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My changing taste in video games

Published on: 2021-06-05

The other day I spent a couple of hours listening to the Hello from the Magic Tavern podcast and playing Don't Starve. I find it an entertaining combination: I'm not too skilled in the game, so I keep dying and starting over. This makes the game relatively repetitive, allowing me to follow along with the podcast. However, after such gaming / listening sessions I am left with a bad feeling of having wasted my time.

I'm no stranger to video games and I don't consider myself particularly productivity oriented. I'm on a vacation at the moment and am staying at home (i.e. not traveling or anything) due to the pandemic. Lastly, I'm an introvert so chilling with a fun video game and an entertaining podcast is how I recharge my batteries. All of this explains why I enjoy this game + podcast combo. So why the bad feeling afterwards?

I may be off here, by I think it's down to the genre of the game and my changing taste. Don't Starve is a roguelike and historically that's not what I used to play.

I got into video games in the later half of 2000s. I never owned a console and this is about the time when I got a PC that could run games. This means I skipped all console titles and most of the 90s darlings. I also never developed neither taste nor reflexes for more action oriented games such as platformers or shooters.

I enjoyed strategy games. Civilization series is the one that I keep getting back to even today. I also like singleplayer RTS campaigns, I'm not a fan of multiplayer though. I especially like those featuring Sci-Fi themes, like Sins of a Solar Empire or Stellaris. In addition to a slower pace gameplay (unlike button mashing StarCraft, for example), I also appreciate the emerging storytelling these games provide. There's no predefined story in a game of Civilization, but when the endgame (radioactive ☢️?) dust settles the player is left with a tale of loyalty, betrayal, great conquests and crumbling empires.

On the other hand I do enjoy a good story in a video game. I'm a big fan of the Mass Effect series in particular and "BioWare style" of world building and story telling in general. This is what draws me to RPGs and also why I prefer story heavy titles to more action oriented ones (Diablo and the like). Games like Dishonored and Deus Ex combine the emergent stories in their minute to minute gameplay with more traditional storytelling on a macro level. Great fun!

However, this is also where my taste begins to drift. While I still enjoy the turn-by-turn gameplay of a Civ game, I find it requires a time investment that I'm not always prepared for. Expansive RPGs are even worse. I've started the first 2 games in the Witcher series numerous times, only to abandon them half way through after having to take a break from playing. When I return to them after a months' hiatus I've already forgotten half of the characters (and most of the quests) and usually just start over or, more likely, pick something else to play. I haven't even attempted to play The Wild Hunt. The same is true for large scope strategy games, with recent example being Stellaris. I bought the game last year but am yet to finish a playthrough. I love the game (it's basically a Culture series simulator!!! ♥️) but I just can't come back to a game I dropped a few weeks ago. I forget all the current game state and my head gets filled with new ideas.

Enter: roguelikes! I haven't played the classics of the genre from the 80s and 90s. And I don't really like the modern actiony / platformy spins on it. But give me a nice tight gameplay loop and a session of 1-2 hours and I'm hooked! I particularly enjoy aforementioned Don't Starve and FTL! Both games also allow me to spin stories in my mind. Is my character a vegetarian? A cloak and dagger backstabbing rogue? Does he hate the Rockmen (for some reason)? The only "problem" I have is that my mind hasn't caught up to my heart and so it keeps protesting the lack of "achievement" after finishing a session or two. But that's just silly.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some spiders to cultivate.

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