The Unquenchable Thirst for New Games

Were I Burgess Meredith in the Twilight Zone, but instead of books I was left with the worlds’ complete canon of video games, I would die long before I finished finding good games to play. Throw a few thousand other people in the mix with whom I could play games like Team Fortress 2, World of Warcraft or Starcraft 2— preferably folks of equally scaling skill levels — and I may not even notice the mind bending apocalypse except during brief and infrequent “bio breaks.”

It seems the world doesn’t actually need any more video games. That’s not to say that I am asking for that, or cheering the grim end of humanity, but that there is so rich and diverse a wealth of material out there that from a purely rational perspective it’s hard to imagine why I’d ever pay for a new game again.

This occurred to me the other night as GWJ’s stalwart and hyper-talented crew steamrolled our likable and benign opponents from Telltale games in a friendly game of Team Fortress 2, a game I haven't fired up for the better part of a year. During a break in the action I asked, “why the hell did I stop playing this game, anyway?” And, though I will likely let TF2 drift back into its undeserved slumber on my hard drive in favor of titles more shiny and perky, the sentiment is valid.

In reality, I should never need to buy another new game again.

If I instituted a rigid moratorium on all game purchases for a year, I would still have more than enough to keep me busy from my Steam games list alone. Metro 2033, Just Cause 2, Dawn of War, BioShock 2, Borderlands and Titan Quest are among the cavalcade of games waiting to get that attention and love, which I so faithlessly promised through forked tongue would come once I had a little more time to devote. Add online time sinks like WoW and TF2 in the mix, and I can barely imagine how I’d have time in a whole year to give proper attention to just a percentage of the games on just one of the platforms I own.

And yet, I scheme ways to secret away time and money for a whole new year’s worth of entirely new products. Alan Wake, Starcraft 2, Crackdown 2, Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Civiliazation 5 are headliners on a not short list of games which I fully intend to own and caress in disturbing ways. The very idea of not buying another game this year, while logically sound, offends me as deeply as the idea of listening to Chaucer in its original Middle English as recited by Gilbert Gottfried.

So why? Why buy new games when there is no end to gameplaying ready to be accomplished on the cheap.

The answer, I think, reveals as much about why some of us play video games as it does anything meaningful about our consumerist irresponsibility. I buy new video games for the same reason that I put up with watching commercials during sporting events.

Allow me to explain.

Were such a thing possible, my pacifist wife would own numerous high-powered rifles so that she could track, shoot and kill commercials in the wild. I would have pictures of her perched high in some tree, face painted in forest camouflage and murder in her eyes as she stared down the sights at some hapless Verizon ad grazing in a pasture or a mother Bud Light commercial tending its cubs under the shade of a tree. She would have an entire wing of our house dedicated to mounting the carcasses of her slaughters, the Can You Hear Me Now guy's dead stare forever peering out from over a burning fireplace. So whenever I sit down to watch Local Professional Sport Team on the television, her first question is why I don't pause the DVR so I can let the time build up and skip through commercials.

And the reason I don’t is because then I’m not part of an event. I am merely finding out what has already happened. This is unacceptable. Also a little delusional, but let's not focus on that part.

I take pleasure not only in experiencing some media event, but taking part in the sense of cultural relevance that goes along with it. Even if I am completely disconnected from any actual community, just knowing that I am devouring Alan Wake at the same time as everyone else has tremendous value to me. Even if I am only watching the discussion from the sideline, the cognitive connection I can make with and against people holds unmeasurable value.

I think I am not alone. I think there are a lot of people out there who game not just because of the games, but because there is a sense of participation, of being involved in an event, that adds to the experience. It’s why people will wait in line outside of a strip mall Gamestop for Madden year after year. It’s why people will buy games before a single review has hit the street. It’s why despite having games enough at last for a lifetime, we can never get enough.

I simultaneously feel jealous and sorry of those don’t need to be part of the New Games Release Mania. Clearly they have a will power that I don’t understand or even want, but I am glad not to be counted among them.

Comments

I hear and sympathise with plight of the easily excited gamer, but I wanted to raise something that hasn't quite been touched on.

Currently, I have 90-something people on my 360's friend list. Some are goodjers, some are *gasp* real life friends, some are family in far-flung lands, and some are random internet folks that I met while playing *double-gasp* pubbie games. Never mind falling behind the curve in competetive games, which from my gnat-like attention-spanned point of view, only have a lifespan of a month or two after release before I get itchy fingers and want to play something else.

