Chris’ Ark

Featured - Ark

My collection of games is pretty large; it’s big enough that I can’t even estimate the actual number of physical games I own, let alone the digital ones. As such, I’ve developed quite a backlog, since excellent games kept coming out faster than I could complete them. The fact that I spent a good chunk of the last six years playing World of Warcraft didn’t do anything to help the situation, either. As of today, I know that I have well over a hundred games – most of them brilliance waiting to be experienced – that I have yet to play. Up until a few weeks ago, I thought that this was something to be ashamed of, or at least a problem that needed to be solved. Then I came to the realisation that, perhaps without even knowing it, I’d been building myself an ark.

I’ll go through a few of the games I still have in the manufacturer’s cellophane wrap, completely untouched. Ace Attorney Investigations. Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection. Persona 4 (for the PS2, no less). Tales of Graces f. Dark Souls. The 3rd Birthday. Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. Resident Evil 6. Silent Hill: HD Collection. The Last Story. Trails in the Sky. Valkyria Chronicles 2. The list goes on as I delve deeper and deeper into this ever-growing collection, and it barely even scratches the surface. For as many games that I have still unwrapped, there are ten more that I’ve unwrapped and yet still never played. Or maybe they were bought second-hand and never needed unwrapping in the first place.

OK, my backlog isn't quite THIS big.

OK, my backlog isn’t quite THIS big.

I have chastised myself many times over what I perceived as a failure to live up to my potential as a gamer. Why were all these games sitting there, untouched for months or years, never being played? I reasoned that I must have been doing other things; certainly, I’ve become a lot busier since I’ve progressed through my twenties. I never used to have responsibilities beyond school and… well, that was it. Being a teenager really was the best time to be a gamer; couple that with growing up in the 90’s and 00’s, when gaming was really starting to get into the swing of things, and you have the recipe for gaming paradise. Which it was, for many years, until I decided that university wasn’t for me. This, of course, meant getting a job. It was all downhill from there.

Nowadays, I have to balance the requirements of what is effectively a 9-5 Monday to Friday with other duties at home. I obviously write articles twice a week, which is an obligation of sorts, but not one that I feel unhappy about. The realities of my current life are that I’ve got much less time to spend playing games than I want. Even when I specifically set time aside for gaming, I will often end up straying into other activities. Sleep is primary among them, since I both love sleep and get very little of it during the week, so weekends are for waking up at 2pm in my book. When all is said and done, I’m lucky if I can fit in even 3 hours of gaming per day. To some, this might seem like a lot, but to me it’s pittance.

"I have too many games to play!" - Truly a first world problem.

“I have too many games to play!” – Truly a first world problem.

So there I was, bemoaning the lack of time I have to play my games and the huge number I still had left to play. Was it my attention span? Had I become completely unable to focus on a single game long enough to see it through to completion? I didn’t think so, but I couldn’t think of anything else to explain it… until a few weeks ago.

Those times when you kick yourself for not seeing something so obvious: this was sort of like that. Knowing two facts and yet not putting them together, despite it being so clear afterwards that the two are intrinsically linked. I suppose that some part of it was subconscious, but I don’t know if I’m ascribing myself too much “intelligence” by suggesting that. If I’m honest, I think a good chunk of it is simple co-incidence, providence or retroactive reasoning. The fact remains, however, that things have turned out for the better due to my inability (or unwillingness, perhaps) to play all of my good games. And here’s why.

If you read the gaming news today, there is very little “good” on the horizon for people like me. I don’t care about multiplayer a great deal beyond being able to have a few LAN games with friends or play with a couple of mates over the internet. I certainly couldn’t give a damn about large-scale multiplayer, à la Call of Duty or suchlike. Even massively multiplayer games like WoW didn’t interest me for the community aspect; it was always secondary to the other M, the O and the RPG. Don’t even get me started on Facebook-style multiplayer (most recently bastardised into The Sims) where you share everything with your friends and invite them to grow your cows or harvest your gems or other such inane bullshit. Unfortunately for me, this is where gaming seems to be headed, because the sprawling masses seem to like this crap and love to throw money at it in the form of microtransactions.

ALL OF MY HATE.

ALL OF MY HATE.

Linked to this is a move towards free to play games, very few of which interest me. Sure, I can enjoy playing Guild Wars 2 or League of Legends. I love a match of Team Fortress 2, but these are exceptions to the rule. Just because I like one or two games with this model, doesn’t mean I want all games to go down this route. But sadly, since this is where the big money seems to be, more and more developers are going to be adopting this model in the future. What will happen to our AAA games in this future? Right now, it’s uncertain, since there still seems to be money in key big-budget hits like Mass Effect and Dragon Age… but I can’t help feel a sense of dread at what the next generation of consoles might bring with them that might tip the scales in entirely the wrong direction.

Then there’s the current fascination with motion control, 3D and all the other associated wank. So much hate. I have gone over it too many times to muster the venom required to do my dislike of these abominations any true justice. Once again, there are exceptions to every rule (I’ve lost over 1.5 stone in two months using Wii Fit Plus) but for the most part, I can’t stand them. If the future of gaming is steering towards free to play, 3D, motion-and-touch controlled, massively multiplayer casual games, then I may just have to invite all of my friends to watch me explode with rage. It was after realising that the future of games might not be a bright one that I put two and two together; the moment had been prepared for.

Why yes, I did enjoy "The Name of the Doctor"; thank you for asking.

Why yes, I did enjoy “The Name of the Doctor”; thank you for asking.

I have, through some combination of luck and low cunning, built myself an ark to last me through the upcoming… well, drought seems more apt than flood. Should it come to pass that there are fewer and fewer games that I can take enjoyment from playing, I will always have my backlog. Literally hundreds of hours of gameplay – possibly thousands if you account for replay value – waiting for me like a reservoir. I can tap it whenever I want and keep living in the golden years of gaming for as long as the reservoir lasts. Thankfully, since my life doesn’t appear to be getting any less busy, this should be a very long time indeed. Also, given that the worst case scenario of all AAA games instantly evaporating is unlikely to happen, this reservoir will be topped up regularly. Even if it’s only drip-fed by a few great games every year, I can’t see me ever running out of things to play.

My viewpoint has been completely flipped. I no longer view my backlog as a curse, but as a blessing. I think of all the times that I’ve wished I could erase my memory of having read a book, so I could read it again for the first time. I realised that I’d wished the very same thing for a number of games, too. I look at my backlog and I wonder just how many times in the future I’ll look back on myself now, wishing I still had this vast trove of games to experience. Perhaps my fears will prove to be totally unfounded and my ark will have been built for nothing… but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

About Chris Smith
A twenty-something gamer from the North-East of Scotland. By day, I’m a Computer Technician at a local IT recycling charity, where I fix and build PCs. Outside of that, most of my time is spent either sleeping or gaming, which I try accomplish in equal amounts.

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