Right game, wrong time
SOMETIMES, YOU DON’T CHOOSE THE GAMES, THE GAMES CHOOSE YOU.
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.
BACK IN MARCH, I WAS AN IDIOT
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.
I’VE LOST CONTROL OF THIS METAPHOR
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.