The real issue is the lack of a familiar playerbase in co-op games. I picked up Borderlands a couple of months ago, after seeing a significant portion of my friends list playing it. I dinged level 40 a few days ago, and it seems that I've been permenantly underlevelled to play with the folk on my friends list who are still playing it. I missed the boat on that one, something which is only mitigated by the fact that I have a real-life friend who I've now caught up with, and we've had a blast playing it.

I was late to the party for Resi 5 too, and again, if it wasn't for the saving grace of couch co-op, I'd have probably not enjoyed that game anywhere near as much as if I'd bought it on release and had numerous folk to choose from to play the role of my coffee-skinned love interest.

Does your wife want to start a commercial hunting organization? I can shoot, and I have a cousin who's fairly good at taxidermy. Because I'll be the vice president. Lord I hate those things.

I'm one of those people who buy games three years late. I came to this thread right from the one we have discussing GOG's recent re-release of Master of Orion. But I also don't do online multiplayer, and I think that would change the equation a great deal.

I used to have this problem until fairly recently. In fact, the last game I bought at launch time was Dragon Age: Origins. Thankfully, a grossly over-bloated backlog of colossal proportions can keep me busy for a good long time. I will buy a game or two from time to time, but I believe that, for the most part, I have curbed my ravening for newly released games.

I see some people blame the social forums for enabling/fueling their wanton desire for the new hotness, but I instead have found GWJ to be fueling my drive to clear and enjoy my backlog. That Pile isn't going down quickly, but it is going down and the monthly thread devoted to this endeavor keeps me nice and warm with that feeling of community.

This is one reason why I wish that episodic gaming had caught on better than it did. Look at Alan Wake: there's a sixty-dollar game broken up into (I believe) six discrete "episodes" complete with "Previously On...." recaps. If they could've released that in an episodic manner, playing an episode of AW would be like watching an episode of Lost or Battlestar Galactica, with the frantic phone calls between fans as soon as the episode ended and the water-cooler conversations the next day. Unfortunately, the episode-2 sales dropoff means that episodic releases are never likely to be a valid format for AAA titles, and releasing all the episodes on a disc means that there's no "schedule" to it. Even if everyone buys it on Day One, some people will play an episode a week, others will burn through the whole thing in a weekend.

Interestingly, the audience for television is fragmenting the same way. Did you watch the newest episode of [show] on broadcast or cable, or wait a day or three for it to show up on Hulu? Or wait a couple months for the DVD to come out so you could Netflix it? My girlfriend and I are usually in the latter camp, meaning that we are perpetually between a few months and a year behind on all new TV. Avoiding spoilers is a constant exercise, and we almost never get to be "part of the conversation" except with one another.

As anime fans, we're used to it, though, because that fandom has contended with a split audience just about forever depending on whether you're waiting for the official U.S. DVD release, watching fansubs, reading the official manga, reading the scanlated manga, etc. Thankfully, that's an audience that's moving toward greater cohesion with the rise of streaming simulcasts and near-simultaneous manga releases, etc.

Years past, when there was no Goozex, no Cheapassgamer, and no Steam, getting insane crazy deals was something of a random occurrence. The bargain bins at EB, Gamestop, or Walmart were the areas I would search. Now, with mid week deals, weekend deals, Christmas sales, Spring Sales, and all kinds of other cheap ways to obtain quality games, being a part of the conversation is the only aspect that keeps me tied into buying a few games on the release date. Even with the draw of the being a part of the new game talk, I normally end up falling behind due to my inability to play at the same pace as others. It is a tough change to really get a hold of, as I still have that desire to constantly be talking about the cool new game with all my friends. At least I have podcasts to keep me in the know Thanks GWJ!

How cool would it be to have Burgess Meredith, Joe Kucan, Certisdamus, and Conan O'Brien on the GWJ front page banner? Someone make that happen!

I just finished Bioshock. Just before Mass Effect 2 came out, I bought and played through Mass Effect. I just played through a handful of old old old games, and enjoyed them. This has been normal for me, these last few years.

I get the games cheap. I only play the good ones. I get them patched, (mostly) debugged. If I want a walkthrough, or need to dig up some obscure piece of information to get past something in the game that is blocking my progress, its out there on the 'net, waiting. Or if there is some hardware or operating system bug, odds are there will be a documented workaround somewhere out there, in a wiki probably.

