Through this article, I’ll be giving you, the reader (and maybe fellow gamer) a personal insight into my world and journey of indoor gaming. I wanted to try flesh the post out with some of my personal thoughts and experiences in the world of a gamer, collecting and playing from a forgotten era to present day.
I also wanted to share and write about my own various habits from one player to the next, asking the question, what thoughts and insights are whirring in the mind and the world of a gamer, what am I playing recently and what does video gaming mean to me?
The technology behind home entertainment systems and gaming consoles has come on scarily fast. In my opinion, they have even past what I thought back in the day were unbeatable, arcade machines.
These were such graphical and visual wonders with nostalgic soundtracks, themes and sounds trapped in a moulded, lit cabinet using a covered CRT screen and all for 10 to 50 pence a go! Remarkable and memorable games like, Operation Wolf, Dragon Ninja, Robocop, Final Fight, Shadow Warriors and Outrun to name a few huddled together in loud arcade forums alongside the pinball machines or found tucked away in remote Spanish holiday bars.
There’s nothing worse for me and an enjoyable gaming session than to be a part of a 20-50 strong online networked game— Steve Bourne
There I was with a bag of coins, eyes lit up, excitement in my face and blood rushing quickly around my head and standing in the world of a gamer, as I asked myself, “what game should I play?” Compared to what households had for indoor gaming back then, these things were amazing, but unfortunately, the power has drained from these time-consuming, money swallowing monsters and they get little attention now compared to their HD, 4K and VR counterparts. This set-up now nicely introduces the first section.
Vintage Reality – From Past to Present
My journey started out back in the 8-bit days when I was using home computers and cassettes for gaming. If you’re of my era, there was nothing more frustrating when loading up a game than to see the loading image corrupted and flashing as it painted itself across the screen, accompanied by its beeps and screeches and then the disheartening “R Tape Loading Error” text in the bottom left of the connected TV screen. These were the Sinclair days when I started out with a 48k Sinclair Spectrum.
I eventually upgraded to a 128k Spectrum with its built-in cassette deck and extra memory. From here I converted over to the Commodore brand and its amazing Amiga 500 model. The difference in the Batman game alone by Ocean (that tied in with the movie release on 11 August 1989) was outstanding. It was a rewarding experience with the Amiga and even better options once I installed an extra memory card underneath, making it up to 1Mb.
Games were better, things were faster and the sound of a three and a half-inch floppy disk clicking into place was top shelf stuff! As video games consoles started to surface and their power and versatility are shown off, I knew I had to jump on board.
I’ve personally been through a Sony PlayStation 1 (PS1), Sony PlayStation 2 (PS2), SEGA Saturn, Super Nintendo (SNES UK PAL), Super Nintendo (SNES US NTSC), two released versions of a Microsoft XBOX360, a Sony PlayStation 3 (PS3) and presently a Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4).
I still have the XBOX360 consoles but it’s the latter that gets powered up the most these days and acts as the hub for all my screen-based indoor entertainment.
In a world where you’re only buying half a game these days and the rest of it is on a patch, update or DLC it’s important to me to still find the right deal and pay the right price within reason. Everyone will have their own circumstances, commitments, financial budget and ceiling and importantly this will determine how many games titles can be brought per month to fuel and drive to an entertainment getaway.
It’s very rare these days that I jump through hoops, paying full retail price for a newly released title. Only “hot,” “AAA” titles, that I’ve researched well and really want will I go the extra ten pounds on to secure it. For me, there is no real rush for a game title as it can still be a new experience later, even a year down the line (providing you stay away from the web, people, social media and feeds etc). I mostly browse the second hand / used markets these days and mainly shop online only.
I like to think of myself as quite a frugal and savvy shopper, bidding on auctions, trading, using cashback sites, promo and voucher codes where possible to shave even one pound off a price. I can even remember a while back, purchasing the likes of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (2016) from Square Enix for two pounds as an example of cost-cutting.
There are a few known high street stores and brands that not only deal with new copies of a title but dabble in the used market too but I find that I can still find games cheaper than even their kinder-on-the-wallet prices. Another couple of ways of getting a bargain, ways that I’ve personally taken advantage of is to add wanted titles to a Christmas or Birthday ideas list.
Sometimes if you’re lucky you may even acquire a title from a colleague or friend. I had Final Fantasy XV (2016) from Square Enix given to me due to the fact that the owner switched to more PC gaming than a PlayStation 4 (PS4), he knew I had it on my radar and wanted to give it a good home. I can’t say I have a regimental buying frequency or rule, I tend to make my purchases based on titles that I’ve seen, researched and know I want.
