I Don’t Want Just Another Video Game

I buy a lot of games. Probably too many. Most of the time I go into each of my video game purchases with a enough knowledge about the game to feel confident in dropping some cash. From a collector’s perspective, even if the game isn’t great, but it has a unique feature that makes it stand out, I’ll keep it in my collection. However, I’ve had a string of bad decisions lately, leaving me with a handful of mediocre titles that I’m giving up on. It has made me question my buying process and left me frustrated at these games’ failure to live up to the expectations I had for them.

The victories


Evolution ain't pretty

Historically, some of my more memorable gaming moments have come from taking risks with my wallet. Whether it was a game with mixed reviews or a game I could only find one article on, I realize most of the coverage out there is subjective and I do my best to interpret what I’m reading to see if the game matches my interests. I never would have stumbled across E.V.O. or Cubivore on my own and, had I gone completely based on critical opinion of the industry or my peers, I wouldn’t have played them. Yet, personally, they are some of the most blissful gaming experiences that I can remember. Each discovery fueled me to take more risks and branch out to other genres I despised. I remember when I resisted Warcraft III, but the art style and world became so intriguing that I eventually gave in. Of course, I ended up spending years of my life with the franchise later in WoW, all because of the original hook that I gambled on.

It soon became normal for me to find a single standout feature for a game that would make or break my purchase. The characters of Earthbound, the soul sucking action of Soul Reaver, the setting of Red Dead Redemption, the trash talking of 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand and the strategy of Monster Hunter Tri. At one time, all of these games that I now love for different reasons were purchases that I talked myself out of. None of these games are ones that I’d necessarily recommend to everyone, but they were great to me and hit home at the core of why I enjoy video games.

Unfortunately, these great experiences have led me to have a bit of an overconfidence in my game buying abilities of late. The reward of having so many past memorable moments has made me cocky. The risks actually paying off has caused me to avoid game rentals or even buying used games in recent years. I’m starting to waver though thanks to a recent flood of unremarkable titles that once stood apart from their competition.

Not who I thought you were

Without going into the issues of specific titles, because honestly I still have hope for a couple of the games I’m currently playing (hang in there Alice and Hunted) and this issue can be applied to most games out now, mediocrity is tougher to spot than it used to be. Thanks to the permeation of 3rd party game engines and the overall maturation of the industry and its developers, the definitive features that used to knock down games from greatness are less striking. Broken and unplayable games with unusable controls have been weeded out by industry standards. So, unless the art style sets it apart, we have a lot of games out there that are technically sound but just use tired game mechanics. Trying to find a game with a soul or a gameplay hook that doesn’t get tired after a few uses isn’t something that can be discovered through reading previews or watching game trailers. It has to be experienced, and unfortunately, it is easy to hide until you spend a decent amount of time with the game before you realize, “Oh, that’s all there is to this one.”

Alice: Madness Returns

Don't say it, you'll ruin everything.

Whether you buy games or rent them, the fact remains that the amount of game time we all have is finite. My allotment seems to be getting smaller by the week, and my patience with mediocre games is wearing out. Unfortunately, this is in direct competition with my desire as a collector to discover a few hidden game gems out there that no one is talking about. What I’m left with is a developing stubborness to see games through that normally I would have dropped much sooner. After you’ve put 5-7 hours into a 12 hour game, it is hard not to want to see it through to the end, but with each repetitive moment the game only gets more disappointing or average.

The big budget pretenders are getting sneakier, too. The best recent example of a game I didn’t pull the trigger on was earlier this year with Homefront. A game with a tremendous amount of hype surrounding it as a fresh new shooter with a story. Turns out the game isn’t as bad as it was made out to be, but it did still fit my definition of mediocre in an already crowded genre. On the other end, the promising underdogs just aren’t panning out. These games are by up-and-coming developers that I want to support. Their trailers flaunt their uniqueness, but can mislead gamers into expecting a certain type of gameplay experience while delivering another, a’ la Brutal Legend.

Not terrible, just average

I take my game purchases personally and can’t help but wonder where I’m going wrong when multiple games in a row just don’t pan out as I expected or was promised. Either game marketing is getting more savvy, or I’ve finally started casting too wide of a net. Be wary out there shoppers, do your due diligence and keep an eye on the details. The great games are still out there, and some of the best still aren’t covered in the everyday headlines. However, the wanna-be’s are looking better with every release and they are getting smarter in all of the wrong ways.


Giant Bomb (images)

4 Comments I Don’t Want Just Another Video Game

  1. Justin Shimp

    Ive been extremely wary of buying new games. I dont own a new system or even a new computer capable of some of these newer fantastical games.

    I see a couple games here and there really catching my eye, but its really me swamped with playing older games at my own pace. (which is slow due to 2 jobs and also having a social life)

    I want a 360 or PS3 to check out some of the bigger AAA titles (Mass Effect, Uncharted, etc) alongside the indie/weird games I have come to love (noby noby boy, from dust, etc.)

    But i just cant do it yet. I am too busy wanting to get my 8 and 16 bit game on (Cave Story , Final Fantasy IV the after years) And then buying the newer handheld AAA RPGs (Dragon Quest VI, which is flipping sweet already)

    Maybe when we finally get The last guardian and the HD remixes of SotC and Ico I will finally plop down the money for a PS3…but until then its buying old games on the DS and Wii that I never got to visit.

  2. Justin Gifford

    I suppose there are benefits to being a “late adopter” for most games I buy (aside from the “used” price) – I don’t get bit as badly. Still, I feel you – because the great majority of the “brokenness” has been eliminated, it’s harder and harder to tell the great from the mediocre, even if it’s a “trustworthy” developer (e.g., Bioshock 2 which was, unfortunately, mediocre despite how great Bioshock was).

  3. Justin Lacey

    I’m still trying to figure out the benefits to being an early adopter, I just can’t fight it for some reason haha. Even though I know most games drop in price just 2-3 weeks after release.

    Careful on your BioShock comparison though, that was a different developer, but it’d be nice to be able to trust the publishers, too. I do try and place my bets on developers I’m familiar with though, but it’s nice to also catch that game that breaks through for a new developer. So I can say “I was there” to the 6 people who care.

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