Happy New Year everyone! It's the beginning of a brand new year which means it's the perfect time to make some changes to your gaming life (or try to complete the goals you failed last year). Say goodbye to the person you were in 2020 and write those gaming goals down, or if you're not into the whole resolution schtick, give your 2020 self a massive hug. They definitely need it.
Want to break a bad gaming habit? Dedicate your year to playing games outside your go-to genre? Or even game less? We've listed how we'll be changing our gaming habits in 2021 below, so have a read and make sure to tell us your gaming resolutions in the comments.
Graeme Meredith: Actually finish something
The last time I made a gaming resolution was 2015, when I aimed to complete one game a month and ended up knocking out 24 by the end of the year. In 2020 I think I beat two games and bought about 200 … So, maybe aiming for one game every two months, I might end up with 12 ticked off by December.
Harry Shepherd: Be kinder to myself
In other words, I'm not setting myself a gaming resolution this year. In previous years I've set an intention to play a certain number of games outside my favoured genres, or just finish more, but I'm binning anything like that for 2021. Life is enough of a slog at the moment to turn my free time into work, too. Now I'm going to have a healthier relationship with my spare time. Gone are the spreadsheets and targets; This year, I'm just here to have fun.
Robin Valentine: Follow Harry's example
I sat down on December 31st ready to set up a spreadsheet of goals, but like Harry I ultimately decided I was going to end up doing myself more harm than good. Particularly after the year we’ve had, I don’t need to be putting more pressure on myself, and honestly I increasingly feel like this baseline assumption that we should all be trying to complete lots of games and take control of our piles of shame is fundamentally misguided. If we had that kind of control and restraint in our gaming lives, we wouldn’t be as into this hobby as we are, let alone writing for a popular games website. As long as I’m having fun with games, I’m happy - whether that’s going back to the same one I’ve completed five times over already, dipping into something new for an hour before moving onto something else, or indulgently sinking a load of time I don’t have into some random 5-year-old 7/10 open-world game.
James Davenport: Play with curiosity
Last year I chose to play with more intent, which led to playing significantly fewer games than I usually do. But what I played I soaked in for weeks at a time. It's how I managed to spend 100-plus hours in our Game of the Year, Death Stranding, and it's what gave me the patience to get through bloated RPGs like Persona 5. I just don't think I'm ever going to like turn-based JRPG combat. I skipped out on most competitive shooters for the first time in a long time and felt significantly calmer playing games overall. My time beating down strangers online might be over (though playing Team Fortress 2 with the PCG staff was a 2020 highlight. I miss custom server culture.)
So now that I've pulled the weeds in 2020, I'm going to spend 2021 continuing to play with intent, sure, but now I'm going to focus on the parts of the games themselves that I find most interesting. Microsoft Flight Simulator is the simplest example, a deep flight sim in which I ignore the planes completely. I fly around in the camera drone and spend hours taking photos, capturing clips, and making bizarre montages. I'm revisiting Hitman 1 and 2 in prep for Hitman 3 later this month, but rather than experiment with cool ways to kill awful people, I've just been observing the clockwork in each level, walking around aimlessly. Oddly soothing, despite the sinister undertones. It sounds boring and probably is, but I'm enjoying the slow pace and learning a lot about how these worlds are put together.
Rachel Watts: Be more patient with games (second attempt)
Last year I vowed to be more patient with games and to put it bluntly, I completely failed with that. I'm still terrible with giving games my full attention, I always finish them as fast as I can and move onto the next one almost immediately. I still have a list of games that I desperately try and get through every month, but with the number of games releasing ever-increasing, it's a lot of work. This year it's going to be different, I'm going to try and tackle this resolution again and try to play more patiently and thoughtfully.
Dave James: Stop save-scumming
I can't help it, and it's long been an unwelcome part of my gaming experience. When things really don't go my way I save scum. Mostly out of a sense of injustice at what this ****ing algorithm just did to me, but also because I just want to win. All the time. Or at least as often as feasibly, justifiably possible.
It's something I've mostly banished from my Football Manager obsession, because failure in that game informs development. But I ruined XCOM 2 scumming my way through, Baldur's Gate 3 almost forced me to save scum, and because I want to be some stealthy son of a bitch Cyberpunk 2077's quick load button is taking a pounding.
My new year's resolution then is to play at least one game this year and embrace the entire fail, non-save scumming experience. Even if it means I don't enjoy it.
Chris Livingston: Read more (in games)
I'm a pretty impatient gamer. Diary entries, notes, journals, scraps of lore, if you can click on 'em and collect 'em in games, I will, but I pretty much never actually read 'em. No time! I've got stuff to do! Game stuff.
But that's kind of a crappy way to play. One the one hand it's silly that game worlds are filled with scraps of exposition and world-building, because in the real world it's not like I'll take my dog for a walk and find 12 different diary pages and notes scattered in my path fully explaining the history of the neighborhood I live in. But on the other hand, by not bothering to read everything I miss out on a ton of context and flavor of the games I play. Plus, someone took the time to write all that stuff. As a writer myself, I should probably take a little time to read it. (I do still reserve the right to hammer the spacebar to skip boring conversations, however.)
Sarah James: Step outside of my comfort zone
Anyone that knows me knows I play a lot of World of Warcraft and while I would say it's a game I'm not ready to put down anytime soon, I think I could do with broadening my horizons a little. That's not to say I don't play and enjoy other genres but I definitely stick to a certain kind of game. And while there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, Cyberpunk 2077 has actually made me stop and rethink this.