Sometimes I will and have made some impulse purchases – but only if it’s cheap and I feel it’s a bargain. It doesn’t necessarily mean I wanted that game or researched it well upfront, depends on who I’m with, where I am at the time and the circumstances I’m in when making my decision.
The only issue I’ve had making these sorts of purchases is that the quickly brought game is short-lived, it’s a playable novelty up to about a few weeks and then I steer towards the heavier games that interest me more as the other gets shelved and becomes a part of the furniture.
Maybe sometime in the future, it will get brought out of retirement again when linked to a mood, movie, event or a random choice chosen from the app I mention below. I will admit and confess that I’ve delved into and been the victim of the hated microtransactions since they arrived on the scene.
I’m very specific when it comes down to it and have only gone for them when I honestly feel I’m getting value for money. Pinball FX2 (2010) from Zen Studios on the XBOX360 is a fantastic and addictive game to just load up for a blast but having Star Wars added content, extra quality tables and movie samples – its a no brainer for a fan like me!
I’ve also invested further in another high-grade quality game, Marvel’s Spiderman (2018) from Insomniac Games, extending the game out with another few DLC chapters/levels. I’ve also been entitled to a few free DLC’s through Ubisoft for example due to buying multiple Assassin’s Creed titles. Hats, coins, props, themes, avatar clothing and other tat, will only ever be viewed through the store window. Obviously, these are just the opinions and views of myself.
Playing and Gaming Habits
This is the part of the article that can get really interesting as we delve into my way of thinking when it comes to my own playing and gaming habits. I can appreciate and feel that some of these habits may be a little on the OCD or bizarre side, but hey, that’s me. Maybe, just maybe a few of you out there possibly could relate to what I’m honestly expressing. First off, and here’s where I lose half my audience, I’m more of the solo player than an online gamer.
There’s nothing worse for me and an enjoyable gaming session than to be a part of a 20 to 50 strong online networked game, being picked off as soon as I either appear, move or am simply trying to mind my own business without others hassling me or running me over in a vehicle! I’m not one for video broadcasting myself and my session either. I also prefer a single-player experience over a split screen one any day. Strange to admit, but true, I don’t just take enjoyment from my own experiences and gaming sessions but that of others too.
I get a kick out of and enjoy watching others enjoy their journey, their experience and having the time to see the game and its details from another perspective and angle without tense concentration. I fascinate over watching others reactions, excitement and seeing what options and choices they take.
I’ve had many an enjoyable gaming session with my Brother where I hardly ever touch the controller and allow him to take an extended seat at the helm. All I’ve got to worry about is keeping the refreshments and snacks rolling in!
The realism and detail in the latest game technology is something that I can appreciate and I’m in bewildered awe at the work that’s been achieved. One of my other habits is to really take my time walking around an environment, I mean really slow, putting myself there in that tomb, city plaza or jungle allowing my right thumb take full control of that camera movement in slow, inquisitive circles. Maybe due to this reason alone, it wouldn’t be wise broadcasting gameplay and sending my viewers to sleep!
Based on my own experiences and purchases I feel that I favour narrative-based, cinematic gameplay – the closer to a movie a game is, the more I’ll like it. I like great storylines, deeper the better also favouring character-driven and emotional content that will test my resolve and sensitivities.
The titles by Quantic Dream are a very good example here, even though Supermassive Games impressed me with Until Dawn (2015) again with their other title, The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan (2019) and forthcoming title, The Dark Pictures Anthology: Little Hope (2020) . This title has already perked my interest. See my other post where it’s mentioned.
It’s awful to admit, and I can see my Brother smiling and laughing at me now, but one of my worse and addictive playing and gaming habits is, “starting from fresh.” How many times I’ve marched forward in a game, taking steps in the story and levels, making positive progress to have myself, out of the blue wanting to delete the save game file and start a new!
I’m not sure why I do it, maybe I want to revisit earlier cut scenes, play better than my first attempt, who knows? It’s no wonder I don’t complete many titles.
I made a personal pact to myself and a New Year’s resolution at the start of 2019, after wiping every save game from storage. Every game that goes on now MUST only continue forward. Goodbye to “starting fresh” – we’ll see how long it lasts. Maybe one day I may be writing an article on my gaming relapse.
Free Your Mood
Moods, movies and event links can also help me to determine what actual title gets played and this is the part where my habits and traits really show through. I like choice and currently own over 30 titles on the PlayStation 4 (PS4) as of 14 May 2019. Sometimes I can have a pile of games near the console that I’ll leave there for weeks on end, chipping away at what’s on offer. Maybe this is my way of being that overwhelmed by choice, I narrow the choices down by stacking a few nearby.
