June 8th, 2010


Preamble to half assed reviews

When I worked at EA I played video games a fair amount. It always demoralized me how boring and bereft of ideas most games were. Does the world need another WWII themed FPS? Oh wow, another RPG set in a world of elves and dragons. As soon as one good idea emerged, there were immediately 18 copycats. I remember when we got a demo of EA's much-ballyhooed adaptation of "Godfather." It was a total Grand Theft Auto rip off. Shameless.

Occasionally though, games would come along that veered off the beaten path. I tried to buy as many of these for my PS2 as I could, in the hopes of encouraging more interesting game designs. But when I sat down to actually play the games, one thing became clear: I was no longer a young man. Console games had gotten so long and complicated. Just to learn basic controls, you had to go through elaborate half hour tutorials. And the worlds were huge. You spent a lot of time just walking around.

More than anything else, it was the walking that did me in. The concept of an 'open world game' sounds great, and in theory it is. Grand Theft Auto III is the quintessential example. I don't know if you recall the first time you saw that game but I do. It was a revelation. The incredible fun of rioting! You could ride the subway! You could drive all over town and run people down and fight the cops and take the bus and just do anything. It was the first (and maybe only) game that ever made me feel like there was a whole world in there.

But, as an old man I don't have the time or patience any more to wander through video game landscapes looking for whatever. I have a terrible sense of direction and no innate navigational ability, so I spend most of my time stumbling around lost & disoriented, trying to figure out where exactly I'm supposed to go.

I wish video games had an option where they would play themselves. Seriously, wouldn't that be great? I think Angi told me once she liked watching other people play games more than playing them herself. At times I've felt the same way. If a game is art then why can't you unlock it and let it unfold without having to sit there doing quests and hopping obstacles and fighting bad guys like it's a job? I have so many unfinished games and I'm never going to see anything in them.