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Gaming with Commitment Issues

26 January 2010

The weather has been lousy lately. It seems the ski season is on a temporary hiatus thanks to several days of rain and milder-than-average temperatures. Even the birds are confused, perched on telephone wires, chirping insensately at all hours of the day. This weather makes us feel a bit two-sided. On one hand, we feel as grey as the clouds. It only takes the wrong song, commercial, or old photograph to send our thoughts back to sad days, and suddenly we are pining over dead memories. Still, at least we can sink hours into games without fear of missing something fun outside.

It is days like these we are happy we to be gamers. These are the perfect days to chew up gobs of gaming delights, going through our catalogue to replay our favorite titles. There’s always a bit of hesitation on these days – do we play one or two games at length, mindlessly hacking away at monsters while we level up our character? Or, do we play a handful of our favorite chewy delights, jumping from one game to another as fast as it takes to insert the disc in our PlayStation 3s?

We can’t help but feel this relationship we have with our games is a lot like the relationships we have (or don’t have) with people. There are some games that are good for a quick and fast score. A lot like that girl you met at a bar, these are games you probably won’t take home to mom. You’ll probably get your kicks in a few hours, have a few laughs, feel the rush that comes with quick spurts of excitement; but in the end, you realize there just isn’t enough there to keep a burning flame.

Then there are the games that require a lot of attention, some handholding, and days, if not weeks or months, of commitment. These are the games that keep you up at night, strategizing your next move. These are the games you want to bring to your family’s Christmas brunch, introducing them as “the one.” You can’t expect to just stumble upon one of these games; rather, you have to do your research. You don’t want to get stuck with a dud after 40 hours of gameplay. If you take your time at the beginning, roll up your sleeves, you just may fall in love – gaming love.

Today we take a look at games with serious commitment issues. These are games that we, the PSU staff, find either tugging at our hearts by keeping us in a long, committed gaming relationship, or offering the thrill that comes with a quick fling. We are sure you have your favorite quick action game or long-term title, but these are some (not all) of our favorite games we keep running back to. Feel free to leave your comments below to tell us your favorite in each category.

The titles are separated into two categories – "Games with Benefits,” and "Games to Settle Down With.”

Games with Benefits:

FIFA 10 

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If there is one game that we love to play in short bursts, it’s FIFA 10. This isn’t the best soccer game (football for everyone else in the world), but it’s always good for a 10-minute match. There’s nothing better than popping in FIFA, loading our Manager Mode, and playing through a couple matches. But just as after a night of drinking with your mates, the next day reveals some odd choices from the night before. Why did we trade this player? Did we really lose to Tottenham? Like picking a date while wearing beer goggles, it’s easy to overlook the game’s flaws when playing for only a few minutes. Unfortunately, EA keeps making new FIFA games, meaning every year we’ll buy the latest iteration, forgetting about the sweet times we had with earlier versions.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (Multiplayer) 

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Enough has been said about Uncharted 2: Among Thieves to give anyone a headache. But, we’ve been playing this game since its release last year. We mostly fill our time playing online – it’s not uncommon for a few PSU staff members to play a bit of co-op. There are some great multiplayer shooters out there, but we can’t help and put UC2 on our list because it just plays so well. Some may argue that the game belongs on the commitment list, but we feel Among Thieves is more like a super model than life partner. It’s breathtaking on all accounts, but the single player campaign is not really designed to be played multiple times. On the other hand, the online components allow us to take this model out whenever we want – we just can’t get too attached.

Street Fighter IV 

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Street Fighter IV is a bloody good time. Like a bar fight, it comes at you with fists swinging, but usually ends with the winner buying the loser a drink. We’d love to see this game have more to offer, but it’s a fighter true to its name, and will probably never give us what we need in a long term gaming commitment. Street Fighter also has the added bonus of a history. We’ve been playing these games for years, occasionally returning for months at a time. Eventually, though, we think we should cut our ties with Street Fighter and make the conscious decision to move on. Otherwise, we’ll be having brief fighting affairs while we are trying to build on our committed gaming relationships. Then again, maybe we should keep this around in case we need a quick fling.

Civilization Revolution 

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Like a dirty little secret, Civilization Revolution fulfils so many of our gaming desires. Some of the staff at PSU keep it tucked away for that perfect 20 minutes of fast-paced strategy action. If you are a fan of the series on the PC, you may have mixed emotions on its console transition, but deep down you probably got a little excited when you saw it across that dark, crowded room. Its ominous presence on store shelves left us tempted – should we really try a game where its PC counterpart takes weeks to complete a single session? Yes, oh yes. This game packs so much into its quick sessions, giving us an enormous amount of satisfaction in short segments. But alas, Civ Rev will probably be nothing more than an occasional one night stand.