I'll be honest, outside of the E3 announcement and Keanu's surprise appearance on stage, I hadn't really given Cyberpunk 2077 much thought—it's something I might have picked up in a Steam sale at a later date to add to my pile of shame. But because of work, I picked it up at launch and found that I really enjoyed it—much to my surprise as it had never once struck me as the kind of game I'd particularly like. So yeah, it's got me wondering what other games I've missed out on because of the assumption that 'it's not my thing'.
So yeah, while I doubt you'll be seeing me playing Football Manager anytime soon (sorry, Dave!), I think stepping outside my comfort zone every once in a while might lead to some surprising discoveries.
Nat Clayton: Get with the times
Listen, I've been out of the loop for a while now. While my favourite game of 2020 did, in fact, come out in 2020, a grim layer of dust coated the rest of my year. I wallowed in Halo nostalgia, got really into Star Trek Online after a DS9 binge, and rooted around in config files to get another taste of Hawken's long-dead robots. Frankly, it's a miracle I didn't get back into Warcraft.
But it's a new year—and more importantly, I just built a new PC, and want to put the thing through its paces with some shiny 2021 newness. Maybe that means actually playing an Assassin's Creed for the first time since Brotherhood, or finally stepping into Agent 47's shoes with Hitman 3. But it may also mean actually sticking to my guns when I say I'll try a charming new indie, rather than retreating into whatever relic has become my comfort food.
On the other hand, I did install another old MMO. Probably just cursed.
Steven Messner: Take time to play more off-the-beaten-path indie games
This one is about as cliche as they come, but I want to make a commitment to spend more time playing games that are off the beaten path. Last year, my intention was to finish more games and I did finish a lot more than I normally would, but like Robin and Harry, I'm not sure that checking those items off a list really added to my value or enjoyment of games in general. So this year, I want to just spend more time playing games for the sake of being curious about them and trying out new experiences.
I'd like to make it a habit to explore itch.io more and just tinker with random games. I also hate how another year has passed and I can look back at games like Paradise Killer and Cloudpunk that I missed and probably won't have time to ever play because there's always a million new games coming out that are just as enticing. So this year, I'm going to try and devote a little more time to jumping into some of those indie darlings that I might otherwise miss as I spend my thousandth hour grinding away in WoW or Genshin Impact.
Mollie Taylor: Play more independently
A bit like Dave, I'm horrifically guilty of wanting to win all the damn time. My innate fear of failure has led to an unhealthy obsession with searching for the solution to everything—and I mean everything. From the best dialogue choices to Detroit: Become Human to the optimal familiar setup in Ni No Kuni, I've spent an awful lot of time letting other people tell me how to play my games. There's nothing wrong with using guides or getting help from forums, but my over-reliance on it has begun to wear on me. When I do well in a game, it doesn't quite feel like it's my achievement.
I want 2021 to be my year of gaming cock-ups, whether it be accidentally killing a character or reaching the bad ending. Failure never felt so good.
Katie Wickens: Absorb more game theory
I can't express how much I miss thinking critically about games. I've become a passive consumer and it saddens me. Have I lost the ability to analyse games, or am I just becoming complacent in my years after uni? The most you'll get out of me at the moment is "Wow, you can see the texture seam there," or "The storyline's a bit meh." So for 2021, I want to make a sustained effort to approach games more thoughtfully, and purposefully in an attempt to refresh my love of game theory. Time to get back into watching Extra Credits, methinks.
Morgan Park: Worry less about skill
On a good day, I’m pretty good at the competitive games I play. But with more time dedicated to covering games and less time to actually play them, it’s time to accept that I’ll likely lose my edge. I don’t need to reach Platinum in Siege every season or suffer through Valorant ranked matches to keep up with those games. Most days I’d rather play whatever my friends are into anyways. Instead of pulling off headshots, I’m pulling gold-tier parsnips out of the ground in Stardew Valley.
Alan Dexter: Enjoy games for what they are
It's all too easy when your work revolves around games to see them as things to be completed, to be ticked off a list. There's a pressure to play as many games as possible. To see what all the fuss is about with that latest triple-A release. This year I'm going to focus on just enjoying games for what they should be. Fun. I'm also not going to worry I'm missing some modern classic because I'm playing WoW, pushing to complete another legendary level in Vermintide II, running out of cards in Gloomhaven, or pulling off a ridiculous win in Apex Legends. I'm just here to have fun.
Phil Savage: Beat my friends at Hitman levels
Last year, I promised that I'd waste less time on live service games. And then a pandemic hit and multiplayer gaming became my go-to for socialisation. What I'm saying is: go easy on yourselves, friends. It's all well and good to launch into a full-scale, 10-step plan for self improvement, but—in case you haven't noticed—shit's pretty turbulent right now. It's fine to wrap yourself in the comfort of the familiar; to not play every new game; to not be an expert in every release from PC gaming's decades-long history; to not treat your backlog like an active, ongoing battle, but instead a mood board ready to be sampled when (and if) it takes your fancy. Look, I'm probably going to play a lot of Destiny 2 and Sea of Thieves and GTA Online this year, because those are good ways to catch up with the people I want to spend time with and that's fine.
I am going to use Hitman 3's release as an excuse to revive the leaderboard battles that broke out among my friends after the release of Hitman 2, though. It's a good bridge between singleplayer and multiplayer—a collection of satisfying sandboxes to immerse in, but with the extra twist that you're directly challenging a friend without having to go through the effort of organising a specific time to play together. Also I reckon I've got a good chance at winning, which will make me feel good.