Failing the Feb. Four

Been quiet on the blog lately, but I’ve got a (sorta) good reason for it: games!

My pal Casey thought it would be fun to take on the Four in February challenge. I’m not sure where it originated, but it circulated around several game sites. February is typically a slow month for new game releases, so people are challenging themselves to clear out four games from their backlogs before the months ends. Casey and I are adding to that challenge with a piece of art inspired by one of the games we played.

I’m not sure I’m going to make it. I completed Binary Domain (a game that was so stupid it was good, except for the few times it dipped into actual stupid), because I played through most of it in January. Last weekend I wrapped up Rayman Origins, which was challenging and beautiful, and the soundtrack was fantastic. I’m three or four missions away from finishing Orcs Must Die 2, but I don’t know if I have it in me to complete the game. I’m starting to feel like I’m playing it because of the challenge. I don’t like that.

Before I had a kid and was super busy with writing and art freelance work (on top of my day job), I took pride in finishing every single game I purchased. If I bought it, I was going to finish it. But then life got busy, and I got really into PC gaming, and Steam sales took over, and my backlog grew.

Now if a game isn’t holding my attention, I stop playing. This is especially easy on PC, where the buy-in for a gaming experience is much lower. I paid $15 for Darksiders 2 a couple months after it came out. After about 16 hours I got tired of being the deadliest errand boy. I feel like I got my money’s worth. I don’t intend to complete that game.

It gets worse the lower the price goes. Intrusion 2, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, Dust Force, and more are all games I paid $5 or less for, and games I probably won’t finish. It’s interesting the way cost influences my time investment in a game. I’m less likely to grind through a boring part of a game if it didn’t cost much, which is weird. I should be willing to put down a boring game no matter the cost. And yet I slogged through every full-price console game on my shelf (except for MGS4, because screw that ham-fisted convoluted narrative bullshit, hire an editor Kojima!). Coincidentally, I purchased fewer console games in 2012 than ever before.

I’ve got a few missions left in Orcs Must Die 2. I’m at a point that if I want to progress, I’ll need to grind a bit in Endless Mode (a mode with a wholly unappealing title to me) to get enough skulls to upgrade some of my traps. I don’t want to grind, not when I could spend that time drawing, writing, reading…or really anything more productive than flushing hours down the toilet to say I beat back the orcs for one more level.

I guess what I’m realizing is that I want my entertainment to entertain me. I want great experiences worthy of my limited time. Something either so mechanically fun to play I don’t want to stop (Sleeping Dogs), so narratively or artistically exciting I want to see it to the end (Rayman Origins), or something so unique to games I have to experience it all (Sword & Sworcery). Those are the things I want. Another round of shootin’ dudes just to shoot em? No thanks.

There was a time when I would sit through the hours of gibberish in a Metal Gear game or grind for days in an RPG just to get access to that special set of armor. Not anymore. I stop watching shows if they get boring, and I don’t read books if the first 150 to 200 pages haven’t grabbed me. Why should games be any different?

I might not end up with four completed games by March 1, but if they weren't all worth completing, I think I’m okay with that.