Right game, wrong time



BACK IN MARCH last year, I played 38 min­utes of Hit­man. I called the game “frus­trat­ing be­cause I have to keep do­ing the same mis­sion again in dif­fer­ent ways” and didn’t con­tinue past the first tu­to­rial.


I’ve played 21 hours of Hit­man in the last three days, and I think it’s prob­a­bly one of the best games of 2016. It’s a Rube Gold­berg ma­chine star­ring a bald bar­code, a masterpiece of level con­struc­tion, satir­i­cal writ­ing and blackly comedic mur­der. The very thing I didn’t like back in March — hav­ing to re­peat the same mis­sion over and over again to com­plete seem­ingly point­less chal­lenges, ap­proach mis­sions in dif­fer­ent ways to set into mo­tion dif­fer­ent, hor­ri­ble events — is now the very thing that has drawn me back over and over again this last week.

What was dif­fer­ent about me in March? March Nich was a lit­tle heav­ier. Was it the love han­dles? Can fat blind you to bril­liant game de­sign? I was a lit­tle tired be­cause I’d just got back from the Game De­vel­op­ers Con­fer­ence in San Fran­cisco — maybe be­ing around Amer­i­cans makes you ig­no­rant to one of the deep­est game pack­ages of 2016.

I was also busy in March, maybe that was it. I was play­ing The Divi­sion, Salt & Sanc­tu­ary and Far Cry Pri­mal, I moved house and I re­watched the en­tire series of The Shield. So maybe my glam­ourous sched­ule was to blame.

But these last few weeks, I’ve been in a hol­i­day haze. The most hec­tic my day has been is I’ve needed to some­how fit a nap be­twixt my morn­ing beach trip and an af­ter­noon screen­ing of La La Land.

So in between my beach­ings and nap­pings and Goslings, I’ve had time to re­ally lose my­self in some games. And when so many peo­ple at the end of last year were men­tion­ing how much they loved Hit­man, I asked my­self, “What have I been miss­ing?” Could March Nich re­ally have been that wrong? The an­swer, as we know, was yes. But it wasn’t March Nich’s fault. March Nich just wasn’t ready to ap­pre­ci­ate it. Much like Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in La La Land, Hit­man and I found each other at the wrong time.

And this isn’t the first time this has hap­pened. This isn’t even the first time this has hap­pened this month. I’ve played 37 hours of The Witcher 3 in the last two weeks, which is 32 hours more than I played when it came out two years ago.

Be­cause games are like a part­ner. They ask for our at­ten­tion. They ask for our time. And the re­ally se­ri­ous ones, they want you

ex­clu­sively. Sure you can go watch other games on­line, maybe spend an hour or two alone on Twitch, but at the end of the day, you’re com­mit­ted to the one you love. And like a re­la­tion­ship, tim­ing is ev­ery­thing.

Maybe you don’t have the time to spend in an open-world right now. Maybe the learn­ing curve of that MOBA is too steep to squeeze in this week­end, or the me­chan­ics of 2016’s finest as­sas­si­na­tion sim­u­la­tor seem ‘repet­i­tive’ or ‘a waste of my time’ or other stupid things an ig­no­rant per­son would say.

So if a game comes out and you’re not en­tirely ready to give it your ev­ery­thing, to make it your one, it can sadly slip through the cracks. Then, in a year’s time, you’ll see it on the street with an­other gamer and only be able to think of what could have been, rather than what did.


But like dat­ing, first im­pres­sions don’t al­ways have to last. If I had stuck with my first im­pres­sion of Dota 2 — ob­tuse, dense and vile — then I never would have lost 900 hours of my life. I de­spised the Dark Souls series un­til a friend lit­er­ally sat me down and made me beat the first boss, and sud­denly it clicked. The stars have yet to align for me and EVE On­line, but I know it’ll hap­pen one day. I’ve checked in ev­ery six months since launch to see if my heart has grown fonder for the space MMO — it hasn’t hap­pened yet, but the course of true love never did run smooth.

Now, of course, this doesn’t ap­ply to all games. Some games stay bad no mat­ter how many times you play them. No one will con­vince me that the Ghost­busters game that came out last year is good for any­thing other than dis­tract­ing a child you hate. And there some games will never click with you. As hard as I might try, I know that Street Fighter is a game I will have to ap­pre­ci­ate from a dis­tance. I’m a hit­man, not a fighter.

But I’m learn­ing to open my heart back up to ti­tles I’ve been pre­vi­ously cool on, to games that a younger, more March-y ver­sion of my­self would call “repet­i­tive to the point of be­ing in­sult­ing to the player”. But I’ve grown a lit­tle since then. I’ve lost the love han­dles and ex­panded my pal­ette. So my gam­ing New Year’s Res­o­lu­tion is this — be open to sec­ond chances.

Be­cause you never know, your favourite game of 2016 could have been some­thing you called back in March: “a game I will never play again. Ever.” Back when you were an idiot. I blame the love han­dles.

The great­est trick the devil ever pulled was con­vinc­ing the world he was an egg on sale in Woolies. ( Hit­man)

I watch you from afar, EVE On­line. One day, I’ll build up the courage to un­der­stand you.

Af­ter 37 hours, I think I’m fi­nally ready to start

Witcher 3’ s main quest.

Dota 2. Af­ter 900 hours, you’re bor­der­ing on an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship.

Ghost­busters. An hour I’ll never get back.

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