Je Retourne (2018 Edition)

So: three years since I last posted to this blog, I’ve decided that I need to start writing again.

The past two years has seen my life has change quite dramatically: where I was once a gainfully employed single man living a solitary existence in a tech-filled inner-city man-cave, I have transitioned into a stay-at-home suburban pseudo-father-of-two with a loving partner, an energetic dog, and a shared TV. And I would’ve expected that the opportunities in which I could immerse myself in my preferred media would have all-but-disappeared… but, as it turned out, that was not the case.

Apart from a few chunky pockets of (nourishing) contract work surrounding my relocation, there’s been little in the way of employment to tarnish my days, and the evenings have been surprisingly full of opportunities to get my gaming in. I tend to focus a little more on narrative-heavy games in communal situations – whilst my partner is supportive of my gaming, I still want to offer her something in return for her relinquishment of the TV.

I must admit that I was initially surprised to have so much TV time available to me, given the part-time presence of a couple of teenagers… but it soon became apparent that they’re far happier in their own company, with their own screens. The access to streaming video – and the wealth of content discoverable therein – means that there’s less jockeying for control of the family TV. And whilst I was initially a little surprised by this, I soon recognised my own childhood in their actions: I was always quite happy to bail on the family TV and retire to my bedroom in order to play on my C64.

The kids do both have an interest in gaming: The Boy loves his movie-themed AAA excursions and has trekked through PUBG to settle (currently) on Ring of Elysium, and The Girl will indulge in the big Nintendo franchises and the occasional Uncharted romp. But neither really appear to focus on any particular game; obsessions can be both intense and fleeting. And while that is totally at odds with my own experience, I have to constantly remind myself: that’s my problem. I am the one that differs from the norm here. They are the ones that are closer to the average.

Aside from the people who have entered my immediate sphere, there’s been a few other gaming changes in the last three years. I eventually caught up to the current generation of gaming hardware: I grabbed a PS4 Pro when The Boy’s PS4 started showing signs of optical-drive sickness, and an Xbox One X when I decided that some Burnout Paradise Remastered would be a cracking idea (a perhaps foolhardy conceit, given the thin and temperamental online community that will likely leave that game on The List for far too long). A new gaming-capable PC – a work-related purchase with benefits – also came into my life, and with it a flurry of Steam Sales that flooded The List with as-yet-undiscovered gaming goodness. But – most significantly – there was also the release of the Nintendo Switch.

I pre-ordered a console (grey, of course). I went to a launch-night lineup at my local EB Games. I picked up my accessories early, and marveled at the wonder that is the Switch Pro Controller. And, a little after midnight on the day of release, I had my Switch at home, downloading Breath of the Wild. The next morning, I thought I’d forgo the early-morning walk of The Dog (hey, it was drizzling outside!) and fired up my new game.

Sorry, DogDog, you're on your own for a few days.

Sorry, DogDog, you’re on your own for a few days.

I’d blocked out a few days of non-work time, because I figured that 30-40 hours would be enough to tackle another Zelda. What I hadn’t counted on, however, was the manner in which I was sucked into this latest incarnation of Hyrule. The guesstimated 40 hours only got me through about a fifth of the game on offer… and it was over 110 hours before I came out the other side of the climactic battle. But there was still so much more to do; two DLC chunks have hinted to me that Breath of the Wild will long be a List-Lingerer, and my Switch tells me that I have a mere 395(!) hours on the clock over two playthroughs.

But the Switch didn’t just stop at a new Zelda. Super Mario Odyssey was another obsession that commandeered many hours; Thumper demanded that I try and figure out rhythm games once again, whilst being completely unnerved by a stunning soundtrack; Splatoon 2 has shown legs after the gorgeous original; and the re-release of both Bayonetta games seem to fit the Switch’s hardware like a glove.

And these are all games I want to write about… along with other discoveries of the past three years. Super Tiny Leap and Monument Valley. The Zero Escape series. The Witness, the Uncharted series, Metal Gear Solid V, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. Dark Souls (or, as I loved/hated to call it, ShitPigGame). Firewatch, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Dear Esther, and the joy of Just Walking. And delightfully weird oddities: The Fall, Virginia, Small Radios Big Televisions, Million Onion Hotel, and Vostok, Inc.

As I said up top: I need to start writing again. And with the current gaming (and socio-political, and gender-political) landscape, there’s plenty of fertile material out there. Hopefully, I can force myself into a decent schedule.

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