If a title is newly purchased, then its been known that the disc doesn’t leave the drive and I’ll just keep playing on that one for a while until I need a refreshing change. When Red Dead Redemption II (2018) from Rockstar Games was released, this was glued in my drive for a good while and funny enough, prior to its release got me playing Red Dead Redemption: Game of The Year Edition (2011) also from Rockstar Games and which both feature in one of my other posts.
This got me in the right mindset and mood for a good western showdown and of course meant firing up the boiler and stoking the fires in the XBOX360.
Movies can be a huge influence to my gaming habits too, like for example recently, I watched Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) and have already reached for Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag (2013) from Ubisoft and added it to my small pile of “to play” titles.
After a decent binge on a science fiction TV series or after watching Interstellar (2014) for example, I’m drawn to a good title of similar content like, Destiny (2014) from Bungie or Mass Effect Andromeda (2017) from Bioware. It’s so strange where my moods take me and what results from them. That’s the best thing about choices.
As a rule of thumb I believe, no, I know I prefer to play a franchise of games in the title and release order, in a perfect world I would as the story would flow better from chapter to chapter within the series. I’m talking about the stealthy games like Assassin’s Creed in its many guises, the adventurous Uncharted and Tomb Raider titles and the galaxy battles in Mass Effect. My issue is, due to my own playing habits that I’m too slow to complete the individual titles, so another sequel gets released before I get to a suitable end.
I’ve kind of stopped doing this now as the many titles in a franchise I do purchase, I’ll never even see if I’m waiting for completions from the first layer of a saga.
As an example I still have Mass Effect 2 (2010) and Mass Effect 3 (2012) both from Bioware still unplayed, sitting shelved in my XBOX360 legacy collection – fill me in folks, are they good? I now treat any game as separate titles, stories and adventures and just pick up a save game where I left off no matter if I play them out of sync.
If it’s not a mood, movie or event that makes a decision for my choice of game to unshelve and load up, its an app. . . Yes! There is an app I found out about for my smartphone called, Randomizers from university professor, Dr Mads Haahr and is very useful and unique to my cause and decision-making.
The app features functions like Lotto Quick Pick, Card Shuffler, Dice Roller and more. The one that interests me is List Randomizer. I’ve had to list all my titles, but at the touch of a button the whole list is shuffled around, so what I find myself doing is playing a mini game to decide on a game, sad isn’t it?
Sometimes I’ll just think of a number and go with that once the button has been pressed or I may choose a selection of three to five numbers and choose from the selection once the power of the app kicks in! Sometimes like with TV channels we’re overwhelmed with choice and still cannot decide what to watch – I let this app choose for me when I cannot decide. Get it and check it out from below.
I’m going to admit and label myself as a collector of multimedia, this covers games titles, box sets, DVDs and Blu-rays. I like to present the boxes on bookshelves and other areas around my residence, for my satisfaction mainly not others. I like the visual appeal of my own alphabetical video games library, a purchase history where each title has its own back story and origin and as mentioned above, I like varied choices.
I’ve gained a great appreciation of the visual style of the box sleeves, graphics and designs and because of these personal reasons, this is why I stay away from the new digital download era if I can. Maybe this could just be an “age thing” or for my own tactile reasons.
Because of the choice to buy this way, I’ve invested in an external hard drive for both the PlayStation 4 (PS4) and my second XBOX360 consoles, at least this way I can have a good amount of games on the go although I’ll admit that not every title I own has been installed. This set-up works for me alongside the save games that I’ve promised myself to move forward with since 1 January 2019, as mentioned above.
I’ve a hard time selling on or giving up a game title once its been added to my collection without good reason, mainly because its not completed to the end. Even if a game is there could still be good reason for a non-departure. Detroit Become Human (2018) from Quantic Dream is a good example, as not only is it a firm favorite of mine and was a long awaited game, but there are multiple threads, paths and endings to experience to change up the story although I have seen it through.
The Bourne Conspiracy (2008) from High Moon Studios for the XBOX360 was also a heavily awaited game title for me back then and one which I’ve completed through and have enjoyed, due to being a fan of the movies too.
Because I won it in a Publisher competition, its a signed copy by the High Moon Studios team of developers and I obviously won’t give it up, not even for a new identity!
Revolutionary games for the day, technological breakthroughs, titles that made history or games that mean something to me, in my opinion, are also ones I hold dear and can’t depart with, like for example Grand Theft Auto IV (2008) from Rockstar Games and Star Wars The Force Unleashed (2008) from LucasArts to name a few.
Firm favourite movies of mine sometimes also dictate if I keep a game, like for example Ghostbusters The Video Game (2009) from Terminal Reality, read about the remastered version from Saber Interactive in my other post, Enter The Matrix (2003) and The Matrix Path of Neo (2005) both from Shiny Entertainment or Back to The Future 30th Anniversary Edition from Telltale Games.
