Gaming has always been a huge part of my life, much to my parent’s annoyance I have been playing games since as far back as I can remember from; beating gym leaders as an X year old in Pokemon Yellow Version on my lovely green Gameboy Color to destroying corrupted machines with a spear in Horizon Zero Dawn. The plethora of genres is incredible and the industry is only growing stronger, seeing Assassins Creed being made into a movie and The Last Of Us tipped to follow, not to mention the growing dominance of eSports, shows the increasing importance gaming has become to the wider world.
Importantly, the community itself has evolved, no longer is gaming seen as this sad thing only indulged in by nerds who live in their parents basements. Gaming is something that has brought many communities and people together, whether for good or for bad some may argue, I’m sure a few Xbox fans regret playing Call of Duty multiplayer while wearing headphones. Despite this, the massive shift games have made in only the last 10 years has been staggering. People playing online has increased expediently and for someone like me who doesn’t have an array of friends who game regularly, this has presented the opportunity to enjoy all the industry can produce without the need to tear your friends away from their lives…whatever one of those is.
If I was to put only a slight dampener on this, firstly to say I love multiplayer games, I do feel that as of recent times some games that I have been excited to play or genres that in the past I have enjoyed greatly have started to neglect the single player in all of us. Looking at how little single player modes on FIFA have changed almost since FIFA 12 came out has been very disappointing and purely in my opinion, some game developers simply see the opportunity of profit from buyable online features, rather than the core of why people played their games in the first place. Let’s take a more obvious example, the new Star Wars Battlefront game. Something that made Battlefront II on the PS2 so great was the Galactic Conquest mode; pick a side, develop troops, build up bonuses and conquer the galaxy we have grown to know and love, amazing and totally achievable by yourself in your room on a Sunday afternoon. Cue the new and improved, state of the art console edition…purely multiplayer content with a couple of other survival modes nicked from Modern Warfare 2. A huge disappointment, indicative of why it only won visual awards and not gameplay ones. Now this article is not for me to vent my annoyance at EA and Dice for this game, even though it cost more than £50 and my internet connection at university made it unplayable, the point I’m trying to make is some of the best games I have played and enjoyed don’t have a multiplayer bone in the circuitry.
I would without a shadow of a doubt say my favourite kinds of games are ones that basically let you make your own story and don’t push you in a certain direction. Don’t get me wrong I have been known to love myself a strong FPS campaign whichever Battlefield or Call of Duty you may lean towards. I would however put games such as; the Elder Scrolls series, The Witcher series, The Mass Effect Series (we won’t mention the end of ME3), Both Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games and the Total War series much higher on my list of enjoyment. Sure many of these games have storylines with end goals – but how you get there and the choices you make, can change your game. Even something as simple as; are you light side or dark side, Empire or Stormcloak, Brotherhood of Steel or Institute, Charmander or Squirtle, I love a game that doesn’t tell me how to play and lets me compliment the experience with my imagination.
I have put thousands of hours of my life into games, but on my steam profile my most played game at the moment is Mount and Blade Warband. What makes it, and its ilk, is the level of content on offer beyond the base game. Forget all the custom armours you have for the Dovahkiin, people have made entirely new games for Mount and Blade ranging from Game of Thrones to WWI! All this, in their spare time, for free. I feel this isn’t appreciated enough about gamers and the community we share. The amount of talent that can be found outside of the massive companies that produce the games we love is astonishing. I have over 500 hours on a mod made for Mount and Blade Warband and this is a game that cost me less than £5! A quick note on GTA V, the modding world has produced some great content but also Rockstar is still producing content for the game today. The game’s continued popularity shows when the company behind it has a passion for the game, eluding to a point I made earlier of when companies lack the passion to keep the core game going, the community is quick to notice. It isn’t difficult to see the community drives the industry; and it makes me happy to see when the community makes itself known to developers and shapes how games are made or if they don’t like the finished product or in some cases half-finished product, given the opportunity the community simply makes their own content for the game. Gaming really is for everyone.
Games have helped me in many ways, from being there when I want to be alone, taking out some stress, wanting a sense of achievement or even giving me some historical knowledge (big up Crusader Kings 2). They are a part of who I am and the logical personality I have developed, which I believe is fuelled by my interest in strategy games or even puzzle games like Portal. Games require you to think and make decisions keeping your brain active, they can inspire learning or even moral stand points, I make this point loosely but I believe it to be true, as much as something like the ‘No Russian’ mission in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, sparked outrage and controversy, in my mind most people were horrified by that mission and saw it as a bad thing or Trevor’s torture scene in GTA V, I personally didn’t enjoy playing through that and so it makes me feel, obviously, that torture is bad. I’m more of a plot to kill my father’s-second-wife’s-daughter’s-cousin’s-son kind of guy. What? He has a claim to my land dammit! All joking aside, it is undeniable that as long as a game is not romanticizing this sort of content, it is worthy of inclusion, not simple revulsion. In summary, I have grown up with games and have gained knowledge and entertainment in equal measure; but most of all, an appreciation of the medium in general. I hope you all have too, and I look forward to sharing my time with some of you in the years to come.