Video games are a part of my life. I try to try out most genres, if not individual games. I can’t stand playing some of them… but I still really want to experience them. It’s an interesting dichotomy: Games aren’t like movies, and you can’t wrap it all up in a few hours. So the reading is.
There are a few games that I have followed over the years, not out of a desire to play them, but out of fascination with their world-building or their communities. Whenever a news, review, or op-ed about them pops up in my News Feed, I stop and review it. It’s unintentional at this point.
So here’s a brief list of games that I really don’t like to play, and still love to read anyway.
World of warcraft
I never really liked massively multiplayer online games. Structurally, they’re boring, if only because it’s difficult to create an exciting combat system that can accommodate literally thousands of people at once. And despite claims of epic conflict in the world and telling your own personal story in an evolving narrative, they inevitably seem to come down to killing 10 slightly angry sheep in fields of different colors.
But WOW is different. World of warcraft has been continuously updated for 16 years, and even in its early days it was based on a world already full of some pretty deep Tolkien-style fantasy lore. The story is so vast that you almost can’t help but hear at least part of it when you’re interested in games. It spilled over entirely into other genres – a lot of my WOW knowledge comes from wanting to know who the hell the guy on my Hearthstone card is, and why I’m not ready to play him.
There is also the social aspect. Over a decade and a half of WOW, it has become its own culture, with events having fascinating repercussions on the game and culture in general. We could talk about the South Park or Leeroy Jenkins episode, but perhaps the most relevant on the current level is plague of corrupt blood, a gambling problem that has spread through an online world in a way that mirrored real-world epidemics… and, surprisingly, has become a source of useful information for actual research into the sociology of infectious disease.
I haven’t completed a Pokémon game since Pokémon Ruby, waaaaay in 2003. Don’t get me wrong, I was really obsessed with the originals, like everyone in my fourth grade class. But I’m of the (surprisingly widespread) opinion that games have never been better than Gold / Silver / Crystal, just the second collection in the series.
But consider that one of the most interesting things about Pokémon is the Pokedex entries, which were at times weird and disturbing in 1996. Cubone is the first choice here: a small dinosaur-like object that bears its mother’s skull. died as a helmet. With the later generation we get Bewear, a giant teddy bear-like thing that usually crushes people’s thorns, Banette, an old doll who was apparently so angry at being abandoned that she was imbued with life. and “seek the child who denied her,” or Yamask, a Pokémon that appears to be a dead human spirit that wears a mask of its old face.
Salamence literally believes that he can fly. Usual game
With nearly a thousand monsters listed at the time of writing, it’s no wonder the developers of the Pokémon games have had to come up with some wild stuff to fill these Pokedexes. I’m here for them … and for Drawfee episodes that they generate.
EVE Online might just be the most fascinating game in history, although it is little more than a combination of spreadsheets and live wallpapers. Okay, that’s not fair. At its heart, EVE is a deep game about living the life of an unattached spaceship pilot, in an online world shaped and reshaped by its thousands of dedicated players. It’s just that it looks a lot like a spreadsheet on an animated wallpaper.
But the universe of EVE star systems and space stations is truly controlled by its actors. The developers have said that more or less everything is happening in the game world, as long as you don’t actually hack the game itself. This means that EVE is, essentially, a libertarian utopia. Players cooperate in gigantic guilds called “corporations”, and they are free to fight or plot as they see fit. Several small guilds are entirely dedicated to corporate sabotage, available for hire to the highest bidder.
Add to the fact that there is a tenuous but very real connection between EVE’s in-game currency and real money in the real world, and suddenly the imaginary city-sized ships and star systems controlled by the players are literally invested with value. EVE’s biggest corporate battles involve thousands of players compete in real time, and some of the documented “heists” that have fallen are the stuff of Hollywood heists. That’s enough to make you want to read a book about it.and you can!
It’s always interesting that some video games are basically attempts to replicate actual work – you know, what most people do when they’re not playing video games. I can see the value of simulating the working day of, say, a commercial airline pilot or even a city manager. But one long haul truck driver? A cook? A farmer?
When I was a kid, I spent every summer on my grandparents’ ranch in Texas. I did some real farming. I can drive a tractor, I can tag a cow, I can build miles and miles of fences. Instead of doing anything, I make devious lists on the internet. Agriculture is a foundation of human life, but it is also boring, arduous and back-breaking work, so much so that we have used millennia of technological advancement to eliminate as many humans as possible from the equation.
And yet there are new Agriculture simulator games almost every year, across all platforms, with tons of licensed DLC to accurately simulate extremely specific farm equipment. It’s confusing. It’s fascinating. I suspect that most people who find solace in simulated farming would quickly lose it if they had to water a hay field or replace a planter with a mower without any help. But I don’t want to spoil the fantasy for them, so I’m just going to sit here and marvel at how I can spend five dollars on an official John Deere CP690 cotton picker.
I have never played a Kingdom Hearts game once. The combination of Final Fantasy and animated Disney isn’t something I ever thought I would need. But Kingdom Hearts started to grab my attention about 10 years ago when I noticed one of the DS games was called Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (delivered three hundred and 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 that had worse titles than a Street Fighter remix deserved at least a little attention.
I still don’t really care about Kingdom Hearts any more than any other JRPGs it’s not Skies of Arcadia. But trying to decipher his crazy story is a lot of fun. To believe the various explanations that have followed one another around the release of Kingdom Hearts III, the show’s storyline might be the most brilliant or the most horrifying piece of a plot ever written by human hands.
It’s also possible that the story cloned itself and became an evil version of the shadow that was also a clone and now lives in the hearts of every writer, including me and my clones, as well as Sebastian. by The Little Mermaid. It was completely absurd. But by Kingdom Hearts standards, it’s pretty tame.
I tried three times to get into the original Dark Souls, and never reached the second boss. His slow movement and gotcha combat don’t appeal to me at all, nor does his infamous difficulty. I could spend a couple hundred hours playing, I’d rather spend them on something really fun. I tried her sister game Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, just to see if I can get past that with some funny ninja moves. No, the frustrating bosses got the better of me in the end.
And that’s a shame, because Dark Souls and its From Software gaming colleagues (Souls of the demon and Bloodborne) have one of the most satisfying traditions there is. I know this because I’ve delved into reviews and wiki articles that explain the worlds and the characters they contain, with the various horrific bosses being a highlight for how their character designs weave into snippets of intrigue and world history. Most of these elements are presented organically. You really have to dive into the games themselves to find out how and why the world is as it is.
Or you can cheat and read a lore article. As I do. Because I’m not patient or masochistic enough to play any of these games.