I avoid the inflated release day pricing. I don't have to suffer through patch after bug after crash. I get to sit down, install the game and enjoy it, not suffer the metagame of getting the shiny new game to actually, you know, work.

Games like Master of Orion 3 are GREAT examples of why I do this. The gaming industry has taught me to expect that a release day piece of software will be buggy at best, unplayable pieces of crap more likely.

Do I miss out on the 'community' of the release day? Thankfully, yes. Yep, thankfully. GWJ is an oasis of calm in an internet sea of stupidity, so maybe you have forgotten what the rest of the net is like. Does the thought of getting on a 'pub' server make your stomach churn? Think about it. By the time I get around to the game, most of the idiots will have long since moved on to something else. At which point, a much higher percentage of the people playing it are reasonable (or reasonable enough). Enthusiasts, there because they like the game, and want to keep it going, and therefore less likely to be dicks.

So, between the gaming industry and the gaming community, I need some really seriously compelling reasons to go after a game on release day. Most games lack those reasons.

Your post makes me want to try a year of no game purchases. I could start tomorrow, just let me pick up Dawn of War II: Chaos Rising first. The only thing I would probably really ache for would be Starcraft II and the new battle.net. Hmm...

I take pleasure not only in experiencing some media event, but taking part in the sense of cultural relevance that goes along with it. Even if I am completely disconnected from any actual community, just knowing that I am devouring Alan Wake at the same time as everyone else has tremendous value to me. Even if I am only watching the discussion from the sideline, the cognitive connection I can make with and against people holds unmeasurable value.

I think I am not alone. I think there are a lot of people out there who game not just because of the games, but because there is a sense of participation, of being involved in an event, that adds to the experience.

You most definitely are not alone in thinking that part of the experience of gaming is the cultural relvance! :- D

"I just saw Heat!"

edit

GWJ is a large enough community. Why not create events a year after release? Some people could use it as a way to save money (or budget for more games). Those who already played the game on release could use it as a time to reminisce and/or replay the game -- like the Rebel FM Game Club or GWJ's recent revisiting of seminal multiplayer games.

PseudoKnight wrote:
GWJ is a large enough community. Why not create events a year after release? Some people could use it as a way to save money (or budget for more games). Those who already played the game on release could use it as a time to reminisce and/or replay the game -- like the Rebel FM Game Club or GWJ's recent revisiting of seminal multiplayer games.

It often happens informally after Steam sales. It's a good idea, though.

Sonicator wrote:
PseudoKnight wrote:
GWJ is a large enough community. Why not create events a year after release? Some people could use it as a way to save money (or budget for more games). Those who already played the game on release could use it as a time to reminisce and/or replay the game -- like the Rebel FM Game Club or GWJ's recent revisiting of seminal multiplayer games.

It often happens informally after Steam sales. It's a good idea, though.

I, too, think this is a very good idea.

Sonicator wrote:
PseudoKnight wrote:
GWJ is a large enough community. Why not create events a year after release? Some people could use it as a way to save money (or budget for more games). Those who already played the game on release could use it as a time to reminisce and/or replay the game -- like the Rebel FM Game Club or GWJ's recent revisiting of seminal multiplayer games.

It often happens informally after Steam sales. It's a good idea, though.

Heh--check out the Master of Orion thread: one GOG sale, and it's like someone turned back the clock 15 years!

Seconded on the good idea...idea.

Great article. Though I don't think it quite addresses the power Steam weekend deals have over me, it's certainly part of the reason I love new games.

I'm addicted to getting Xbox Live messages from people playing the same game as me, asking "hey man, where are you at now?" This kind of experience really makes me feel a part of something, and often leads to larger conversations when I inevitably chat the person, and I realize I've whiled away a whole afternoon just chatting and playing some stupid game. They're some of my favorite connections with others I've ever made.

And yeah, if I was marooned on a desert island I could certainly amuse myself for several lifetimes just with the games released before 2000. In my own economic downturns abandonware sites and freeware/experimental games manage to get quite a bit of my attention.

I would add that I think this is another huge upshot of the awesome Steam deals. By having the price point so low, those of us who are cheap can justify our purchases while also generally riding on a wave of popular purchases-- we can get stuff a bit older, and be part of a second wave of conversations.

