In lieu of the typical What Are You Playing This Weekend? column, we decided to kick off 2013 by asking the Gameological contributors what they planned on playing this year. Think of it as us laying out our New Year’s gaming resolutions. Hopefully we can stick to them better than the millions of people who will be canceling their gym memberships come February. As always with these Q&A affairs, add you answer to the question du jour—What are you playing this year?—in the comments.
This year I want to play more old games. When I play a game that has just been released, I’m usually doing so with my job in mind. No complaints—I enjoy the stimulation of being a critic. But over the holidays, I went back and played a few smaller games that I’d missed out on, like Jamestown and VVVVVV. It gave me a new appreciation for the pleasure of letting a game soak in without the need to turn around and analyze it. I think this phenomenon holds even if your job doesn’t revolve around games. There’s an unavoidable sense of the “New, new, new! Now, now, now!” around a fresh release that colors the experience. Whereas when you play something that’s not so au courant, you can approach it on your own terms. Also, to get slightly nerdy, I plan to play more games on my PC, because it’s cheaper and they look nicer, and Steam’s new “Big Picture” thing is more pleasurable to use than the present-day interfaces of the major consoles.
For many years, I had the benefit of hindsight as I plowed through all the best console games, attempting to catch up on what I missed being a Super Nintendo snob for most of my life. (Chrono Trigger forever!) Once I was relatively up to speed, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wanted the critical weight of a game to drive me to it, rather than interest or curiosity. I waited to play a few newer games until my friends had weighed in, or simply skipped a bunch all together that didn’t get such hot reception. No more. This is the year I vow to play games along with everyone else, for better or worse. I’m catching up now on Assassin’s Creed III, and while I don’t love it, there are parts I do enjoy, and I’m regretful I didn’t give it a shot when it came out and everyone wanted to talk about it with me. I want to be willing to give things a chance when they are an unknown quantity, because the thrill of discovery will be all the sweeter. Or, an even bigger letdown. I’ll take it all!
Work stuff aside, this year I’m doing what I’ve just now termed a “360 Reverse Heisler McTwist.” That is, I’m going back and replaying console classics (like Steve’s beloved Chrono Trigger), and also plan to, for real this time, get into Dark Souls—a game I’ve started and put aside several times. The other things I’d like to accomplish, in no particular order, are finish building my beautiful lakeside house in Skyrim, revisit the cratered wastelands of Total Annihilation (in preparation for Planetary Annihilation), experiment with my forthcoming LA Game Space indie games bundle, and fire up this battered Super Dodge Ball cartridge my brother gave me for Christmas. Unfortunately, there are just way too many things to play, with a fraction of enough time to play them. The real challenge, I think, will be getting QT with my Xbox while convincing the fiancée that I’m putting an appropriate amount of effort into planning our wedding. She has the eyes of a hawk. Wish me luck.
Anthony John Agnello
Over the past year, I’ve tried to push myself to play games well outside my comfort zone. I hadn’t played a sports game besides Madden NFL since the Genesis, but I dove into FIFA 13 and MLB 2K12 headfirst and was pleasantly surprised when I did. I’m gunning to push even further into no man’s land in 2013. I’m about to give a tabletop roleplaying game a serious try for the first time. After an aborted attempt to play Dungeons & Dragons, I never gave role-playing games much thought. They’re just so time consuming! I’ve read good things about beginners RPGs, though, so I’m going that route with Star Wars: Edge Of The Empire, a game built around learning steadily as you play. I only hope the rules accommodate speaking like a regular human being rather than in the stilted nonsense dialogue you typically find in things bearing the name Star Wars. I include Knights Of The Old Republic in that category by the way.
I recently got my husband back into World Of Warcraft and it reminded me how much I enjoy playing video games with someone in the same room. I typically like to play games on my own terms, but there is something refreshing about the shared experience. Provided I can pull myself away from my own renewed addiction, I’d like to do that more by, for example, revisiting Dungeon Siege III or actually showing up to the networking parties one of my friends regularly throws instead of just lending him my copy of Gears Of War 3. I also have yet to try the Xbox Kinect or Wii U, and I’d like to find out what they have to offer. Plus, I want to try fighting all the villains in Sentinels Of The Multiverse because I’ve largely loved all the games of it I’ve played so far.
