Jer's Curse

posted November 22, 2011 by Jer


My utter disappointment with big name games is reaching some sort of quantum singularity, and I'm becoming less and less okay with it.

Recently I wrote about how Batman Arkham Asylum disappointed me. It was a surprise, considering how universal it's praise had been. The core issue I had was the game did not make me feel like Batman. It was a reasonably fun game, but everywhere in it I found obstacles and challenges that the game either did not allow to be solved yet, or did not allow to be solved in a very Batman way. Example: activating panels with Baterangs was a recurring puzzle, but opening doors that were clearly operated by panels was something that I would be allowed to do later. I truly don't believe Batman would wait until later, because of the very character concept that allowed me to accept the "throw something at something to make it work" game device: Batman doesn't do waiting, Batman finds a way to solve it NOW. The gameplay essentially revolved around four elements (brawler combat, stealth combat, puzzles and Metroid) that have all already been done not only better, but more Batmanly by other games.

I don't deny that Mark Hamill was amazing, but his hauntingly maniacal laughter was just not enough to keep me playing a boring, boiler plate game. I had better things to do. Like give Elder Scrolls: Oblivion a shot.

I don't play new games. As you may have noted by this essay, I am very easily disappointed, so it's exceedingly difficult for me to justify $70 for a game. Currently, everyone's favorite game is the fifth Elder Scrolls game, entitled "Skyrim." Now, Fantasy and I get along really well. I loved almost all of the Final Fantasy games that were published last millennia. The Ultima series expanded my imagination for how a story could address cultural conflicts. Crusaders of the Dark Savant has a couple of elements that I straight up stole for the original Elves of Iax script, and I've worked hard to ret-con to make them my own concepts. My brother and I had epic, cataclysmic, land-ruining Warcraft battles of which songs are still sung. If at bare minimum, I can insert one or many of my characters into the Fantasy title I have been handed, I'm going to have a great time.

I never even got to play Oblivion.

I downloaded Oblivion on Steam. This is something I've never done before. Steam seems to be the way you play XBox games on your PC, and I have an XBox so it hadn't ever been an issue. There does seem to be a great indie community on Steam, and that is relevant to my interests, but let's not get sidetracked. I have a great PC. I built it myself as Starcraft 2 came out. It's very strong, very fast, has a great graphics card - there's no reason to worry about playing a modern game, let alone a game from four years ago. With sequel number five out and in the news, Steam felt it would be a delightful promotion to sell sequel number four at the discounted price of $5. For that, the game could poop on my carpet and I wouldn't be upset. I wouldn't invite it back, mind you, but I could shrug it off like a bad lunch.

It didn't poop on my carpet. It broke my computer.

Let's be completely clear here. The game didn't itself break my computer. I broke my computer trying to "fix" my computer so that the game would run, which it never did. A simple Google search for "Oblivion Windows 7" will articulate the issue I was experiencing. One of the points of advice I came across was to update my video card drivers. This is great advice! Updating one's drivers is something one should do regularly anyway. It was a low impact experiment that could rule out at least one possible conflict with a game that took four days to install and I really wanted to play. Now, I remember the old days. I remember shutting down Windows 3.1 to return to DOS just to have enough memory. I remember writing custom autoexec.bat files to calibrate my Sound Blaster. The nuances of PC gaming are not alien to me, but when I go to my video card manufacturer's web site, download the manufacturer's driver, the one labeled as the exact one for my operating system, in the year 2011, I really and truly in my heart of hearts do not expect it to completely destabilize my video card. Currently, I can not operate my computer without Pikachu using the move "Have a God Damned Seizure." It's super effective.

I don't know what to learn from this. I do still enjoy video games, or at least I want to. Fun games have existed. Things like Bastion, Speed Runner, Outland, The Most Addicting Sheep Game, Bouncy Mouse, Castle Crashers, Costume Quest, Halfbrick Echos, Fancy Pants Man, Leave Home, Melvin's Meltdown, MicroBot, Raskulls, Inferno and Solar 2 prove to me that good games are still being made. I just don't understand why people get so wild about games that are so lackluster and mediocre when compared to their predecessors, let alone smaller current games that are genuinely fun.

Or games that break your god damned computer.