Thank you. THANK YOU Sean for discussing this. I knew I wasn't the only one here, but I was always fascinated with the sheer gaming pace you and the rest of the GWJ staff plow through all of these games. Where the hell do you find the time? I mean, Julian has a kid for chrissakes (I have twins)!

I have come to terms with my growing pile, many of the titles in it I am still working through from that Steam Christmas sale, never mind the occasional impulse buy. In order to preserve my sanity and not drown in an avalanche of unplayed games, I have a few rules:

1. You will never have enough time to play all the games that you want. Ever. This becomes even more ironclad in its truth as you get older.
2. The people in the forums and the professional reviewers/writers don't have enough time either.
3. The world will not end if you do not play or complete a game that you bought. It's your toy, you can play it as much or as little as you want. I admit without guilt right now that I know I have a bunch of titles that I bought on sale, they are probably very good games, but I realize with growing certainty that I might not ever install and play them (Hello Mount & Blade, Chronicles of Riddick, Neverwinter Nights 2, Patrician 3, Indigo Prophecy, and Trine). Hell, sometimes I buy a title on sale just because I want a digital copy so I can store my discs, and quite frankly, I have no problem dropping a few extra bucks for a title I liked. It's kind of a tip to the developer, IMO, and not a true part of the pile.
4. Accept the fact that there are some titles, franchises, and even consoles that you will simply never have time for. This does not make you any less of a hardcore gamer, and if it does, who cares?? I realize now that I will never get to play any God of War, Gears of War, Uncharted, Just Cause, Elder Scrolls, Wii anything, Battlefield, or Halo titles to name a few. I will console myself with the Mass Effect, Civilization, Warcraft, and the Total War franchises, among others. Remember: People who love to read will never have enough time for all of the books at the library either.
5. Generally, prioritize your new games, save replays for later. I break this rule all the time, because, let's face it, Mass Effect 2 is worth a second round anytime. In the words of Peter Venkman, PhD, it's more of a guideline than a rule.
6. If you don't like a game, it's ok to stop playing it. Unless you are getting paid to complete a game, nobody outside of a goldfarming warehouse is forcing you to play something designed for enjoyment if you are not finding enjoyment. My only caveat against this rule is that some games are a slow build. For example: both KOTOR games started off quite dull before they picked up and put a choke hold on me.
7. Come to terms with the fact you will be left out of some conversations. Oh, you can't participate in the Star Trek Online Catch-All thread? Boo-hoo. Kill yourself, your life is over. That's what I use gaming podcasts for - they allow me to stay up to date with gaming culture in general, so I don't feel completely left out of the loop. Somehow, if we work hard, we can get through this together.
8. Limit your MMO time. Accept it: If you regularly play an MMO, you are not playing other games to any significant degree. I love me some WOW, LOTRO and (shockingly even to me) Champions Online, but I play all of these casually. A couple hours here, an hour there, 30 minutes on my lunch break....it's enough. And I've never become bored with any of them. Sure, I'll never have the best gear, but I still have fresh interest in these games, so there. I can't count the number of people I know who've played WoW hardcore for hours on end only to became miserable and quit the game (and sometimes quit gaming completely).
9. Play adventure games with stories first. I say this because these games are usually played once or twice by most. Games like Civ IV, Rome: Total War, Company of Heroes, have emergent stories that the player imagines for themself. But they can be quickly played through and shelved until a later date. Keep in mind this is coming from someone who has been sidetracked from Secret of Monkey Island by Master of Orion 2.
10. For upcoming games, plan ahead. This is also a great way to save money. Know what games you will not buy on release, and stick to it. I made the conscious choice to skip Bioshock 2 and Metro 2033 conversation for these games came, hit hard, and left. And I'm still here.

Anyway, that's how I've been dealing. The pile is still there, and I feel it's ominous presence, but the above list has helped...

PseudoKnight wrote:
GWJ is a large enough community. Why not create events a year after release? Some people could use it as a way to save money (or budget for more games). Those who already played the game on release could use it as a time to reminisce and/or replay the game -- like the Rebel FM Game Club or GWJ's recent revisiting of seminal multiplayer games.

I came here to say this.

Also, beyond year-old games, I would totally participate in community playthroughs of older classics like System Shock 2 or Deus Ex.

