Why am I writing this? It’s an interesting story…maybe. Having done a couple other writing series in the past, I never really thought about doing any sort of wrap-up posts for them. Much like with TV shows these days, they simply ended, and I moved on. But once I had finished up my final “Play or Pass” post, I began tooling around in my blog’s statistics. WordPress usually sends out year-end reviews, but with nothing like that appearing in my inbox (maybe they aren’t doing them this year?), I took a little time to see how my year in writing had turned out. What struck me most is that although I was down considerably in overall views, I was way up in likes and comments. In fact, last year I received the most likes and comments since starting this blog in 2011. And that made me smile, because it meant that my writing had sparked more conversations than ever before.
Now, I must admit that I’ve no desire to get very granular with the stats — I did write and post other things over the course of 2016 — but with “Play or Pass” playing (haha) a significant role on my blog last year, it’s worth doing an epilogue post of sorts. I guess.
Could be that I’ve simply nothing to write about at the moment. Or maybe I’ve runn off with Metal Gear Ac!d. Who knows! In any event, let’s talk “Play or Pass.”
My reasons for starting the series were simple. First, a series like it would help keep the blog populated. Second, it would give me reason and motivation to write. Third, it would provide me a bit of blogging that was outside my comfort zone (i.e. trying something new and all that entails). And fourth, it would help expand my own personal gaming knowledge. I had no qualms about readership. If people enjoyed the posts, great. If not, then so be it.
I also started up the series for one particularly personal reason: my current relationship with gaming, which can be summed up as not interested in current titles, more interested in past titles. As it stands, this remains both true and not true. There are a few new titles that are staying within my purview this year, but in terms of what I’m regularly playing, those games are mostly from the previous generation, such as Fallout: New Vegas, with which I’m currently and deeply in love. I’m at a point with my gaming that I want less to participate in the current gaming scene and more to explore gaming’s past on my own and at my own pace. It’s where I feel the most comfortable right now. In a way, “Play or Pass” was a test to see if those feelings were more than just a flash-in-the-pan. Turns out that they are.
I didn’t have any good reason for choosing BuzzFeed’s 32 Video Games You Have To Play Before You Die list over any of a million other similar lists. I looked over dozens of others before choosing it, and I liked it the most because the variety of games it contained. It was also a shorter list compiled from reader’s votes rather than one person’s choices, and that appealed to me as well. I guess it seemed like an “honest” list. The games on it were wide-ranging and included a number of games that I hadn’t played. The thought of writing about games that I’d never played was both exciting and terrifying. Maybe I felt as though I had to prove something to myself by taking on that task of learning about games that I had passed over, willingly or not. Those posts definitely got my neurons firing. But in some respects, writing about the games that I not only knew, but knew (too) well, seemed like even more of a challenge. How would I not repeat myself, gush, or be far too nostalgic than was probably warranted? BuzzFeed’s list gave me plenty to surmount.
So how about a few specifics? The thirty-two game list turned out to be almost split in terms of those games I had played (fifteen – this counts Donkey Kong Country 1 and 2 together, which is fair) versus those I had not or had little knowledge of (seventeen). Of the games played, three of them I never finished — Final Fantasy VII, The Last of Us, and Kingdom Hearts. And with one, The Elder Scrolls, I could only speak to a single game in the series. Writing about the first three mentioned did light a bit of a fire, particularly with Kingdom Hearts. (KHIII notwithstanding.) I’d very much like to revisit each game again, if not to only finish, but then to replay them from the start. As for The Elder Scrolls, I actually have Oblivion in my Steam library, and it’d be nice to add in Morrowind, too. Getting around to playing them is another matter, certainly.
As for the unplayed games…well, only a few of them really stuck with me in the spirit of the list, i.e. being “musts:” Metal Gear Solid, Assassin’s Creed II, The Secret of Monkey Island, and Borderlands 2. I actually completed Assassin’s Creed 2 not long ago (look for my thoughts on United We Game soon), and I’m scratching that Metal Gear itch with Metal Gear Ac!d. I have both Borderlands 2 and The Secret of Monkey Island already, and both are high on the list of games I’d like to get to this year. (It’s a loooong list, no doubt.) The other unplayed games remain, um… I mean, they… Let’s say for now that I’m glad to got to know them better — Diablo II, Minecraft, Civilization, Counter-Strike, Age of Empires, Halo II, and a few others I’m not remembering. And this was mostly with your help, by the way. All the research in the world can’t make up for actual experiences, so I’m incredibly appreciative of those of you who helped fill in the blanks. I don’t see myself taking on any of these games anytime soon, but maybe that’s just because I’m not ready yet.
As positive a blogging experience as “Play or Pass” was, I can’t overlook a couple squiggly things that, while not intrinsically negative, I would have approached differently. The first was that I don’t think I ever properly communicated the selfishness of this project. Strong words, maybe, but my intent was to only address these games in questioning if I should play them, not if the general gaming populace should. Perhaps that’s inherent in the danger of calling any one game a “must” over any other. And there in lies the second issue, that word: MUST. It wasn’t until my “controversial” half-post on Chrono Trigger that I realized just how subjective it is to call out games as musts or not. I think that I wanted to believe that I could approach this series through an objective lens, but the sheer truth of that not being the case was revealed throughout the series, and the discussions about Chrono Trigger were prime examples. Gaming is a truly subjective hobby. While we can all probably agree that some games represent the best of their genres or serve as important historical markers, who is to say, objectively, that any of those games must be played by anyone who fancies him/herself as a gamer? To further illustrate, Hatm0nster summed the issue up well in his comment on the Chrono Trigger post:
It’s kind of hard to call a game a *must-play* because that’s similar to saying that it is essential to the experience of being a gamer. I’d struggle to call most of my favorite games *must-plays* without some sort of further clarification.
If I took away one big lesson from this series, it’s that it’s not the “must-play” games that make us gamers, it’s the games that we choose to accept and enjoy that make our gaming lives what they are. As much as I might have thought that I was critiquing BuzzFeed’s lists, I only ended up reinforcing this notion that one is not a “real” gamer unless one hasn’t played [insert game name here]. And it furthermore made me question this of myself simply because I knew nothing of Counter-Strike or some such. Frankly, though, I don’t know how I would have restructured the series to be more well-rounded, but maybe I should have fleshed-out my thoughts more fully on what I wanted to achieve, namely whether or not I saw reason to elevate some games over others in my own personal gaming history/future.
Overall, I’m pleased with how the series turned out. Despite the less savory issues, I’m already thinking about how I might revive and perfect something similar in the future. Not this year though. “Play or Pass” was an awful lot of work, and I’m ready to delve back into the lighter side of writing for awhile.
Much obliged once again to anyone who followed, read, or commented on the posts, and if you have any recommendations or want to sound off further, you know where the comment section is. I’m all eyes and ears!