Before last weekend I was pretty sure  I was going to have to give in my gamer card. Life is busy and I have learned to prioritize work/life/gaming balance much better than the past. Family, then work, then gaming. Sadly, the realities of a job that demands a lot and a family that I want to give a lot to leaves gaming as something I wish I could make more time for (but normally can’t). Sometimes it feels as though I spend more time reading about gaming, listening to podcasts about gaming, and blogging about gaming than I actually play games in a week. This has lead me to all sorts of crazy thoughts from stopping blogging (I love it – but is it genuine enough if I am not gaming much?) to allowing myself that hour to two hours a night to enjoy a hobby I am extremely passionate about (when you hit 40, there is so much more in your life you feel like you *should* be doing instead of gaming). We have the NBI, and Blaugust, and Bragtoberfest – do we have gaming blog counselors? Where is our Dr. Phil, I need to talk to him! Good news about all of this is while searching for a “video game character on a couch getting psychiatric advice” I stumbled on a nice new web comic line.

[Click on that to go to the web comic – there are several fantasy/game themed ones and they are beautiful and sobering. Definitely go look at them!]

Then, something miraculously happened on Sunday. My son was going to a movie/play date with a friend, my wife wasn’t feeling well and wanted to go lie in bed for the afternoon and I suddenly found myself with free time on a wet and cold day. I didn’t need to exercise because I had played a hockey game the night before, I could do work (as I always could) but I had a pretty good week the week before and felt good about where I was (I have one of those jobs that I am never “done” work. Finishing work just opens up new work.). The dogs were sleeping in a puddle of sun coming through the window which masked the cold and wet outside. The house was peaceful.

I was free. Free to game.

I fired up the gaming laptop and started updating everything – I wasn’t even sure what I was going to play! GW2? Landmark? I have uber fibre internet so literally updating 5 or 6 games at the same time doesn’t make anything chug. At the end of the day, I got in 6 hours – which is more than what I have been getting in a week (not counting phone games). So, what did I play? What were my sessions?

The Secret World

I bought this on a Steam Sale (duh) and while I had played through all three factions to see which resonated I hadn’t played much of the game itself. I ended up messing around with a bunch of weapons and I didn’t really fall in love with any of them – but I took pistols and off to Kingsmouth I went. The good is what was expected (story), the bad is how silly ranged weapons fit into the game (and MMOs in general). Having to empty 40 bullets into a zombie to kill it isn’t right. I am going to stick with it because I want to see how the story progresses but this is one of those examples where the game play gets in the way of the point of the game. In my initial impressions the mission would be better as a first person shooter style (which I know is silly, but really, 30 second kill times on your first main mission in an MMO is a huge disconnect from sensibility. No surprises here though as I have heard that complaint before. The ability wheel is intimidating but you really don’t have that many choices to begin with. I am glad I got to dig in a bit deeper – the setting and mood are top notch and my initial impressions is that the game play may hurt the style more than vice versa.

Metro 2033

I won this game (among others) from Contains Moderate Peril who runs a monthly contest. I was always interested in the setting and after playing TSW and thinking it should be a FPS, I figured it would be a nice segue into a proper FPS. The setting didn’t disappoint and the game did a good job of pacing between high intensity and breaks in the action. There was a lot of “fluff” in the opening sequences (NPC’s, families, background chatter) that did a good job of setting the tone of a community stuck underground without much hope for change. I am looking forward to this as my single player game that I can pickup and leave off. The strangest part for me is that this is the first THQ game I have blogged about – I tag categories by producers/developers typically, and that is my first THQ. I wonder if the setting is foreshadowing on the future Russia if they don’t stop screwing around in the Ukraine.

Heroes of the Storm

I don’t know if it is now open Alpha or what is going on, but when I was hovering on the “install” button for World of Warcraft I noticed that there was an option to install HOTS. So I did. I was a big League of Legends fan so I was definitely curious what Blizzard’s offering was going to look like. I ended up playing this game the most! True to Blizzard fashion it is well polished (already – in alpha) and pretty big simplification of the genre when using LoL as the comparative. Truth is though, it is less intimidating so far. I stopped playing LoL because they reset every season and I didn’t want to relearn the items and champions that I had become very familiar with. Items are the great equalizer in LoL and allows for a lot of customization as you can select items to change the balance of power in any match. It also meant you needed to understand the match-ups of 100’s of champions and how to fight against certain item kits and champions. It took a lot of effort to be “in the know”. HOTS takes out items altogether but still leaves a lot of choice in the game for talents. I am only level 6, so a long way to go but will be interesting to see if Blizzard can do to MOBA what it did for MMO. That statement is either beautiful or ominous depending on your view on Blizzard.

I still have barely touched my PS4 and haven’t played a round of Destiny in a month. I miss being “sold” on a title. I miss being “all in!”. You know, that realization that when you do have free time you are spending it in one place and one place only. Right now I am so overwhelmed with choice and options that I actually miss the day that I was dedicated to a single title and it received all my spare time an attention. I think there are so may places I want to play in right now that I just can’t focus on one. At the end of it all, I am just really happy I was able to take some time to myself and enjoy some really satisfying and fun gaming hours. It has been long overdue.

11 comments / Add your comment below

  1. “when you hit 40, there is so much more in your life you feel like you *should* be doing instead of gaming” Heh! It was the reverse for me. My gaming declined throughout my 20s and almost stopped altogether in my 30s. My first MMO was Everquest, which I bought as a 40th birthday present to myself the year it came out. My 40s and 50s have seen gaming move from a thing I occasionally did if I had nothing else to do to the thing I spend most of my free time doing.

