We obviously love games here—mainstream games, niche games, weird games, board games, the 1983 film WarGames—but we’re an opinionated bunch, and we can’t all love games for the same reasons. We have pet peeves and quirks and at least one of us thinks that Quake II is better than Quake III.
As much as it can seem like there are rules to liking games—enforced by constant bickering about the Right Way To Play—there aren’t. So let’s all open up about our most shameful habits and indefensible opinions. We’ll start! You can join in, or lampoon us, in the comments, as long as it’s all friendly. There's no judgment here.
I thought I liked Diablo and Diablo II and Diablo III but it turns out I don't. I don't like any of them at all.
What's cool about them? Dungeons? They’re all full of the same stupid stuff as they are in any game: urns, sarcophagi, sconces, stone textures. Story? There are demons and stuff. Next. Loot? Check it out, killing skeletons is boring, but eventually you'll find a sword that lets you kill skeletons even faster. Fun, right? No! Now I'm just being bored at a faster pace!
The words 'DPS' and 'theorycrafting' are so frustrating to me. Not because I find them boring (I do), but because I don't get why people like them. Why do you want to have the most powerful possible character? How does that make it fun? How is any of this all that different from Clicker Heroes?
But people really, genuinely love Diablo, especially Diablo II. And that's totally great, I mean, I'm not judging anyone—I just struggle to understand what I apparently understood when I was 16. I should've written a letter to myself to explain it, so I could open it now and still not agree.
This is, in part, because I was using a hand-me-down 30 Hz monitor until earlier this year, so being able to go above that was literally irrelevant, but honestly I just don’t care much about pushing a game’s framerate to the limit. I’m not one of those “the human eye can’t see above 30 fps” people, because that’s a load of crap. 60 fps is amazingly smooth and definitely looks better than 30. I understand why a lot of people won’t play anything below it, or prefer 144 Hz screens.
But as long as my framerate isn’t distracting me from actually playing the game, I don’t really care where it ends up. My GTX 760 build had me playing The Witcher 3 right around 45 frames per second on my now 72 Hz monitor, and I didn’t feel a yearning for those 27 missing frames that could have been. I imagine if I played CS:GO or any other highly competitive game I would feel differently, but maxed-out 60 fps gameplay just isn’t on my personal checklist.
And I’ll do just about anything to avoid it. I see game time as my time, and that time is both precious and limited. I don’t want to spend it sitting in a lobby waiting for others to be ready, ending a game early because others have dropped out, or playing a game longer than I want to simply because my teammates want to keep going. I have trouble carrying on conversations while playing (I also can’t talk on the phone while driving), and I’m both worried about letting teammates down with poor play and dislike being told how to play, making me a truly rotten co-op partner. Mostly, I see gaming as a little vacation, one of the few times I can truly do whatever I want and be completely selfish. It’s like singing in the shower: I pick the song, and I can be completely unselfconscious about how terrible my voice is. If I add an audience (for the song, not the shower) I lose the fun.
And I’ll do just about anything to avoid it, unless it’s XCOM or Xenonauts. Other than those two, I don’t think I’ve played a single-player game I’ve loved since Stalker. Competitive games are the most-played games in the world (as I’m writing this, they’re four of the top five on Steam), and it’s simply the most exciting time in the history of games to be invested in a scene like CS:GO, H1Z1, or Dota 2.
Predictable structure is a big source of tedium for me in single-player games. Even the supposed ‘epic’ experiences like Skyrim, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and The Witcher haven’t evolved significantly in this area over the past decade—they’ve simply gotten bigger and more expensive-looking. To me, something like DayZ represents the sort of innovation I want to see from single-player games: I want a single-player experience that feels owned by me and only me. The scaffolding of quests, a main plot line, NPCs, companion relationships, morality systems, loot progression… when I’m playing one of those games, I feel like I’m operating those systems instead of experiencing what it means to be my character in that world.
Meanwhile, I love the fleeting friendships and rivalries I form online. Yes, toxicity in multiplayer games is a problem, but it’s so overruled by the experience of making someone you don’t know laugh, finding instant chemistry with a Rocket League teammate, or exchanging good sportsmanship with someone who’s your equal.
The week after passing my driving test I took a single wrong turn on the way home from a football game and, rather than stop to course correct, kept on making directional mistakes until I found myself, close to tears, on the motorway heading towards London. For reference: I did not live near London. This was in the pre-mobile phone days, so I eventually had to park and call my mother. If it wasn’t for the advent of GPS, I probably still wouldn’t drive anywhere.
This total inability to navigate has blighted my gaming life. In any game in which I can’t follow either another player or an NPC, I inevitably become lost. In Skyrim I was like an orphaned duckling blundering around in a minefield. I usually end up running endless loops looking for something, bouncing off the same scenery, before eventually firing up YouTube guides to help with even the most facile tasks, and then, frame by frame, inching my way towards whatever entirely obvious destination has eluded me.
As a consequence, I think some of the games I love most are ones that hold the player’s hand hardest. My joy was almost unconfined when I found out Dead Space would, when prompted, draw a line on the ground to wherever you needed to go, with a laser. Every time I fired the laser up it was with an accompanying frisson of guilty pleasure. The kind of rush you only get from knowing you’re not going to follow an arrow for five minutes only to hit an unclimbable cliff face. Looking at you here, MGS 5.
Reading is good. There are words, and you look at them, and then they’re in your head making all sorts of moving pictures and communicating big ideas. For example: A tiny yellow bird grips a grown man by the shoulders and says, “I can do it!” and flies away with him. That vivid and moving scene played out in your head. Now try again, but copy and paste the text into a word processor, change the font to an old fantasy-looking script, set the colors to something really garish, like a black background and olive-green words, and then stand across the room and try to read it 100 times in a row. Did it feel good? Did you see the tiny bird? How’s the bird lore?
Giant text dumps in games, especially if they’re the main way the story is doled out, are bad. I love reading. I read big books with scary words, but if I’m confronted with walls of scrolling text in a game, my eyes hurt after a few minutes. Pillars of Eternity and me, we’ll never be, eternally.
I’m terrible at watching movies because I’m impatient. Likewise, I’m terrible at following stories in video games. With a few exceptions (The Witcher series, Deus Ex, Fallout and a few more), I completely lose track of narratives in games. My eyes glaze over as soon as a second plot arc is introduced. I just don’t care. I want to do some cool things with my hands, level up, kill things, solve problems, maybe build some stuff… anything except follow another lame story about some bro saving the world or something. And no matter how hard I try to keep an open mind and diligently follow these narratives…. i just can’t. I hate 90 percent of video game narratives, but that’s okay, because I love games.