As I sit here thinking back about 2008, I’m largely disappointed in this year’s crop of games. Burnout Paradise got the year off to a great start, but while GTA IV tried to keep the groove going into Q2, only a handful of games really ever screamed “play me now!” Fable 2 was a letdown. Resistance 2 was good but not great. Fallout 3 was an Editor’s Choice title but still fell short of expectations. And can anyone tell me who’s really still playing Super Smash Bros. Brawl or Bloom Blox? Good games, yes; enduring games, no. Things picked up a bit in Q4, but outside of LittleBigPlanet and Gears of War 2, it doesn’t seem like people are really playing anything.
In spite of all this, I somehow still managed to play too much this year. Ask me to my face, and I couldn’t really point out what I played. Ask my wife, and although she couldn’t tell you either, she’d be the first one to divulge that I spent more than one month’s worth of nights playing and reviewing until 2am or later. And yes, that includes work nights (no, DailyGame isn’t my day job).
But while I can’t exactly identify what I’ve played too much, I can definitely point out the symptoms indicating that I have played too much. During the past week I’ve reflected on those symptoms and decided to share them here. Maybe you’ll find them humorous. Maybe you’ll find them useful to diagnose your own “condition.” Maybe you’ll find it a complete waste of time. So be it. But in this dead period of game news between Christmas and New Year’s, I imagine you’re just as hungry for content as I am for another pound of chocolate.
Portland got hammered by a winter storm last week that made for some treacherous driving conditions. As I was tootling around town, I had to keep my eyes peeled for drivers who had no idea how to drive in the snow and ice. At one intersection, I noticed out of my peripheral vision a car that was sliding my direction. I promptly stopped by car, steered out of the way and avoided a wreck. My second thought — after “holy s**t that was close” — was “wow, I was able to see that guy without even moving the thumbstick.” That’s a problem.
This past fall, right in the middle of my big 2am gaming sessions of playing Lord-only-knows-what, I got called one day into an afternoon meeting. Sure, I was half asleep, but duty calls, and I never let the day job down. Yet there I was, in mid-meeting, looking briefly at something outside the window. I had to pay attention to the meeting, of course, so I couldn’t get a good look at what was going on. Instinctually, my right thumb moved to the left to hit the pause button. Note to self: you can’t pause real life.
We’ve got a nice La-Z-Boy sofa in the family room, which is where I do most of my gaming. It’s one of the never-lose-its-shape types, where the cushions and pillows are guaranteed to hold their form as long as you own the sofa. I’ve also got a D-BOX chair for watching Blu-ray movies equipped with D-BOX Motion Code. The black leather recliner is by far the most comfortable piece of furniture in our house, and it’s also one of the most durable. So imagine my surprise when we were cleaning house for the holidays and I noticed distinct “butt cheek marks” in both pieces. The D-BOX chair held up best, but its leather seat still showed some slight bowing to indicate where my buns pressed into the seat. True to warranty, the sofa kept its form, but the material was so worn that even two vacuuming sessions couldn’t resurrect the bounce in its ridged surface. We’ve had the sofa for three years now, and it’s never shown this amount of wear. Before you ask, no, I haven’t gained that much weight this year. Clearly, the extended gaming sessions this year had more of an impact on the furniture than the previous two years combined of sitting.
Some people would say I’m an odd duck for not letting our son watch much TV. Seriously, he watched more TV two days after Christmas than he’d watched in the past two months combined. We don’t watch much ourselves, so it’s just natural that our boy doesn’t either; half an hour every three months is probably about what he sees. Stunned, then, was I when he picked up some Mega Bloks and made not a castle or dinosaur but a game controller. No joke, he picked up a bright red Mega Blok, hopped up on the sofa, faced the TV and started pressing the LEGO-like connectors at the top of the block as if they were thumbsticks and face buttons. For a boy who watches zero TV, he sure had a good idea what a controller did and how it worked, and he somehow knew how to position his hands and fingers. I was fairly certain he’d not seen me play videogames this year, but maybe I was in such a zone that I didn’t notice him. I just hope he didn’t absorb that little bit of intel while I was jacking a cab or eating irradiated dog flesh. Don’t want the little guy getting any ideas.
We bought our son a new wooden train set for Christmas and soon realized we needed a train table. He was kicking the train set around too much and breaking the pieces apart, thus making the train derail each time it went around the corner. We figured a train table would solve that little problem. We ordered the train table from an online retailer, then checked on its status the following day. On the “shipping” tab, it said “Drop Shipped.” “Sweet,” I thought, “more supplies!” Fortunately I kept that thought to myself; had my wife known I was envisioning the new train table being dropped from the sky out of the back of an Aliens-like dropship, I think I may have been slapped. Twice.
So yeah, I’ve got problems. No, not the typical holiday troubles, but issues that arise after playing too many games. Looking back at 2008, I think the year in gaming was a bit of a letdown, and I’m a bit worried about where 2009 is headed. But if these five symptoms are any indication, maybe I’m overreacting about 2008, and maybe 2009 is going to be just fine. After all, I clearly played too many games in 2008, or I wouldn’t have had these problems at all.
— Jonas Allen