Beyond a halfhearted “I guess we should lose some weight this year,” New Year’s Resolutions have never been popular in the Kodner household. But for this Kodner, 2013 is going to be different. I am hellbent on trying out as many variations of Settlers Of Catan as I possibly can. After years of threatening to try an expansion of the tabletop game, I got a sweet taste of the Cities & Knights edition on Christmas Eve. Fundamentally, the game is still the same: you build settlements, harvest resources, and screw over friends with bogus trades. Cities, however, adds a ton of new elements, like the impending threat of attacking barbarians, a new set of fancy resources, and a skill tree that changed the game completely. Now I want more, and as far as I can tell, there are a million different versions to try. Some introduce pirates, others oil rigs, and there’s even one set entirely in space. The 14-year-old inside me is stoked.
I’ve been visiting Nairobi for the past few months—that’s kind of its own story—but when I decided to take that plunge, I knew the slower pace of life would give me a chance to spend time with some games that I’ve wanted to play for quite a while. So, I made a list. It’s a pretty random, ramshackle thing—a decade’s worth of strange, sometimes bad games that for whatever reason weren’t worth playing at the time. But sticking to it has been enriching, and I never would have discovered the awkward, heartfelt beauty of Nier without it. I won’t be in Nairobi for all of this year, but I expect the list to endure. Next up are the bizarre Deadly Premonition and Tron: Evolution, because my love for Tron is apparently unconditional. I’m as bothered by this revelation as you are.
My gaming tastes tend to favor instant gratification. The two games that really resonated with me last year, though, were Virtue’s Last Reward and The Walking Dead, both of which were darker than things I typically play and have intense focus on character development and storytelling. These games involved an emotional investment on my part, and were hugely rewarding in the end, so I think I’d like to search out more story-driven experiences like those. The only one on my calendar right now is Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch, but who knows? Maybe this is the year I finally play through something with Final Fantasy in its title (not likely, but you never know). If Nintendo releases another Kirby this year, though, you’d better believe I am all over it.
This year I will definitely be playing big releases like Grand Theft Auto V, Gears Of War: Judgment, and BioShock Infinite, but outside of the usual colon-filled sequels and flashy new titles, I still need a some heart. The little indie-rock rebel kid must still be alive and kicking inside me, because these days I can usually be found scanning Xbox Live Arcade and Steam for the newest releases. You can enjoy gorgeous graphics once, but a randomly generated dungeon crawler or a complicated puzzle game with a witty story are gifts that keep on giving. I’m specifically looking forward to BattleBlock Theater (from the guys that brought you Castle Crashers). I want imaginative new uses for old physics, I want weird storylines that wouldn’t fly in a big-budget game, and I want games I can play on my Mac when I’m traveling.
I don’t see my gaming habits changing much in 2013. I’ll keep telling myself that I really should play some older PC stuff like Planescape: Torment and I’ll keep staring at its page on GOG.com. In the end, I won’t buy it, because I know I’ll never play it. As many of the others have alluded to, there’s always something shiny and new to distract me. The first few months of 2013 are jam packed with stuff I’ve been looking forward to for ages. How could I force myself to play Baldur’s Gate 2 when Ni No Kuni, a game with art by Studio Ghibli, has finally made its way to these shores? Why would I struggle with the clunkiness of Deus Ex when there’s BioShock Infinite, a game with a setting, goals, and themes that feel tailor-made for me? Maybe it’s because those games were before “my time.” I know there are impressive and important pieces of game-craftsmanship in there, but they’re buried under mounds of antiquated design that my almost-23-year-old sensibilities just can’t deal with.
The blessing and the curse of the tentpole nature of the Call Of Duty series is that it’s the one multiplayer game I can count on to play with a group of old real-life friends of mine who are extremely casual gamers. I’d love to cajole them into playing a cooperative adventure like Borderlands 2 or an online dynasty league in NBA 2K13, but as our annual tradition demands, we all got Black Ops II and have been dutifully slaying angsty teens who seem to love swastikas made out of penises. Beyond work-related stuff, I’d love to eventually dive back into Sleeping Dogs, Mass Effect 3, and Skyrim—great games saddled with the problem of being longer than the time I can usually devote to a single-player game (about 10-15 hours). I’ll also be the lame guy at my local YMCA attempting to play mobile games on my iPhone or Android tablet while working out on a stationary bike or treadmill (and avoiding eye contact with women).