Becoming a slave to meaningless progress in Cookie Clicker
For years, I wrote PC Gamer's Top 10 Downloads column—four magazine pages rounding up the best free games and mods of the past month. During this time, Cookie Clicker was released. It was free, so I decided to write about it. I opened my laptop's browser, loaded up the site, and—a week later—I was overseeing a frankly embarrassing cookie empire. Cookie Clicker, like all clicker games, is a fundamentally about numbers getting bigger. You click a cookie, and the number gets bigger. You buy an upgrade, and the number gets bigger, faster. There is barely a game here—it's certainly not as subversive as the delightfully weird Candy Box.
It's a bad game, but I became invested in it anyway. I'd leave my laptop running overnight, so as to bank a great number of cookies in order to buy more upgrades and production factories. Then, my cookies spent, I'd leave the laptop running once again to bank the same number of cookies at a slightly faster rate. The scary thing is these are systems comparable to any MMO—to the routine of returning from an evening's adventure, and salvaging down loot into its constituent parts. The numbers, they are getting bigger. My compulsion to play Cookie Clicker is likely also the reason I've spent so many hours playing Guild Wars 2. At least that game has dragons.
I don't play Cookie Clicker any more, for the same reason I don't a litre of vodka or inject heroin into my eyeball. But my cookie empire is still there, waiting, on a laptop I've long since abandoned—only partly because it's a reminder of the shame of making that number grow and grow.—Phil Savage
Pissing my whole actual life away playing Destiny
Okay, the admission above might get me kicked out of PC club for good, but if so I’ll be taking half the team with me. At this point, I’m under no illusion about being hopeless Destiny junkie scum who at my advanced age really should know better. And yet I still log on every bastard night, lovelessly cranking out the same daily missions I’ve done literally hundreds of time, and regularly running hard mode raids with the increasingly irascible group of virtual friends I’ve accrued in my time with the game.
And let’s be specific about that time. According to the website wastedondestiny.com, it’s 1432 hours. That’s almost eight and a half weeks of lifeforce expunged procuring and upgrading exotic weapons and armor, which has to be done multiple times in the absence of actual new content, thanks to the sickos on Bungie’s design team who have made a series of system and economy decisions that are so bizarre, so outright hostile to the playerbase, that I’ve come to regard the whole game as an extended experiment into the psychology of idiots who like shooting aliens with sweet guns.
But that’s the thing. The guns are so sweet. Assuming you haven’t already ctrl+w’d this window in disgust, you’re probably wondering why persist with a game that’s so clearly toxic, when you have all Steam at your disposal. And the answer is because there’s nothing else quite like the good bits. The gunplay alone justifies (in my addled brain) the time I’ve sunk into Destiny. It’s so moreish, so beautifully responsive, tactile, and dramatic, that I’m yet to tire of it. Despite the utter dearth of new material for months.
And the raids. Oh god the raids. They’re like doing synchronised swimming whilst being shot at. The gaming experiences you have in Vault of Glass and King’s Fall with five friends are the kind that stay with you forever. Even the much maligned Crota encounter is heart pumping when you’re carrying the sword. I dunno. I guess what I’m saying is sorry (to you, PC Gamer readers, but mainly to my girlfriend). I’m an idiot. And I still hope Bungie brings the next one to PC.—Tim Clark
Playing the beginning of Half-Life 2 with the cheats turned up to 11
I love Half-Life 2, and over the years I’ve completed it several times (not to mention, I spent a couple years doing a comic strip about it). It’s still a game I like to play through every now and again—it contains the same strange pleasure as watching a movie I’ve completely memorized. When I play now, however, the moment I step off that train I open the console, enable cheats, and give myself all the weapons. Gordon Freeman has arrived, but he’s an angry and whimsical god.
I use the gravity gun to yank that annoying camera bot out of the air and fling it into the first Combine goon I see. I fire rockets all over the train station and nail another metrocop to the wall with the crossbow. I clip through the map, find Dr. Breen’s little hiding spot and dispense him with the shotgun so I don’t have to listen to his speech. Anything that can be lifted, smashed, killed, or blown up, is.
I feel kind of bad about it: it’s like visiting your favorite park and lighting up the flowerbeds with a flamethrower. On the other hand, like the movie I mentioned above, I simply find myself wanting to fast-forward right to the action. In this case, the action is destroying everything I can as quickly as I can. Sorry, Half-Life 2! You welcomed me with an eerie, evocative, fascinating opening, and now I tromp around in it like an ungrateful toddler having a tantrum.—Chris Livingston
Acrobatically vanquishing the hordes of Resident Evil 6
Hated by series fans, ignored by action game fans, Resident Evil 6 was promptly put in the bin when it was released in 2012 (later 2013 on PC). With four campaigns totally 40-50 hours of game, which is really a lot of value for money when you think about it, accusations of Resi 6 being bloated weren’t totally unfounded. The popular idea that a lot of people buy into is that Resi 5 made the series too action-oriented and Resi 6 just continued down that path into design oblivion. I disagree. And even if it did go a little more action heavy, maybe this isn’t the worst thing in the world.
