Do you remember the feeling of playing a new game and getting absolutely hooked to your latest gaming discovery? I've struggled to experience that blissful feeling for a while this year. Don't get me wrong; there are plenty of quality games available. Nonetheless, I'm starting to reconsider what I'm looking for in games at this point in my life.
Over the last few years, I've had a lot of fun discovering series I'd never played before. The rollercoaster ride of meeting new characters, intriguing storytelling and compelling gameplay mechanics is what gaming is all about to me. I've also played and had fun with my fair share of open world and third person action games.
At this moment in my life, I've completed my post-secondary education and I'm in that awkward place of trying to figure out my future amidst a crippled economy, an unclear path for my career, and a global pandemic. Add to that, increased costs of practically everything has led me to become selective when it comes to buying games.
There was a point in time when I was planning to quit gaming by 30 years old. I thought I wouldn't have the time or money to continue gaming without squeezing the pastime into a tight schedule and budget like so many adult gamers. My interest in gaming was waning at the time, so that played a part in my considerations as well.
Eventually, I realized that gaming is more important to me than I thought and I wasn't willing to let it go just yet. The issue is that I'm at a point of flux in-between different phases of my life and I'm trying to figure out where gaming fits in.
The idea of a life working at a regular 9 to 5 job seems so unappealing to me. I'm really not interested in that rinse-and-repeat lifestyle for decades on end until I (hopefully) reach retirement. It honestly scares me that I'll look back at my life and think that I wasted it. Life is precious and fleeting. With an unclear future ahead of me, I don't know what's next but I do know the same-old same-old won't cut it.
Likewise, I still enjoy large open world games, but I'm looking around for something a bit different and I know I'm not alone. This year alone, I've purchased a puzzle game (Puyo Puyo Tetris 2), a rhythm action game (Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memories), a roguelike (Hades) and a free-to-play social game (Sky: Children of the Light). I'm searching out older games I've never played as well.
A lot of the experimentation and unique ideas that stood out in the past have largely been replaced by the current tried-and-true game genres in the AAA market. The industry seems to be focused on bigger and more visually impressive games, which isn't a problem in-and-of itself. I'm just not looking for a ton of those experiences now.
Popular game genres of past generations such as Metroidvanias (Metroid Dread), beat 'em ups (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge), arcade racers (Cruis'n' Blast) and mini-games (WarioWare: Get It Together!) seem to be making a comeback, thanks to indie studios and companies like Nintendo. With an ever-growing backlog and lengthy games looming over me, these smaller, distinctive titles are just what I need.
Due to multiple game delays as a result of the pandemic, many highly-anticipated games have moved to 2022. While that has left a bit of a void for a lot of gamers in 2021, this has allowed us to tackle our ever-growing backlog, give some smaller games our attention or just save our money for next year.
The focus on massive cinematic experiences from AAA studios seems unsustainable as the holiday season looks bare for some publishers. I hope risk-taking and unique titles start cropping up more from these AAA studios as well as Nintendo and the indie developers. They fill in the gaps for the long development cycles of the bigger titles and allow everyone to experience something wholly unique ranging from games like Spiritfarer to Splatoon.
The beautiful art style of Kena: Bridge of Spirits, the intriguing concept of 12 Minutes, and the pure cuteness of Stray capture my imagination like the earliest days of my childhood playing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game. As I age out of my 20s *shudders*, I want to spend the dwindling time and disposable income of my adult life on exciting experiences that keep my passion for gaming alive. Just like life itself, I hope there are still plenty of surprises and great moments yet to come.