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Why I'm Only Playing Minecraft Lately

You might wonder why I've been playing so much Minecraft lately.   Actually, so do I; it's not like I don't have a lot of other games I could be playing - my list of half-off Steam purchases that I never got around to playing simply runneth over in its excess.   In fact, I've nearly stopped buying games completely, I didn't buy anything in January or February, and the few things I bought half-off from my wish list in March have largely been ignored.

I guess the truth of the matter comes down to an entry I made last October that probably applied well before that: Egads, I'm A Finicky Gamer, to the point where barely any games have a chance of interesting me.   Off the top of my head, the only games I know of that even faintly interest me to play are:
 Kikoskia, the fellow who practically invented Let's Plays, playing FTL, another pioneer.

FTL - Faster Than Light is the definitive futuristic space drama simulator.  It may not be the most realistic portrayal of space (see Kerbal Space Program for that), but FTL is a procedurally generated adventure married to a clean interface that gives you a one-glance assessment of everything happening on your ship, perfectly complemented by Ben Prunty's musical score. 

On the downside, nothing you do in the game is particularly persistent, each adventure will only last for a few hours and then it's time to start over again, possibly with a newly-unlocked type of ship.  There's a free expansion due out soon, by that I mean literally tomorrow, and I look forward to it.
There's more bandits living in Skyrim than there are wild animals, so filling them with arrows technically isn't poaching.
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Bethesda's latest and greatest roleplaying game is as much a pinnacle of immersion as it is a crestfallen wreck of bad RPG game mechanics.  However, the immersion wins out in the end, and the slew of player mods is a saving grace.  Bundling the Creation Kit was a good move, albeit the hard-coded aspects of Skyrim prevent fixing much of the problems it has, but a little player ingenuity can go a long way nonetheless.

I'd probably play Skyrim more often but, I've not only played the game to death, I think the game knows it.  The upper-game balance simply isn't there.  With the latest expansions, I no longer have any need to start over, so my latest upper-level character has recycled his Conjuration and Enchantment skills twice in the name of acquiring more juicy perk points, and is just perpetually doing things: inconsequential quests, building a home in the Hearthsfire expansion, grinding up his trade skills again, and killing yet another damn hole full of bandits to unload another freaking pallet of worthless loot...

...alright, so I'm deeply burned out from Skyrim, but frankly it's the only game of the 3D action roleplaying game genre worth playing.  Fable 3 got 61 minutes from me, according to Steam, but I never saw another reason to re-launch it.  I thought Kingdoms Of Amalur: Reckoning was rather good, better than Skyrim in many ways, but I focused on trade skills and completely broke its balance, killing character progression appeal even worse than Skyrim.  Skyrim is simply the best game in the genre. (Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas are pretty much the same game as Skyrim, and little more interesting to me by nature of being not-yet-another-fantasy-game, but Skyrim is the latest and the greatest in terms of engine and its presentation.)
The customizable vehicles in Dark Days Ahead are remarkable, mechanically speaking, but they make up only a small part of a deep game.
Dungeon Crawl, Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead, ect - Consider this a catchall for great roguelike games.

The surface of these games may resemble little more than a typist's fevered dreams but, at heart, these are roleplaying games that have maximized focus on the very essence of a heroic journey in an uncommonly deep implementation.  The iconic surface simply reflects that the developers did not waste much time with graphics, focusing completely on the gameplay, and the current heads of the roguelike genre are the result of a study that extends back dozens of homebrew games that trace their family roots to the original Rogue or beyond.

The balance is often cruel; these games have me frequently cursing them for killing me in some cheap manner or another.  Yet, somehow, the hook is nonetheless deep; here are games I'll never regret playing, regardless of how impregnable they are... or perhaps, oddly, because of it.

Do Rimworld and Prison Architect belong lumped together in the same category?  Certainly, if you count first glances at the graphics.

Dwarf Fortress, Rimworld, Prison Architect, ect - Consider this a catchall for great roguelike management-style games.

Dwarf Fortress took us all by surprise, being a roguelike game that extrapolated to a whole new level.  Now, what was being simulated was an entire world, in intricate detail, right down to which finger a troll grabbed a dwarf before flinging him into a wall and breaking a specific part of the unfortunate dwarf's body that, in the long term, resulted in that dwarf's death and made their spouse suicidally depressed and this depressed all the other dwarves that knew her, and this eventually leading to everybody else getting depressed and the entire fortress full of dwarves spiraling into a miserable death.  I'm not even kidding.

However, aside from the overwhelming scope, Dwarf Fortress plays as nothing new.  Dungeon Keeper (a 1997 game) played quite similarly: you designate what needs to be done, and all the little units under your command decide how to do it.  It's sort of like an ant farm because you get to watch, in rapt fascination from the other side of the glass, how these creatures are able to work and live.  Except, this time, you're the one leaving the scent trails.

Dwarf Fortress is still around and being built upon at a glacial pace, as suits an endeavor the size of a herculean iceberg.  However, its many imitators have nonetheless managed to capture an excellent game experience by simply focusing more on the mechanics while presenting the whole thing with a slicker interface.  For all its majesty, Dwarf Fortress was never a particularly balanced or user-friendly game (good reasons I'm playing Minecraft instead) but the improvements made by its various imitators are perpetually fishing this idea further from the brink, which bears investigation.  (To an extent, I could even consider The Sims to be the same kind of game.   However, as The Sims 3 is falling apart, I guess I'll see you in Sims 4, Maxis! )

And that's pretty much it (aside from Minecraft, of course).
 Angry Joe probably has the right of it, but I just can't muster that kind of enthusiam anymore.  I look down his top ten list simply count off the reason I don't - nay, can't - play them below.

