The lights are on
The current prominence and success of the video game industry owes much to blockbuster titles. Series like Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, The Elder Scrolls, and Halo have propelled into the mainstream spectacular setpiece moments, sprawling worlds, complex systems, and epic tales. While these big-budget games are entertaining, don’t forget to make time for the simpler experiences that harken back to the industry’s roots.
That isn’t to say you shouldn’t play AAA titles. You absolutely should; they are a defining aspect of today’s gaming landscape. However, sometimes it helps to take a momentary step back from the intense narratives and grand spectacle to indulge in some arcade-style action. Pick up games that no one will ever cite in the “games as art” debate – games that don’t take themselves seriously or implement deep progression systems. Games that put pure, stupid fun front and center.
Sometimes it’s great to not worry about optimizing your character growth, understanding the lore, or connecting with the characters. Those things certainly have their place, but every now and then, it’s nice to just mash some buttons and watch the craziness ensue.
Tomorrow, Earth Defense Force 2025 releases, and is a great example of what I’m talking about. You’ll have to wait another day for my full review, but it’s safe to say that it carries on the tradition of EDF 2017, giving players ridiculous weapons and pitting them against hordes of giant bugs and robots. Another example is Lego Lord of the Rings, which turns the intricate works of J.R.R. Tolkien into a goofy and smash-happy jaunt through Middle-earth. Or, if you have a few friends at your side, pick up the irreverent Castle Crashers and whack away at the cartoony bad guys.
Those are just a handful of my personal favorite examples. You probably have your own – the titles that you play over and over again, partially because they’re easy to pick up, and partially because they’re hard to put down. Making time for these breezier experiences is important; they help give you some breathing room between more intense titles, and give a wider view of the gaming spectrum.
If reading is one of your hobbies, you don’t go directly from Dostoyevsky to Proust to Melville. Sure, those authors have created works that have shaped the course of literature, but if all of your reading time is spent jumping from one classic to another, a lot of stuff is going to fall through the cracks. Not only good stuff, but also books that are pulpy, silly, or poorly written – but somehow enthralling just the same.
Similarly, titles like The Last Of Us, GTA V, and BioShock Infinite have had a great impact on the industry in the last year, but they obviously aren’t all you should play if you want to see everything gaming has to offer. Of course, time is limited. With many gamers with giant backlogs as it is, playing a less ambitious and less substantial game might seem like a waste. On the other hand, if you’re having fun, it’s time well spent.
Email the author Joe Juba, or follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Game Informer.