Someone's already said something similar (I'm guessing) but I'm at work and haven't read through ALL of the comments. Anyone taking offense should feel free to give me a head-slap next time we meet.

I'm definitely a "waiting is worth" since time and money are both scarce (father of 3 here) and the savings are just too great. I'm also able to talk myself of buying things that meet my price point because I just don't have time to get to that right now (Dead Space for $20, I'm looking at you).

However, I will and do make exceptions. I bought my PS3 and MGS4 at midnight launch day. Bought Fallout 3 at full price, then Uncharted 2, and most recently Heavy Rain. Being part of the zeitgeist is definitely something that adds to the experience but since my temporal and material resources are limited I make exceptions only in rare cases (about once a year on average, see above). The posting/podcasting is what keeps me current, though, and in addition to keeping me up-to-speed culturally also helps decide what to spend my time/money on. It's a necessary sacrifice but it's worth it.

EriktheRed wrote:
PseudoKnight wrote:
GWJ is a large enough community. Why not create events a year after release? Some people could use it as a way to save money (or budget for more games). Those who already played the game on release could use it as a time to reminisce and/or replay the game -- like the Rebel FM Game Club or GWJ's recent revisiting of seminal multiplayer games.

I came here to say this.

Also, beyond year-old games, I would totally participate in community playthroughs of older classics like System Shock 2 or Deus Ex.

Kotaku tried something like this too, but it fizzled out. If somebody here were to start it (perhaps in conjunction with Hemidal's "pile" threads) I bet you'd get a lot of takers.

It won't be me. I'm part of the problem, not part of the solution. Alan Wake, Red Dead Redemption, and Alpha Protocol are all on preorder...

brokenclavicle wrote:
Sonicator wrote:
PseudoKnight wrote:
GWJ is a large enough community. Why not create events a year after release? Some people could use it as a way to save money (or budget for more games). Those who already played the game on release could use it as a time to reminisce and/or replay the game -- like the Rebel FM Game Club or GWJ's recent revisiting of seminal multiplayer games.

It often happens informally after Steam sales. It's a good idea, though.

I, too, think this is a very good idea.

Are you guys perhaps referring to something like this?

most of you have voiced my sole frustration with this great forum: I can rarely participate with new release games. I'd love to be able to, but time doesn't permit. Which sucks because economically I finally can buy new releases.

What I sometimes wonder is if this trend will ever slow down (at least outside of the hardcore gamer community) if technology advances to the point that games begin to LOOK the same. When it becomes more artistic presentation rather than ever-more-photographic representations, will we still slaver over the latest and greatest? If its not the latest installment of a beloved franchise will the Next Big Gaming Thing be so...Big?

Would there be a way to use the "Games currently playing" part of the account for something more than just an entry in the user profile? Could some drupal module tally up all profiles with the same game mentioned in their profile, so that people could see what the popular games of the moment are.

Unfortunately, my addiction to Atlus releases makes the "wait until later" approach not very feasible.

Powerlurker wrote:
Unfortunately, my addiction to Atlus releases makes the "wait until later" approach not very feasible.

With niche releases like Atlus, it's always iffy whether you will be able to find a copy later! Suikoden 1 & 2 and the entire Working Designs catalog have scarred me to this day.

That (and preorder bonuses) are my usual justification for buying new, although "being part of the conversation" is probably still an underlying reason.

"I'm too old for this sh*t."

I find it rather fascinating that an article talking about the value of buying games day one and being part of the conversation resulted in so many people talking about why they don't buy games day one and how they don't see value in being part of the conversation.

I'm part of a different, slower and longer conversation.

There are categories in which I can't help but consume, but the recent uptick in co-op games has really got my wallet hurting. Live is the new way for me to stay in touch with my brothers. We all own phones but we never get around to using them; if one of us gets a game like Borderlands, the other two follow suit because this will be our hang-out time. In a co-op game there's less time spent telling wannabe racist 12 year olds to shut it and deathmatch usually doesn't support background chatter like "we're going to need to put our cat on a diet."

Now, there is also a degree of keeping up with the Joneses in my PC gaming. I upgrade every few years and it's usually around the time that I'm embarrassed by the awesome experience I'm missing with a new game while everyone else is singing its praises. Not just a desire to contribute to the conversation, but a bit of social pressure to be a part of the geek herd (clique?)