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
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 to flesh the post out with some of my personal thoughts and experiences in the video gaming world from a forgotten era to present day. I also wanted to share my own, and write about the various habits from one player to the next, asking what game should I play these days and what video gaming means to me.
The technology behind home entertainment systems and gaming consoles has come on scarily fast and in my opinion have even past what I thought back in the day were unbeatable, arcade machines.
Graphical wonders and nostalgic soundtracks, themes and sounds trapped in a molded, lit cabinet using a covered CRT screen and all for £0.10 – £0.50p 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 I was with a bag of coins, eyes lit up, excitement in my face and blood rushing quickly around my head 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. 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 11th 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 1 megabyte.
Games were better, things were faster and the sound of a 3.5″ floppy disk clicking into place was top shelf stuff! As video games consoles started to surface and their power and versatility shown off, I knew I had to jump on board. I’ve personally been through a ‘PS1’ (Sony PlayStation 1), ‘PS2’ (Sony PlayStation 2), ‘SEGA Saturn’, ‘SNES’ (UK PAL Super Nintendo), ‘SNES’ (US NTSC Super Nintendo), 2 released versions of a ‘Microsoft XBOX 360’, ‘PS3’ (Sony PlayStation 3) and presently a ‘PS4’ (Sony PlayStation 4).
I still have the ‘XBOX360’ consoles but its 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 its 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 £10 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 a £1 off a price. I can even remember a while back, purchasing the likes of ‘Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’ (2016) from ‘Square Enix’ for £2 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 (if you celebrate and believe in these events). 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 ‘PS4’ (PlayStation 4), he knew I had it on my radar and wanted to give it a good home.
I can’t say I’ve 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 micro transactions 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) by ‘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 & 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 maybe 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 20-50 strong online networked game, being picked off as soon as I either appear or move or 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 a game play!
Based on my own experiences and purchases I feel that I favor narrative based, cinematic game play – the closer to a movie a game is, the more I’ll like it. I like great story lines, deeper the better also favoring 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’ impressed me with ‘Until Dawn’ (2015) too.
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 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 ‘PS4’ (PlayStation 4) as of 14th 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 2’ (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’.
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 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 them all 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’ (www.random.org) and is very useful and unique to my cause and decision-making. 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.
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 3 to 5 numbers and choose from the selection once the power of the app kicks in!
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. 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 the ‘PS4’ (PlayStation 4) console, 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 1st 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, but even if a game is there could still be good reason for a non-departure. ‘Detroit Become Human’ (2018) by ‘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, 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 favorite movies of mine also dictate if I keep the game, like for example ‘Ghostbusters The Video Game’ (2009) from ‘Terminal Reality’, ‘Enter The Matrix’ (2003) and ‘The Matrix Path of Neo’ (2005) both from ‘Shiny Entertainment’.
I’m also one of those collectors who will always think about investing in the better version of a game or movie title. This has been apparent in the 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 ‘PS4’ (PlayStation 4) versions.
I’ve also spent a fortune on ‘Extended’ and ‘Director’s Cut’ versions of movies as well as DVD to BD conversions! I’ve not reached the 4K horizon just yet.
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 inline with current quality titles. It’s obviously understandable that this won’t and cannot happen.
On the flip side to things, ‘Assassin’s Creed 2’ (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 2’s. Some of them were novelty purchases and have had a week of life, 2 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 ‘PS4’ (PlayStation 4) and legacy ‘XBOX360’ collection and the many pixels of graphics, forthcoming levels and sequences that are yet to appear on screen.
What you’ve just read was just one of 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 its 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 mine 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 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’ and ‘Pitfighter’ in their arcade form, they had a kind of photo graphical realism and it wasn’t just a drawn or modeled character anymore. What will come next in the future of video games?