Soapbox features enable our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random stuff they’ve got on their minds. Today, yer man Thomas Whitehead discusses sidestepping his considerable backlog and starting a personal quest to try new things…
The Switch has been with us for over five years, and I suspect many reading these pages have built sizeable game collections in that time. From full price retail games and highly-rated downloadable titles down to speculative, bargain-priced sales pick-ups and free-to-play offerings, there are a lot of Switch games in my collection chasing my attention; if they were sentient, some would probably settle for actually being installed.
My library is pretty darn large now, and despite switching [eyyy – Ed.] to an OLED last year I’ve seemingly reinstalled a significant number of games already — initially, a lot of them were probably just to see how they looked on that lovely screen. One issue I have is that, like a lot of people, a number of them are in a backlog of shame due to a bad habit of going back and playing the same core group of favourites repeatedly. I certainly won’t be alone with that habit — some games encourage us to play regularly of course, but in other cases I go back for additional playthroughs because I know what I’m getting; it’s 100% guaranteed enjoyment when I’m not in the mood for risking disappointment.
I tend to have similar habits with films and even TV shows, too; sometimes after a long day I simply want to chill out with a favourite. Yet, oddly, when it comes to books (my first true love when it comes to arts and entertainment) I don’t do that. I rarely re-read books, instead always seeking out something new. I’m starting to think I need to follow that approach with games, too.
Now there are almost too many games, but that’s also a lazy argument; after all, a little research can help us find the gems and the interesting games in a crowded market.
While it’s a pleasure revisiting classics, and I’ll still do that to a degree, there’s a lack of true growth in that experience. Games have never been as varied or fascinating as they are now, thanks to myriad reasons — technology, tools, the rise of the Indie and low-budget scene, downloads, aggressive pricing, subscriptions, and more. If you go back to the ’90s or even the early 2000s, the gaming scene was far more expensive and restrictive for all concerned. Now there are almost too many games, but that’s also a lazy argument; after all, a little research can help us find the gems and the interesting games in a crowded market.
We can discover new genres, too. My experience of narrative games was relatively limited in the past, but over the past 12-18 months I’ve found myself more attracted to them. The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles was fantastic and totally drew me in, but more specifically I’ve started to enjoy mystery and detective games. I think it started when I took a punt on the Famicom Detective Club bundle; it was interesting how well those experiences from the 8-bit era — effectively unchanged outside of visuals — were so engrossing. Since then I’ve tackled the likes of The Sinking City, and I’m planning to give Chinatown Detective Agency a try. In one sense it’s a merging of my love of reading and gaming, which is probably just a reflection of my age and current preferences.
Another area I want to embrace more is JRPGs. I’m a big fan of the Xenoblade Chronicles series, but my exposure to other IPs is very limited, yet I see the passion and joy plenty of people get out of various games and feel I should be more open to them. On Switch especially, I’m not short on options.
A new goal I’m starting out with is to try a new game each month that I wouldn’t normally buy — either because they’re an IP I don’t know or a genre I rarely play. I won’t just buy just any old game, it’ll still have to be one I consider interesting in some way; well-made with generally positive reviews. I’m not planning to restrict myself in terms of eShop or retail-only, it’ll just be a case of seeing what jumps out and committing to giving them a whirl. I want to broaden my gaming vocabulary.
This can work on any system, of course, though the Switch is a pretty good console for it. There are a lot of games on the little hybrid, ranging from 100-hour epics to 3-4 hour experiences acclaimed for their creativity. But ultimately I plan to get one game each month that is an ‘extra’ — something different (for me).
So, in June I’ll be stretching the ol’ bank account to pick up Mario Strikers: Battle League, Fire Emblem Warriors: Three Hopes and Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak… but none of them will count because they’re titles I already want. The goal will be to find something different in addition (ideally affordable considering the cost of those above!), the equivalent of that interesting book you find in the corner of a second-hand store.
I’m looking forward to seeing what new games, developers, and ideas I can discover each month. Let me know below if you’ve discovered a gem or a whole new genre in a similar way, and feel free to drop suggestions for things you think I might enjoy below.