I’ve always been an unconventional video games blogger, because of the low volume of games that I find time to play, but that’s become much more the case over the last year. I was surprised to look at my recently played games list and realize that I didn’t finish any games for five months solid (November 13, 2011 to April 12, 2012); but I was aware that my game-playing time had been dominated by Rock Band 3 and Ni No Kuni DS for quite some time now, and neither of those is a game I was ever going to finish quickly. (I have no idea when I’ll finish either of them, though I may give up on Ni No Kuni soon.) And, in fact, neither of them is a game that I’m playing for strictly video game reasons: I’m mostly playing Rock Band these days to learn how to play guitar, and Ni No Kuni is Japanese practice. Given that, I wondered: is this is a sign that I’m currently not a video game blogger, that I’m barely a video game player?
This would not be a tragedy if it occurred. Video games have been important to me since we got our first computer back in 1982, but their importance has waxed and waned. Certainly books have been much more important to me than games over the years, I think on balance music has probably also been more important to me, and in school (undergrad and grad) I spent more time watching movies than playing games, though that was somewhat of an anomaly. (That’s what happens when you’re dating, I guess.) So perhaps the pendulum is swinging away from games; and, indeed, I’ve explicitly been making more time to read books, to make and listen to music, and ever since we got our new TV, I’ve been watching more movies. (And they look fabulous on it!) Given that, maybe I just don’t have time to play games other than Rock Band, and maybe I’m completely okay with that.
That was my tentative hypothesis earlier this year: I felt disconnected at GDC this March, and suspected that I wouldn’t be going back next year. (I now realize that this year’s GDC has had huge, unexpected benefits, so I’ll certainly be going back next year, but most of those benefits aren’t directly game related.) Thinking about it more, though, and in light of subsequent experiences, the situation is a lot more nuanced than that.
In retrospect, the main change may be that I freed up time to read books in part by cutting down on my web browsing, and in particular I stopped reading any daily video game news sites. For almost half a year, I’ve been quite out of touch with current video game releases, not reading reviews of the vast majority of games or even being aware that they’ve been released at all. I still hear about some new games through non-news blogs and through people on Twitter, but the volume is less; and those fora almost never expose me to preview coverage, and people talk about old games quite a bit as well on them. I’d thought of myself as abnormally good at avoiding the pull of the new, but in retrospect I underestimated how much I’d been affected by the novelty-driven news cycle.
Cutting down on browsing has freed up time to spend on other art forms when I want to; but the removal of that news cycle surface current has allowed deeper currents to manifest themselves, and some of those deeper currents are unquestionably video game focused. I recently played Mass Effect 3 and Journey; they’re both wonderful, wonderful games, and they are both very much what I wanted to do at that time, I wanted to play them more than read any book or watch any movie. (Though not, as it turns out, look at any painting.)
They’re also both new games; so I’m not as free from the lure of the release cycle as I’d like to pretend. I suspect, however, that they’ll largely be an aberration in that respect in my game playing over the summer. The games that I want to play next are Rez, Child of Eden, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, probably Jet Grind Radio, maybe Dragon Age 2, maybe even Shenmue or Shenmue II or Space Channel 5. Some newish games, and nothing ancient in there, but generally older games, generally games I’ve played before and want (need!) to experience again.
And they’re generally games that have something in common. (Besides the obvious link, namely the Dreamcast!) I wish I had a better analytical category to put them in, but in the absence of one, I’ll just say it: most of those games are games that speak to something deep in my soul. They’re not just games I enjoy, games that I’ve learned something from, games that I will learn something from the next time I play them. They’re games that have their hooks deep inside of me, games where replaying them will feel like returning to home. But more than that: most of them are games where I suspect playing them will make me feel like a better person, and also feel more like me, letting me learn more who I am and giving me hope that the real me is a pretty good person.
So yeah, games are still important to me. That’s not exclusive to games: I can think of plenty of books, plenty of pieces of music that I feel the same way about, and I hope I’ll spend a lot of time oven the next year or two immersed in those art forms. But games aren’t going anywhere; I’m just going to do a better job of listening to the voices of games that are quietly calling me.
This post has not been revised since publication.