For a supposed games enthusiast, I'm often accused of being disproportionately negative towards the hobby, beating it like the disobedient but ultimately faithful and attractive wife it is. Negativity is very easy to do on the internet, the constant stream of information from developers and publishers meaning we can criticize a feature or an idea before it's even made it into the game. If I was a developer, I'd be shitting myself, with hordes of forum posts and article comments clawing at the windows and doors trying to get in, whilst I had to prepare what is essentially a delicious meal for hundreds of thousands of people that won't make them shit themselves. With this is mind, I decided it would be a good idea to keep reminding myself why I put up with this rubbish. I'll start off with a couple; there's no need to go crazy.
There are some incredible minds at work in the video game industry, and it's the aforementioned fear and pressure that could either stifle them or make them too commercially risky for publishers to go anywhere near. Certain luminaries will always be untouchable of course; Miyamoto could realistically design a game about burping up a bit of sick onto unsuspecting widows and it would be guaranteed at least cult status.
The creative juices may be flowing more heavily in some games compared to others (Shadow of the Colossus stands out as a rare gem that manages to be beautiful, thought-provoking, innovative and delivered in tasteful packaging), but they can generally be found running deep throughout the entirety of the industry like in a succulent, cooked chicken.
Men and women regularly labour tirelessly to serve up entire virtual worlds, teeming with points of interest and detailed characters, purely for us to inhabit and explore in a way that just can't be achieved through any other medium. In other instances, the ingenuity lies in finding ways for the gamer to be the one with creative control, be it diverse character and campaign creation tools or multiple paths and choices throughout a game.
As if the presence of genuine art and the conception of entire fictional universes for our pleasure wasn't enough, there are now almost more ways for us to physically interact with these things than there are with other humans – whether you want to sit hunched over your technology, wave it around, gently touch it or simply stand in front of it barking commands.
The Purchasing of Games
The joy of the game shopping experience is not one that everybody interested in games will share, largely down to the popularity of magical online entities offering retail downloads. The appeal of clicking a button and having a hot game pumped into my face certainly isn't lost on me, as my bulging Steam library will attest, but I'll always prefer a hard physical copy in my hands. In a bid to stem this curious onset of homo-eroticism, I'll clarify that it is the process of getting games into my possession that I often find so compelling or relaxing, and much like a gay Predator, I thrive when hunting on the high streets.
I complete a circuit of all the game retailers in town roughly twice a week, and apart from the long-term list of targets in my head (currently featuring Tales of Symphonia on the Gamecube and Castlevania: Curse of Darkness on the PS2, among others) I'm rarely looking for anything in particular, and instead open to purchasing anything cheap that happens to take my fancy – anything vaguely interesting and under £1 is automatically picked up.
With the vast amount of games out there on so many different platforms, as well as the eternal hope of uncovering something rare in the sinister bowels of Game, I've often considered pitching a David Dickinson-style affair where people are given an hour in a random city to spend £100 on games, which are then played and judged by myself. Then the contestants go away.