It's certainly a matter of my frame of mind, and here's the short list of why I don't bother playing anything else:
  • I have great first single-player person shooters sitting here unplayed, such as Dishonored, Metro Last Light, and Far Cry 3

    Very atmospheric, no doubt about it, but I honestly don't think I will derive anything of value from playing them, I've already played hundreds of First Person Shooter games in the past, including the Thief and Deus Ex series, and a number of open-world games derived from the success of Grand Theft Auto 3.  What do these games do that games I have not already bored of do?  It's a very short list.
  • I've played Team Fortress 2, Battlefield 3, and Planetside 2, and hated them all.  I doubt Titanfall will improve my mood much. 

    I have two major beefs with this genre.  Beef number one is that I'm not as young as I used to be, and there's no way my reflexes are going to keep up with the abusive teen spazoids that play these games.  Beef number two is that the actual gameplay balance of the entire genre has slipped into this mindset that, "If you're spotted first, you'll be gunned down quickly, game over."  It's realistic, sure, but it turns the whole damn game into a ridiculous campfest where those going for a good Kill To Death Ratio will basically just seek out the cheapest method to gank people without reprisal.

    You can add survival mechanics on top of these games, and end up with something like DayZ or Rust, but the problem remains the same: these aren't games anymore; they're rugby piles, without the rugby.  You play these games as a testosterone-fueled activity of dog piling each other over and over and over again.  It's little wonder so many people resort to aim botting: when the game itself is not that fun, being at the bottom of the rugby pile is intolerable.
  • I've played League Of Legends, and rather liked it, aside from the company you keep in that game.  I tried to get into DOTA 2, Steam's most popular game ever, but I found the balance to be looser and less interesting than League Of Legends.  I rather like these games because they really make you think; there is a depth to the MOBA genre that makes chess look positively outdated. 

    The main trouble with getting into these games is that you have to learn the roster: dozens, perhaps hundreds of unique "hero" units that you will play and your opponents will play, and unless you understand how they match up to each other, you're probably going to have no clue how to play well.  So here's the main reason I don't play these games: I can't handle the time investment required to memorize the roster.  I imagine developers of MOBA clones encounter stiff resistance in potential audiences for this reason alone.

    A secondary problem with these games is the raging elitism.  Nobody is at the top of their game all the time, but too many players of these games will bitch so hard at you if you're not.  They're so clearly in the wrong to be such poor sports that I don't have any reason to take it personally, but having to deal with such craven stupidity is a drag on any game.
  • What about strategy games, like Civilization V, X-COM, Age Of Wonders III, and the like?  Actually, I like these games; strategy games are a satisfying jawbreaker for my mind to gnaw upon.  But (and you knew there'd be a "but") I do take issue with how long these games take to play versus what I get out of them. 

    Sure, Minecraft takes me all day, but at least I get a feeling of a cool experience from it.  Maybe I explored a cave, narrowly escaped some creepers, and recovered a lot of diamonds.  Maybe I built something cool.  The experiences I have in Minecraft tend to stick with me as memorable.

    But I don't get that out of a strategy game.  Instead, I'll have spent all day moving around virtual units, and either my opponents were pushovers or all my efforts were for naught, and then it was time to start another game.  Blah.  At least with MOBAs, the games usually only last about a half-hour, but an epic game of Civilization V will last all day, perhaps several. 

    Thus, despite being reasonably entertained by these games, my experience-to-time investment ratio in most 4X and Real Time Strategy games feels poor.  No game should make me regret the time spent playing it.
I've just described about half the games you'll find on Steam, dead reckoning, and everything on the list of top played games (at least if you count Football Manager as a strategy game).  The remaining half of games on Steam will largely be 2D platformers, casual games, simulations, ect.  I largely don't have an interest in these games because they're somewhat less interesting than the games I do.  What does catch my eye is the weird, the occasional new game concept, but it usually takes only a glance to see that new does not necessarily equal good.
When weird is good, it looks something like this... but I hear "Stick It To The Man" will only last about 4 hours, give or take, so I'm waiting until the price drops to about $8 (double of what I'd normally pay for a 4 hour experience).

I'm really between a rock and a hard place here.
  • I'm bored of mainstream, and this boredom is not just a passing thing: it's a quadruple-reinforced aversion borne of force-feeding myself the same cloned crap time and time again.  
  • Of the four types of games I mentioned on the top of this entry, I've largely played them all to death, some of them having more substance to exhaust than others, and I'm largely just waiting for radical new versions of them all so I don't just burn out from the new features piecemeal.
So I guess I'll just play Minecraft.  Modded Minecraft, since the original game is something I bored of years ago.  A modded Minecraft that I play wondering if there's really a long term point to playing.

Of course, it's easy enough to say that I ought to just find a new hobby entirely.  But I've been a gamer for 30 years, give or take.  This leopard's spots simply run too deep.

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