Video games are a pretty big part of my life. I try to give most genres, if not individual games, a chance. Some of them I can’t stand to play … but I really want to experience it. It’s an interesting dichotomy: games aren̵
There are a few games I’ve kept up with over the years, not out of a desire to play them, but out of a fascination with their world-building or communities. Anytime a news story, review, or editorial about them appears in my news feed, I stop and go through it. It is involuntary at this point.
So here’s a short list of games that I really don’t like to play, and still enjoy reading.
World of Warcraft
I’ve never really enjoyed massively multiplayer online games. Structurally they are boring, if only because it is difficult to create an exciting combat system that can accommodate literally thousands of people at once. And despite claims of epic, global conflict and telling your own personal story in an evolving story, they inevitably seem to amount to killing 10 slightly angry-looking sheep in different colored fields.
But WOW is different. World of Warcraft has been continuously updated for 16 years, and even at the outset, it was based on a world already filled with some pretty deep Tolkien-esque imaginative stories. The story is so broad that there’s almost nothing you can do about it, but at least you know a bit about it if you’re interested in games. It’s completely spilled over to other genres – a lot of mine WOW knowledge comes from the desire to know who the man on me is Hearthstone card, and why I’m not willing to play it.
There is also the social aspect. More than a decade and a half WOW, it has developed into its own culture, with events that have some fascinating ripples in gaming and the culture in general. We can talk about the South Park episode or Leeroy Jenkins, but perhaps the most current topic is the Corrupted Blood Plague, a game problem that spread through an online world in a way that mirrored real-life epidemics … and amazingly became a source of useful information for actual research into the sociology of infectious diseases.
I haven’t finished a Pokémon game since then Pokémon Ruby, waaaaay back in 2003. Don’t get me wrong, I was pretty obsessed with the originals, just like everyone else in my fourth grade. But I am (surprisingly often) of the opinion that the games never got better than Gold / Silver / Crystal, only the second collection in the series.
But consider: one of the most interesting things about it Pokémon are the Pokedex submissions, which were at times weird and disturbing in 1996. Cubone is the original go-to here: a little dinosaur-like thing wearing his late mother’s skull as a helmet. With a later generation we get Bewear, a giant teddy bear-looking thing that usually crushes people’s spines, Banette, a former doll who was apparently so mad at being abandoned that he was drenched in life and ‘looking for the child that it cast out, ”or Yamask, a Pokémon resembling a dead human ghost wearing a mask of its former face.
With nearly a thousand samples in the roster at the time of writing, it’s no wonder the developers of the Pokémon games have had to come up with some wild things to fill those Pokedexes. I am here for them… and for the Drawfee episodes they spawn.
EVE Online is arguably the most fascinating game in history, despite being little more than a combination of spreadsheets and animated backgrounds. Okay, that’s not fair. In the core, EVE is an in-depth game about living a life as an untethered spaceship pilot, in an online world shaped and reimagined by thousands of dedicated players. It just looks a lot like a spreadsheet on top of an animated background.
But EVEs universe of galaxies and space stations is really controlled by its players. The developers have stated that more or less anything is possible in the game world, as long as you don’t hack the game yourself. That means that EVE is essentially a libertarian utopia. Players work together in gigantic guilds called “corporations” and are free to fight or plan as they please. Several smaller guilds are fully committed to corporate sabotage, available for hire to the highest bidder.
Add to this the fact that there is a weak but very real link between them EVEs in-game currency and real money in the real world, and suddenly the imaginary city-sized ships and player-controlled galaxies are literally invested with value. EVEs The biggest corporate battles have thousands of players fighting each other in real time, and some of the documented “robberies” that have been committed are the stuff of Hollywood robberies. It’s enough to make you want to read a book about it – and you can!
It’s always interesting that some video games are essentially attempts to mimic a real job – you know, which is what most people do when they’re not playing video games. I see the appeal of simulating the working day of, say, a commercial pilot or even a city manager. But a long haul trucker? A cook? A farmer?
As a child, I spent every summer on my grandparents’ farm in Texas. I did real farming. I can drive a tractor, I can brand a cow, I can build fences for miles. Instead of doing that, I make sneaky lists on the Internet. Agriculture is a foundation of human life, but it is also boring, arduous, arduous work, so much so that we have used millennia of technological advancements to remove as many people from the equation as possible.
And yet there are new ones Farming Simulator games almost every year, on every platform, with tons of licensed DLC to accurately simulate highly specific farming equipment. It’s astonishing. It’s fascinating. I suspect that most people who find comfort in simulated farming would quickly lose it if they had to branch a field of hay or trade a planter for a mower without any help. But I don’t want to ruin the fantasy for them, so I’ll just sit here and marvel at how I can spend five dollars on an official John Deere CP690 cotton picker.
I’ve never had one Kingdom Hearts game. The combination of Final Fantasy and animated Disney is not something I ever thought I would need. But Kingdom Hearts started to catch my eye about 10 years ago when I found one of the DS games was called Kingdom Hearts 358/2 days (pronounced Three Hundred Fifty-Eight Over Two Days).
Since then we have received titles such as Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance and Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue. I thought any game series with worse titles than one street fighter remix deserved at least a little attention.
I still don’t really care Kingdom Hearts, any more than I do with any other JRPG that isn’t Skies of Arcadia. But it is a lot of fun to decipher his crazy story. To believe the various statements that came out in droves around the release of Kingdom Hearts III, The storyline of the series may be the most brilliant or the most horrible plot piece ever written by human hands.
It’s also possible that the story cloned itself and then became an evil shadow version that was also a clone and now lives in the heart of every writer including me and my clones, as well as Sebastian from The little Mermaid. That was all bullshit. But at Kingdom Hearts standards, it’s pretty tame.
I tried three times to get into the original Dark souls, and never made it to the second boss. Its slow movement and gotcha Fighting doesn’t appeal to me at all, and neither does the infamous difficulty. I could spend a few hundred hours gitting gud, I’d rather spend them on something that’s really fun. I tried his sister game Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, just to see if I could get past that with some fun ninja moves. No, in the end, the frustrating bosses got the best of me.
And that’s a shame because Dark souls and his colleague From Software games (Demon’s Souls and Blood borne) have some of the most satisfying knowledge out there. I know this because I’ve delved into reviews and wiki articles explaining the worlds and characters in it, with the various gruesome bosses being a highlight to how their character design is intertwined with bits of plot and world history. Most of this is presented organically. You really have to dig into the games themselves to find out how and why the world is the way it is.
Or you can cheat and read a lore. As I do. Because I’m not patient or masochistic enough to play any of these games.