EDITORIAL: GAMING WITH AGE



Having started off very much as what you would call a 'core' gamer (that is to say one who must play the latest AAA releases, who put great stead in which console had which exclusive, and where the quality of a game's adversarial multiplayer was often the be all and end all) things have changed. Games are something else to me now. Graphics don't matter, DLC doesn't matter, being able to duke it out online doesn't matter.

Calling all developers: I want splitscreen (splitscreen online with guests is almost an insta-buy criteria); I want an engrossing story that's as fun to watch as it is to play; I want easy controls that my other half can pick up and enjoy. I want games that aren't stressful; games that I look forward to playing because I want to find out what happens next, or because they are just fun to experience. For whatever reason, I went from being a 'core' gamer to being what publishers would call 'broad'. And I can't be the only person whose gaming habits have changed as they have got older.

It's hard to pinpoint where this started. At some point, after leaving education, I had a lot less free time. Don't get me wrong, I still have more than enough to be able to play the latest releases if I want to, but I now find games struggling to compete with shared time spent watching films and TV. The best way for them to compete is to offer a similar experience - one my partner can enjoy without me having to steal the TV for a shooty grey-fest that she has no interest in. Let me give you some examples.

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BY MIKE HAZLETON - 25/04/16

No-one does mild concern like Lee Everett. Have you ever known cel shaded eye brows to look that
expressive?! I think not, and if you have, then you, dear reader, are all the wrongs.

Someone should have told Han he bought a blaster to a lightsabre fight. This sounded a lot wittier in my head. Infact, I regret everything. All of it. Move along!

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The Walking Dead (Telltale's version of course) was the first game we played through together. Since Season Two it's fair to say our interest has waned, but it started a trend where story-driven games were front and centre in my videogame purchasing decisions. We played and loved the Last of Us - more of a hardcore game but one I could play and she could direct. It had a story captivating enough and around a subject we both enjoy (zombies!) to maintain both our interests. Any Telltale games are brilliant for this.

Left 4 Dead too, on the zombie theme still but with essentially no story. It wins through as it has a generation-leading co-op mechanic that meant even if one player may struggle, the rest can help out. Heavy Rain, another story-driven game that is played at a slow-enough pace that another player (or watcher) can direct and get involved with the decision making (all of Quantic Dream's games are great on this front).

Other notable mentions would be Portal, L.A. Noire, State of Decay, Child of Light, anything from Rare Replay (for nostalgia more than anything) and more recently Life is Strange, Layers of Fear, Rocket League and Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment. Some of these games can be tough and in these instances we just share the responsibility - I may take the challenging sections and she can take the story-driven bits - but the game keeps both of our attentions.

Episodic games are great as we look forward to the next chunk without having to wait two years for the next full release. It really is akin to watching your favourite TV series. I could easily go to another room and play the latest million selling FPS, which I'm sure I would enjoy - but when there are all these other games to play, with great stories, that can be a shared experience, I'm pretty happy to just let the more hardcore stuff pass me by.

Those are not the only factors in why games like Evolve (what should have been a new-gen version of Left 4 Dead), Rainbow Six Siege (the previous instalments were some of my most played games of that time) and Star Wars: Battlefront (what's not to like?!) have passed me by. Multiplayer only is of course an instant turn-off now. Why would I buy one game for myself for £50 on release day when I can get what is usually a budget release (if you look at my list above, very few were full price games) that both my partner and I can enjoy? Especially at full price.

Of course, I still have guilty pleasures. The Witcher 3 is story-driven enough that we are both interested in it, but for a 100+ hour game it's a lot to ask for both parties to be engrossed throughout, but I am slowly getting through it. I also have always played Pro Evo fairly regularly most weeks, and still find time to do that. The point is, however, that the games like Gears of War, Killzone, Battlefield, Call of Duty and Halo (games that Microsoft and Sony would call system sellers), just don't appeal to me anymore.

To be able to compete in those games online you need to be reasonably committed, and it is not something I am willing to do. My most anticipated games are the next Sherlock Holmes from Frogwares and Yooka-Laylee from Playtonic. Perhaps you will read this and think it is a sad state of affairs for a once core gamer. I would reply that I have never enjoyed gaming more than when faced with a tough moral choice in the Walking Dead - characters I will remember for a lifetime - or fighting out of a tough spot in Left 4 Dead from an epic set piece; or setting up a perfect goal in the ultimate approachable sports game that is Rocket League.

Microsoft and Sony are certainly right to pinpoint their flagship titles and to mark them as system sellers. Those just aren't the games that sell their systems to me anymore. So what am I now? Co-op-core? Most of the big publishers have abandoned the strict casual/core distinction since the Wii destroyed boundaries and brought a whole new audience to gaming (and of course smartphone gaming which is a whole other debate). The main thing is I still love gaming when perhaps in another console generation I may have lost interest. There are a lot of indie and small developers who are thriving because of a growing pool of people that, like me, are all about fun, story and accessibility in their games. And long may it continue.


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