Video games might be one of the most unique forms of entertainment in the most ironic way. For a medium that requires a certain level of resources, talent, and intelligence, there is a metric shit-ton of product out there. Making games has become more accessible than ever before, and like a lot of creative mediums when the barrier to entry is low enough, people find the desire and opportunity to make the leap from consumer to producer.
As a consumer, this sounds like Paradise. Big Video Game seems to be so reliant on tsunamis of cash that they can’t do anything but pump out crowd-pleasing franchise entries on a schedule you could set your watch by. Meanwhile, those who are more eclectic in their tastes can just fire up an Unreal Editor or a Unity or even a web-based game engine and bang out something that, seemingly counter to the laws of economics, finds a following in the gaming community. As a gamer, there is absolutely no excuse for not finding something out there that appeals to you.
In fact, there might be too many games that appeal to you. In this age of excess, you might not think this is a problem. Being able to turn on a dime at the drop of a hat (and other fun sayings) means that life is good, right? Can you imagine how hard it would be if were had nothing, or just enough to keep us from teetering over the edge into that void of existential ennui?
I can, because I, like many of my contemporaries, lived through that period when video games were new and weren’t quite so ubiquitous. I remember the first game that I bought myself with my own job-earned money when I was living on my own (kinda, it was in college) was Master of Magic, and I bought it at an Electronics Boutique at the Newington Mall in Newington, NH. I played the hell out of that game in part because it was good, but mainly because I didn’t have anything else to segue into. I couldn’t afford to blow money on games as I do now, and aside from the fact that I had other responsibilities, I simply didn’t have a lot of opportunities to run roughshod over the spectrum of video game offerings. I was basically forced to focus on that one game for as long as possible or go do something totally unrelated.
Having too many games means I never have to commit to anything that annoys me even a little bit. Remember in the last post how I said I quit and uninstalled Gears of War 5 after dying once? I’ve done that with a lot of games (died, and uninstalled as a result) simply because I knew I didn’t have to really try in 2019 the way I did back in 1994 because while in 1994 it was “one more try or go study”, in 2019 it’s “fuck this shit I’m gonna find something in my voluminous backlog or just buy something else”. I think the glut of product on the market means that we can — and do — allow for even minor annoyances to color our view on a specific title. We no longer have to “stick it out” until things get better — Hi, Anthem! — because we have a lifetime of games in our library and several lifetimes worth of games perpetually on the horizon. People can feel far less charitable about how they talk about these games as well when mentally cutting ties with them has absolutely no bearing on our ability to stay buried neck-deep in the hobby. It would be one thing to just walk away, but I believe there’s a contingent of people out there who are happy to use this glut of inventory against the games industry as a way of saying “agree to our demands or we’ll just go play something else!”
As someone who did live through a period where we had to take what we were given — and thankfully what we were given somehow still managed to appeal to us — I like having not just choices but weird and wonderful choices, but I don’t like the way that it insinuates that frustration-busting safety net. I honestly may be in a minority among people I know here because I can point in any direction and offer examples of friends who do stick with one or even a few games for long periods of time, which effectively neutralizes my entire argument here. I wish I were like that or were more like that. In some ways, this is why I am so gung-ho for Star Citizen. It seems to be the one game that I think about a lot and that I return to again and again, despite the vagueness of the entire project. I want it to succeed because I find that I am able to stick with it and not be distracted from it.