In actuality, Resi 4, one of the best games ever made, was responsible for this move into action. And I don’t think people really wanted an old school Resi game with fixed camera angles again, either. The difference with Resi 5 was that it swapped what might be considered familiar horror imagery for something a little closer to the real world (but not that close), and introduced a co-op element that perhaps made the action feel heightened—but the systems are roughly the same as Resi 4’s. The only area in which it doesn’t quite compare favourably is the level design: Resi 4 was packed with ideas whereas Resi 5 has a few stretches of filler. Resi 6’s problem is there’s far too much fat on it: Chris Redfield’s campaign is particularly repetitive and boring. Leon’s is much better. Put the story bits to one side, though, and I honestly think Resi 6’s combat mechanics are world class: they’re just a pain in the dick to learn, and the game does nothing to teach them to you.
I’ve played 40 hours of Resident Evil 6 on PC, and most of that time has been spent playing the Mercenaries mode, which is Resi’s version of a horde mode (that predates the notion of a horde mode, which Gears of War itself borrowed, along with Resi’s over-the-shoulder aiming). Using the various acrobatic moves like jumping, diving, skidding along the floor and charging melee attacks, there’s an amazing amount of expression to the combat system—you just have to learn to do it yourself. Or, follow this Neogaf guide, like I did.
I love Resi 6, then. Not as much as 4, not even as much as 5, but I’ve got it installed on both my work and home PC in case I ever fancy watching a few heads fly off. Critics might hate Resident Evil 6, but when did critics ever know anything?—Samuel Roberts
Playing Left 4 Dead alone on easy mode
I’m not sure there’s a good play on Left 4 Dead’s title that fits my my favorite way to play: alone on easy mode. Don’t get me wrong. When the game was at peak popularity and all my friends were playing, it was co-op or bust. But now that everyone I know has moved on, I still like to play, but by my lonesome so I can take my sweet time surviving, soaking in the detailed environments, and experimenting with the systems.
Whenever I pair up with randos, there’s always that one person who sprints through the level like a man on fire (sometimes literally thanks to a misfired molotov). That ain’t me. My greatest pleasures in Left 4 Dead come from piecing together whatever bits of the story I can through the sporadic and varied dialogue sequences. Or by noticing subtle environmental clues peppered through the campaigns. I like dancing around the zombies, the peaks and valleys of the director AI, and strange satisfaction of ‘cleaning’ up horde after horde.
I like to soak in Left 4 Dead’s world, intentionally cliched as it is. I like throwing some bath salts into the gore pool, letting ‘em dissolve—lavender’s the best, though a citrus scent is welcome on occasion. I indulge my mindless zombie violence like I indulge in dopey craft beers named after some insubstantial hill in Montana. I pour Left 4 Dead into a pilsner glass, taking note of color and aroma, the palate at the back of my brain. I train Left 4 Dead to sit, stay, come, heel, and speak. We go on long walks together. I pick up Left 4 Dead’s shit with a plastic baggy and throw it away in the designated bin. Left 4 Dead and I are good pals that enjoy a lazy Sunday, some inexpensive brunch, a brief discussion about Fargo season two. Point is, I have enough problems. Left 4 Dead, it isn’t one. I like it that way.—James Davenport
Still mainlining vanilla Warcrack
For a while I tried to be rational—I tried to tell myself that the soft, rosy glow of nostalgia had convinced me that the original World of Warcraft was better than all subsequent expansions (except maybe Burning Crusade), and that I had to just let it go. Let the kids have their fun with their Dalarans and their pandas and their time travel.
But no, dammit, I won’t. There’s too much value in the grind! When people say vanilla WoW felt too much like a job, they miss the very thing that made it great. Killing a kajillion mobs to get at one lousy mob-hoof is a chore, but as any mountain climber, sportsman or builder can tell you, it’s not the process, it’s the dopamine hit induced by the task being over that makes it all worthwhile.
Of course, I don’t actually know any mountain climbers, sportsmen or builders, but I once went on a pretty mean hike and that’s what I took away from it.
Sometimes you need a little hard, thankless work to know the sweet joy of success. Naxx 40, anyone?—Angus Morrison