Recently, as I settled myself into my cheap office chair, I realized that there was a stack of 360 games which was sitting on the table between my actual workspace (computers, etc.), and the TV with the 360 hooked up to it. My mouth twisting in annoyance, I inspected these games, determining which ones needed to go where on ‘the rack’. The rack is where games go to die after they’ve escaped immediate interest, especially in a climate like March of 2011… a climate in which new games are constantly being released.
A few games went on the rack. Others, I knew, had to stay out. Why? Because they’re go-to games. They’re games I need on-demand. This is 2011. If it takes me longer than 20 seconds to achieve video game bliss, I am doing it wrong. But it did get me thinking. What games are sitting on top of that stack? Which ones does Steam claim I’m addicted to? Which PC games are relevant enough to where I actually keep track of their DVDs?
So I thought, why not talk about video games the way I talk about sports? Why not have a power poll? After all, there are games which dominate my time, and those which do not. Not all of the games which occupy my attention are new. Not all of them are critically acclaimed. Not even all of them I would take the time to review (unless someone really wanted me to, I guess. I can probably write 2,000 words about any video game at this point). But these games do share a certain quality which sets them above and beyond the average title. These are games that I actually want to keep playing. Some games might make the list, from time to time, simply because I need to finish them in order to write a review (or, from a more fiscally responsible standpoint, mail them back to Gamefly) … but not all. Not even most. That stack which remains ever at my fingertips is video gaming bliss.
At least, today, it is. Tomorrow, who knows? So I thought I would share a few titles from ‘the stack’. You can think of that as a metaphor from now on. It represents the sum total of my gaming experience, from 360 titles through Steam downloads. These are the kind of games that I’d think about, for a flickering flame of an instant before slapping myself back to reality, turning down sex for. These are games which I can disappear into, and later boast about the accomplishments rather than hanging my head in shame over the time-sink. I think that’s enough adieu. Let’s agree to stop for now, shall we? Instead, let’s dive into the power poll, in reverse order…
8. Call of Duty: Black Ops – Not nearly the time-sink that it used to be. This reduction in attention has nothing to do with the game itself – which is still pretty fun – but rather due to the inundation of new games forcing their way in. If I had to pick just one multiplayer game to jump into with my friends, it would still be this one… but I’m not sure there’s any reason to play Black Ops solo right now.
7. Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3 – Steam tells me that I love this game, and that I’ve spent prohibitive amounts of time playing it. Unfortunately in this case, Steam is right. I actually had never picked up RA3 on its retail release, but I was unable to refuse Steam’s recent sale on latter-day C&C products. I was hooked pretty much on entry, through a combination of nostalgia and longing for a legitimate RTS release. Ever since I burned out on StarCraft II for no discernible reason, I’ve been looking for another strategy game to fill the void. I guess this one is it. At least, for now.
6. Civilization 5 – A perennial power-poll contender. The Civ series is a fall-back position for me. Anytime I hunger for immersion and a way to kill a two-hour-block, I fall back on this series. Ever since I embraced the latest incarnation over Civilization IV it’s been a no-brainer.
5. Bulletstorm – As I’ve stated before, this is a great game. I’m just not sure how replayable it really is. Given time, I’m sure I could play through the single player again and love every instant of the carnage… but in the meantime, the lack of variety in the multiplayer mode has this one shelved behind some of the newer titles, and some of my perennial all-stars.
4. Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds – The DLC for Jill Valentine and Shuma Gorath is hideously overpriced. That having been said, having Jill back in the fold has totally re-ignited my interest in the game. I now play it as a kind of bridge between other more ‘serious’ games. I remain terrible at multiplayer MvC3. If you want easy winds, challenge me.
3. League of Legends – Continuing their unending trend of new champions, game state patches, and new content, Riot Games continues to impress with their tactical multi-player smash. I’m sure the microtransactions in this game are making everyone involved rich, too… which bothers me only in that I’m not involved in the collection of cash.
2. MLB 2K11 – I play two sports games every season; MLB 2KXX and Madden NFL. I will sometimes also trot out NCAA Football… but not often. Anyway, the latest version of MLB 2K isn’t exactly a re-invention of the wheel. We’ve known the rules of major league baseball since 1898, and Bud Selig remains as committed to stagnation as ever. There’s not a ton of new features to be desired in this latest incarnation, but the graphics are even better than ever, and the pitching and hitting controls are as good as I could conceive of a way to make them. There isn’t much to hate in this latest title.
1. Dragon Age II – Immersive doesn’t begin to cover this one. I’ve heard a lot of the complaints about this game… and my succinct retort would probably be something like: “I love this game. I hate listening to reason. So let’s not discuss it.” Frankly, that, and the enormity of what I have to say about this title, are the core reasons that I haven’t tried to review it yet. Fear not… thoughts are forthcoming… but I suppose after a certain point a true review doesn’t do anyone any good.
Initially, I had intended to make this a ten-game feature.. .but then I figured, why push it? These are the games that currently snare me. I’m playing them a lot. If you don’t know them, they might be worth checking out, and I’m certainly open to discussion. Also, if anyone wants to suggest new games to me that you’d desperately like to see reviewed, or that you think I’d really like… well… don’t be a stranger.