar with the game afterwards.
After playing through Dead Space three times concurrently, the game has cemented its place as one of my favorites from the last generation and crystalized my thoughts on it. That may have never happened if I hadn’t returned to it with such gusto.
Not to sound too schizophrenic, but too many voices are constantly at odds with one another regarding how I should spend my time playing games. The voice that demands I should play the latest stuff usually wins, but if I listened to that voice everyday then my video game knowledge would be wide but shallow. We need to remember that the other voice is shouting at us for a reason. It’s important to follow those impulses and pop in old favorites to remember why they made an impact on us.