I’m also one of those collectors who will always think about investing in the better remastered version of a game or movie title. This has been apparent in my gaming world with Grand Theft Auto V (2014), L.A. Noire (2017) both from Rockstar Games, Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag (2013) from Ubisoft, Tomb Raider Definitive Edition (2013) from Crystal Dynamics and more, all going through the upgrade from XBOX360 to PlayStation 4 (PS4) versions.
I’ve also spent a fortune on Extended and Director’s Cut versions of movies as well as DVD to Blu-ray disc conversions! I’ve not reached the 4K horizon just yet though, although have recently upgraded my DVD/Blu-ray player to a 4K capable one, model Sony UBP-X700 as mentioned in my other post.
The only one bad egg revamp that I purchased that comes to mind is when I heard about a cleaned up, high definition version of, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas (2015) from Rockstar Games surfacing on the XBOX360. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the reboot but something told me it would be a great part of my collection and will be improved, maybe I was living in a dream world expecting even the code to change!
I think my hopes were too high and the result wasn’t what I wanted, the title was too far back in technology to make a magical difference in my eyes. I wouldn’t have played it even after noticing the visual improvements over the original and it was soon sold on. I think I was expecting a kind of “re-coding” of the game to bring it in line with current quality titles. It’s obviously understandable that this won’t and cannot happen.
On the flip side to things, Assassin’s Creed II (2009) from Ubisoft impressed me enough when it came remastered with two other titles in the Ezio Collection (2016), the jump in technology did improve the visual aspect of the game and it made it to my collection. There are a number of games that have passed under my nose through time that I wish would get a remastered version release and I longingly await them and their return.
Each individual game title I own stands tall, like a tombstone on shelves and bookcases surrounded in a fog-like dust. Some of these games are years old, haven’t even seen light to their later levels, end sequences or even disc two’s. Some of them were novelty purchases and have had a week of life, two at the most! Some aren’t installed and others are still shrouded by cellophane, untouched, unplayed and unblemished.
This is the only apparent downside of having a collector mentality, having too many choices in a collection that becomes a graveyard of games with names. This haunting picture describes my current PlayStation 4 (PS4) and legacy XBOX360 collection and the many pixels of graphics, forthcoming levels and sequences that are still yet to appear on the screen.
What you’ve just read was just one of the millions of player journeys. Each gamer will have their own specific path and with their own choices, traits and gaming habits. I’m no child now and yet I still enjoy my indoor entertainment and getting on the video games console here and there around life’s commitments. To me it’s a “vent” a form of “escapism” in order to get away from the daily grind, life’s details and sometimes – just people and others.
Getting engrossed in an adventure, story or game gives me the chance of becoming someone else for a while, each session gives me the opportunity to explore places that don’t exist and gives me a chance of doing things I wouldn’t normally do. In some cases, dialogue and decision choices are for me to make so some experiences are more interactive than others.
So, asking, what game should I play? Well for me it has always been about choices and mood and therefore I go from one to another with no pattern, picking up where I left off and changing the scene with another title very easily.
For me, on my journey I’ve witnessed various changes in games from a front row seat. The most identifying, scary created feature is the realism behind them all. Characters, faces and expressions, fabric detail, cars, lighting, texture, weather conditions etc, it’s all come on in leaps and bounds since the 8-bit days I remember.
I knew things were on the change when I first saw the likes of Mortal Kombat (1992) from Midway and Pitfighter (1990) from Atari Games in their arcade form, they had a kind of photo graphical realism to the characters and techniques and it wasn’t just a drawn or modeled character anymore. What will come next in the future of video games?
The likes of digital full-motion video (FMV) sequences and well-known actors also started to impress me within games as it brought forward, that more interactive movie experience, games like Erica (2019) from Flavourworks, The X-Files Game (1998) from Hyperbole Studios, Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger developed and released by Origin Systems (1994) and Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom (1996) from Origin Systems and Electronic Arts are a few fine examples.
Some of these games made it to PlayStation in the early days of the Sony product, but were originally created for the PC and Microsoft Windows platforms, amongst other platforms. These titles alone starred the following talent:
Gillian Anderson – Dana Scully
David Duchovny – Fox Mulder
Mark Hamill – Col. Christopher “Maverick” Blair.
Malcolm McDowell – Admiral Tolwyn
Thomas F. Wilson – Major Todd ‘Maniac’ Marshall
John Rhys-Davies – James ‘Paladin’ Taggart
Thank you for reading this article, I hope you found it of some help or interest. Please feel free to drop a comment about these titles, the written content or even your own experiences.