LittleBigPlanet (play) 

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By now, just about every PS3 owner has tried Media Molecule’s adorable LittleBigPlanet. It’s just about perfect. In all likelihood, if you are anything like us, you play LBP in short sessions, dabbling away at a couple of levels with some friends. We are specifically talking about the ‘play’ aspect of LBP, not the create/share portion. When we play LBP, we can’t help but smile. It’s fun – plain and simple. Like embarking on a mindless movie date, it doesn’t take much time or thought to enjoy the simple gameplay in LBP. You can jump in, launch a random level (whether it is user- or developer-created), and sit back for a bit of entertainment. But, the play aspect probably doesn’t have enough depth to keep gamers occupied for long sessions. If you look at our next section, you’ll see LBP made both lists, making it one of the best games to start and keep a relationship with.

Games to Settle Down With:

Borderlands 

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Games like Borderlands require a substantial amount of time to truly enjoy. Sure, you can get your fix by playing through a quick 30-minute quest, but if you really want to enjoy the game you better take it curtain shopping because it’ll be around for the long haul. The world of Pandora is a menacing place, and a level 5 Brick won’t last far beyond the Arid Badlands. If you want to get everything out of Borderlands, you need to commit yourself to playing hours upon hours of missions with the hopes of finding someone online to help you kill that Level 30 boss. But if you are willing to put in some time, you’ll be rewarded with a long gaming relationship. And there’s even more to look forward to, as Gearbox has countless DLC planned for this RPG-first-person-shooter hybrid.

Braid 

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Braid is a game dealing with some heavy relationship issues, so it’s not too hard to draw a comparison here. We fell in love with this game with its retro-style gameplay, unique take on space and time, and its somber story development. Yes, this is a game you can play one level in a manner of minutes, but to truly get involved in the game you’ll need to play in longer sessions. As the game progresses, the puzzles that Tim has to solve to rescue the princess become tougher and tougher, and truly require you to stop and pay attention to your actions. Braid is more like a needy girlfriend and you shouldn’t expect it to flirt with you. Still, you can take your time, playing for weeks at a time (months if you really take your time), and still feel tempted to watch Jonathan Blow’s adventure take flight.

Demon’s Souls 

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When you find yourself inside of Boletaria, you realize Demon’s Souls is a lot like an ex you just can’t get over. You took your time, slowly adventuring into the excruciatingly difficult levels, only to get killed and set right back where you started. But, for some reason, you brush yourself off and think that maybe you learned something from you last attempt – maybe you’ll conquer that beast this time around. Even the action in the game is slow and more deliberate than some RPGs. What that game does so well is keep you coming back despite your repeated failures. It’ll build you up, making you think you are indestructible. Even your friends will leave messages on the ground, telling you to be careful. But, you’ll force yourself further until the game and ultimately meet your demise. We love Demon’s Souls, but sometimes we think the game doesn’t love us back.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion 

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We’ve been dredging through Bethesda’s epic, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, for nearly three years. A relationship (of any kind) that can live longer than your pet state fair goldfish is worth time and devotion. We know the graphics haven’t held up so well over the years, but we like that it still looks decent without a major facelift. Oblivion feels like a real story, not one created in a studio. It’s a classic role-playing game that feeds all of our fantasy genre desires. This is one of those games that works best when played at a distance, so the best way to play Oblivion is to do so sparingly. It will keep you busy for a long time if you can get over its repetitive nature, but let’s be honest; every relationship gets a bit repetitive after some time, and that’s why it’s best to slow it down a bit and enjoy Oblivion every few months.

LittleBigPlanet (Create) 

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LittleBigPlanet may just be that perfect game that provides you with the excitement of a fling, but also a lasting commitment through its level-creating feature. It takes a while to create a new level, but it is quite fulfilling, especially when you get some feedback from other gamers. You have to be patient when creating a level and really try to think out the entire level. Just like a good partner should, we constantly pop in LBP even when there are new games to entice us. We run away for a while, dabble in a tempting shooter, but always find ourselves in the warm embrace of LittleBigPlanet. We are glad to hear a sequel is not guaranteed; it makes this relationship feel that much more special.


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