The Importance of Standing Still
The games industry moves at a ridiculous pace. No sooner has generic sequel three hundred and twenty two been announced, and suddenly the latest console rumours are flying, another developer has closed, and before you know it there’s yet another upgrade for your PC. With all the titles being hurled at video gamers these days, and the variety that we as gamers are spoiled with, it’s not surprising that we want to play as many of them as possible. Only the most devoted and hardcore of gamers get to play all the biggest releases, especially if you split your time between different platforms and series. This is made all the more difficult with the growing size of games generally.
It’s less about re-playability, and more about having a world that you never actually see the end of these days. I know this isn’t true for all games. Some genres don’t cater for a huge world and for others it would impact the game in a negative way. However for some big developers, small games are a thing of the past. Open worlds, sandbox games, call them what you will – they’re here to stay. If done properly, they’re a winner every time and even those that aren’t amazing tend to do fairly well in the long run. Both Infamous and Prototype will be fortunate enough to have sequels, despite being average games, yet any potential Alan Wake (a non sandbox game) future remained questionable for some time despite being a fantastic game.
The majority of triple-A titles today have both a single and mutiplayer aspect, which I feel I must play if I’ve spent my stolen (read: hard earned) dabloons on it. It’s worth considering that many games are growing in terms of actual game worlds. Linear corridor shooters are very much a thing of the past, unless they are combined with a captivating story. Even id Software, famous for the Doom series which is the quintessential corridor shooter, have moved into more open grounds with the recent release of Rage. So we’ve got more games with the sandbox, open world settings and those very play-pens, those virtual universes, just keep getting bigger on an individual basis.
So we sit down and rush. We speed through these games without a second thought, desperate to see what it has to offer; we do what the rest of the internet is doing – get the achievements and all in time for next week’s release. Some people aren’t so lucky though. Life gets in the way. You have to work, eat, and maybe sleep. A severely pissed off person who used to resemble the individual you were having regular sex with is saying something about “Using up your last fucking chance monkey boy” and then BOOM, it’s next week and fuck it! You’ve not finished the game. You’re behind. Son of a biscuit. Quick! Call in sick at work! Pull an all-nighter! Bollocks. Even then it’s too late; you’re trading in ‘Generic Title III’ for ‘Generic Title IV’ the next day and you’ve not even had a chance to see the ending. It doesn’t matter though, because three’s now old hat and four’s where the action is! This is a sad fucking existence.
Developers don’t need to worry about you having a second go because, chances are, you won’t see the end of the first play-through. You may wonder who these people are that aren’t finishing the games they buy and to a non gamer this very notion sounds insane. People buy clothes and wear them. They buy music and listen to it. They purchase films and watch them. Surely it’s the same for games? Not in the slightest. Actually it’s the total fucking opposite. Games can have an average lifespan of anything from six, to more than a hundred hours. That’s anything between a quarter of a day and at least five full days. So it’s no surprise that a good portion of people have a “MUST PLAY” pile taller and more unstable than The Leaning Tower of Pisa.
I’m still playing through Elder Scrolls: Oblivion for god’s sake; that’s a mixture of getting sidetracked with other games, save-file losses, and life in general. The fact I’m still trying to complete a game from 2006 really begs the question: “How can I justify buying its sequel?” The truth is that I can’t. I just spend the money on a new game, and its predecessor remains unfinished. The actual truth though, is that I shouldn’t – if I’m buying games just so I can have the latest one then the reason I started playing games got lost along the way some time ago. Thankfully, that’s not the case; my last purchase was Uncharted 3 and prior to that it was Dead Island (what a fucking mistake that was). So in comparison to the number of releases in between, I’ve not really bought that much. To be honest though, this isn’t about the lack of time we all have. It’s what we should be doing with those in-game moments that we do have. It’s because, while still trawling through Oblivion, I realised something.
As games move to a more open world setting, the days and weeks we spend traversing them grow, and combined with this need to play everything that comes out through fear of playing something that isn’t current, cool or “what everyone’s playing” leads us to rush through these experiences. We play the game, but do we really absorb it? These huge worlds, full of lush environments, intimate fauna, teeming with possibilities and experiences; there are a myriad of side quests, random occurrences, people to talk to, things to see. We charge from objective to objective, searching these worlds for the bare minimum in order to get to the next big thing, and totally miss the point of it all.
This world and its inhabitants have been created for our viewing and playing pleasure; the effort and detail that goes into some games is phenomenal. At the time of writing, I’ve not played Skyrim but I can only hope that the entire internet is playing some practical joke on me when saying it’s awesome, yet some people will charge through it. They’ll bounce from quest to quest doing what’s required of them as set out by each person they come across. Even random exploration takes them into caves, castles and coves searching for the best loot and treasure. Players of Far Cry 2 drive from station to station, searching for weapons, dodging bullets and completing various missions. Gamers familiar with S.T.A.L.K.E.R. will remember times of Russians playing guitars, dodging various creatures and enemy patrols. We’re still missing the point though.
Have you ever just stopped? I mean literally stopped in-game and just looked around. It’s beautiful. You’ve got a living, breathing world at your finger tips. Yes there’s one outside of the virtual world but you can’t interact with that in the way you can a game, nor can you hit the reload button if you stab the wrong guy or sleep with the wrong person. Just stop and look; survey and admire. Don’t think about the next objective, or wonder what’s around the corner – just get into a nice position and take a gander at the view. This won’t work for all games. People playing Superman 64 are now committing suicide because it’s got the graphical appeal of the circus midget and the bearded lady having sex. Let’s be honest though, if they’re playing that piece of shit they were probably beyond any help you or I could provide. For certain games though. It will work incredibly well.
So I implore you – load up Skyrim, reinstall Far Cry 2, dust off that copy of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.; get in the game, find a spot on a high ledge and just look out into the world that has been created for you to soak in. Don’t rush to save the world, find some diamonds or kill that guy for a can of beans.. just sit. Sit and watch the day become night, the zebra in the shade of the tree, and the vibrant fluctuations of the local denizens. Take it all in, and appreciate the medium that has become faster and bigger than anyone could of predicted.
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