    On TSW I completely agree that the combat is the weak point but I think it would be much worse as a FPS. I like a 30 second TTK, personally, don’t have a problem with that: it’s mob density that makes it feel so labored. They could thin the mobs out by 50%, maybe 75% and it would massively improve the flow.

    The good thing is that TTK never really changes much. It takes roughly the same time to kill a vampire in Carpathian Teeth as it does to kill a zombie in Kingsmouth.

    1. In my 20’s I was in University – so drinking, gaming, studying (order is irrelevant) – then I started owning my own businesses (night clubs) and was single so work at night, game during day, play sports, etc.

      I didn’t get married until I wash 30 (non gamer wife) and kids shortly after. Still an entrepreneur. Hard to fit in work, kids, wife and gaming – gaming always comes last.

      Do you have kids? I find that is the biggest (and most worthwhile) barrier.

      1. on the 30 second TTK I typically don’t have issues with that – but its ZOMBIES! and pistols! Everyone knows in the “real world” that one shot to the head kills a zombie. Which is why it is hard to fathom I have to empty what feels like 4 clips. I agree with you though – thinning the herd would also do the trick. I suppose if there were actually other people around that wouldn’t be a problem. I always like dynamic spawning (spawn rate = number of people in the zone at that time). Goes to show there are always other ways to solve problems.

  2. Lol, you know… you’re right, although I want to stay it was hitting me a bit before that. I never was really comfortable (and i’m still not) of ‘gamer’…
    I think you may have found a better, balance quicker than I did/have, and I’ve spent a considerable amount of time with other, non pc hobbies. Some I’ve kept up with, some I haven’t, a few I’ve picked back up. Long gone are the days of multi-hour sessions for the most part… after an hour or so, I need to get up and actually, physically do something….

    1. I still play on two separate hockey teams during the winter that gets me out of the house 2x a week and doing something with the guys. Fitness has become important to me again and it really makes a difference on how I feel when I am “in shape” in all other aspects of my life. I can spend hours and hours with the boy, he is good company. And books.. and movies… there is so much to do out there – hard to prioritize “downtime” sometimes. I almost bought a motorcycle this year as well *(because, 40, midlife crisis?). And on top of all of that, there is a big world to see out there.

      So yeah, all that means is that I’ll probably resub to WoW at some point.

  3. 1. I didn’t know you played League! The Preseason for season 5 just started, and yes there are item changes but man it looks like it’s going to be a great season (Plus revamped Summoner’s Rift!) If you change your mind I play all the time.

    2. Where did you see this mysterious HotS install button? Cause I have not seen that appear for me. I’ve opted in for access but no dice. I’m just curious if I’m missing something obvious.

    1. I LOVED league – I played about 1000 games – I have a post on here called 18.07% fun which kind of encapsulated when I started falling out of love with League – but I think it was because I was pushing on the ranked scene vs just playing to have fun. The competitive side of me. I loved top lane and my 5 favourite champs there were Rumble, Zac, Lissandra, Pantheon, and Wukong. I’d mix in Fizz/Lissandra for midlane and I’d support Nautilus when I had to. I rarely played ADC or Jungle.

      HOTS was just in the app thingy – I installed it to play hearthstone awhile back and when I reopened it after a long of time of not playing Blizz games (to consider WoW) there it was on the bottom of the left hand side.

      1. Shen, Maokai, Panth and Wukong are on my list for top lane. I can play any role, but Jungler is probably my weakest, especially not knowing the new jungle items yet.

        Yeah I checked, it’s not there for me. You must have been randomly selected to test the Alpha. Beta should be coming soon, I imagine, then I should be able to try it, but I don’t think it will change my love for league.

  4. I’m approaching that age and have been thinking to myself lately that I should really just settle down with one game – preferably one that doesn’t compel me to play it and accomplish things in it. But then I think to myself, “What’s the fun in that?”

    I’ve been taking advantage of longer play sessions lately as the semester winds down and we come up on a big holiday week here. Some of my students seem to have already checked out and Thanksgiving isn’t until Thursday. I don’t blame them. I say take advantage of the lulls you get to do whatever you enjoy. If you feel like dabbling is going to keep you aloof enough to be able to dive right back into work when needed, then do it. If you want to go deep into one game and max out all the things, then do that. Personally, I dabbled for several months in a bunch of MMOs and enjoyed superficial funsies. I am just now diving back into my old maxim of “one main and one alt” MMO and am flirting with the prospect of addiction once again. It’s like riding a fine line between good, clean fun and all-consuming destruction. Just what I need to make me feel alive. Might not be the same for you, but, you know, there’s that old, cliche saying: “Play what you like!”

    1. I think the fun in “one game” is that you move the needle on it. Dabbling in a bunch (which I am now) feels like you are just scratching the surface on each. But I do agree with you, when faced with a buffet, don’t just grab chicken wings.

      Unless you really, really love wings. And that is the rub for me – I am just not in love with one game right now. When I was deep in LoL I would play daily – and only play that. Same with WoW when MoP launched, heck, not too long ago with X-Com even – that was my daily login. So, the other side of that coin is that am I just playing a smorgasbord because there isn’t one that has captured my imagination fully?

      I love your musing about the addiction side – it’s always there, staring us in the face. That is actually a good part of these games that you can be immersed. Just as long as we are immersed and not lost.

      Thank you for the thought-starting contribution =)

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