Horizons Broadening Project - 2009

I call it the Horizons Broadening Project for 2009. Think of it as an Oprah’s Book Club for GWJ of sorts.

This project will not be a surprise to those who have followed my recent articles where I have belabored the general theme of ennui over the same old same old. If game developers can be accused of playing it safe over the past few years, then I share the blame as a dirty, filthy enabler. Complain as I might about the sameness of modern AAA titles, the fault lies also with me for failing to explore the full depth of gaming available.

If video gaming is an ocean, then I have been comfortable wading with pants rolled up in the safe waters of a secluded cove. Think of this project as the undertow that will either expose me to great new genres or potentially drown me for good. Who wants to go for a swim?

Elysium’s January HBP09 Game: Birth of America 2 – PC

How It Works: Every month I commit to playing a new game that I would probably have never considered in previous years. The project is currently limited to titles I can play on a PC, Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, Wii or DS. I commit to making an extended effort at playing the game, spending significant time in the tidal deep waters, and at the end of the month I’ll document my experience with the game.

How You Can Participate: So, if you’re interested in broadening your horizons, or mine for that matter, this is intended to be a community experience. While I am making my pick for the January game, I’m open to taking suggestions on what game should be next on the horizons broadening project. Send me a private message through the site or email me at [email protected] to vote for next month’s HBP game.

Additionally, you can play the game of the month and send me your thoughts on the game to be included in my end of month wrap up OR choose your own horizons broadening game, write up a paragraph on your experience with the game, and send that along. Again, all correspondence can be done through a private message on the site or by emailing me at [email protected].

Why This Game?: I think there are a few key elements that need to be involved in a good HBP game. For one, it needs to be a quality game and demonstrate a faithful following. I’m not looking for an excuse to play bad games in genres I don’t usually play after all, and I’ve heard the sequel to Birth of America spoken of quite highly. At the same time, the whole point is to expand from my comfort zone, and deep and largely unforgiving hex based strategy is a long way from Lumines and Portal.

I’ve always had a fascination tempered by intimidation for deep strategy games like this. I want to like them, but the barriers for entry usually require a long term commitment and it’s just so easy to log into a nice comfy MMO. But, with a full month to make a concerted effort, I’m interested in seeing whether someone with virtually no prior knowledge can break into this kind of game environment.

To help mitigate that, I’m picking an area of history I am relatively interested in and about which I have some knowledge. Will I get to reenact Washington’s retreat through New Jersey as the full force of British might pursues him to Trenton? Will I lead strike teams through the swamps of the Carolinas? Will I get to mount the guns of Ticonderoga on the heights above Boston? Or will I rewrite revolutionary history?

Look for my thoughts on Birth of America 2 at the end of January. How will you broaden your horizons this month?


I'll have impressions and thoughts up this week. Overall the experience has been very positive, but only once I embraced the idea that there was much of the game that was beyond my control and the experience is as much about adapting to changing conditions and situations as trying to devise grand strategies.

I've announced the next HBP on this coming week's podcast. It's a little more ... commercially recognized, but it's a broadening experience for me. I am definitely looking to include some handheld gaming into future months though, and I really must do a JRPG, so The World Ends With You goes into the hopper of good suggestions.

The month isn't over, but I'm calling this one, and putting my thoughts and impressions on "paper." I had a chance to finally sit down with this game this weekend, and I am definitely not in love. At least not with anyone new.

I'm a story guy. The reason I hate WoW is because I feel they officially raped the Warcraft storyline. I actually finished Halo because I wanted to know how the story ended, and my Tim Schaeffer hair-doll sits on my night stand. That being said, this game never grabbed me. I know, I'm an American. A game set during my own nation's history is boring to me. I'm sure that says something, but it's beyond the scope of this post. I think it was boring to me the same way WW2 shooters bore me just by looking at the box, and for the same reason I haven't played Company of Heroes, but I'm dying for Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War 2. I'm a sci-fi guy through and through.

I felt a distinct lack of feedback from the turn-based system. Nothing ever pushed the happy button in my brain. I'm no stranger to turn-based games. I have an entire collection of painted, pewter Battlemechs in my basement. I've poured through technical readouts, and had arguments over whether the line of site was to the Zeus' right side or rear. For some reason, I can imagine how awesome a Battletech turn-based battle is, but BoA2 never made me feel awesome.

I think part of this is my own fault because of my relative lack of commitment, but I don't have time for a game like this. I get precious little game time during my week, and I need to make it count. The short scenarios are short, and unsatisfying, and the big scenarios are daunting and intimidating.

This game taught me that I am indeed a complete sci-fi whore. I can no longer hide it. Also, it made me pine for a completey faithful, 3D rendered, online version of Battletech. But what it did most is make me want to play Red Alert 3. As soon as Tim Curry and I settled down to wipe out the capitalist pig-dogs, I felt safe and warm. Real-time, explosions, immediate feedback, sci-fi setting; it was everything I was looking for. However, RA3 is definitely not expanding my horizons. If anything, it's reinforcing them. I'm hoping I'm stronger for the rest of the year.

Elysium, if you're looking for suggestions for the coming months, and you're pretty sure you're going to tackle a JRPG, I'd like to recommend The World Ends With You. I've heard good things, and I own a DS

EDITED: One thing I don't think I made very clear, is that I in no way feel this is a bad game. The presentation is great. The software is solid. This is definitely an, "It's not you, it's me," kind of situation.

Darn. I've already beaten The Witcher. Even if I did want to play it again, I'm not sure it would broaden my horizons appreciably. I'm thinking of another game to try this month.

You said there would probably be a JRPG on the list, so I don't want to go there yet. What about racing and sports games? Has anyone tried NBA 2K9 or Shaun White Snowboarding? Is GRiD going to be on the list? I'm sure you don't have the whole year planned, but I don't want to skip ahead too much.


I'm playing through The Witcher now. I wouldn't characterize RPGs as a 'broadening' experience for me, but I'm still looking forward to seeing what perspectives Goodjers have on it... -For my part, I'm really enjoying it, especially the way it doesn't force the player into choices that are "clearly good" vs "clearly evil."

I'm also anticipating Elysium's thoughts on BofA II - depending on the final analysis, it may be on the list of 'games to buy once my pile of shame is less shameful.'

I don't plan on adding GRiD in any official capacity, though I may try it myself at some point.