Sunday, October 26, 2008

Comfort games.

After a long busy day at the office, it's nice to get home, make yourself a cup of coffee and fire up one of your favorite games. Comfort games are the games you usually fall back on when there's nothing else to do. This might not be the best game in your collection, but it's the one that never ceases to entertain you. You might have a few, or you might even just have one. I guess this is true for a lot of people who play World Of Warcraft, with more then 10 million subscribers, it has the population that even some countries have not. Since WoW is such a time sink, it's not unlikely that some of these people don't play much else. And rightly so, WoW has a lot to like.

So you might think about this, what is your comfort game, do you have more then one? These are the games that you should score an A+ or a 10 on your personal scale. I should say, that a developer that has you playing and enthralled for years, have done a very good job indeed.
You could even make the comparison with other media. What TV program or soap has eaten up hours upon hours of your life, what movie has you viewing it at least a couple of times a year? What books? It doesn't matter if it are public favorites or not, I'm not talking about commercial successes per se. Your favorites could be critically acclaimed, or they could be despised by the critics. For instance The Force Unleashed (yes, it is odd that I bring up Star Wars again - could it be a comfort franchise? I guess in time I will have to explain why it's interesting to keep bringing it up) is doing pretty good in sales, despite scoring average marks. It's almost a given that a lot of children and teen out there will have favorable memories of it later on, and if you ask them about the game in a few years, chances are they will label it "awesome" anyway. It's the experience that counts for the most part. On a side note, I played SW:TFU on Wii and wasn't very impressed by it (although admittedly, the story made into a movie could have the potential to be the best in the series). Chances are low of it becoming a comfort game for me, but it might be for some kid out there that gets home from school and pines to throw about a couple of Storm troopers, perfectly understandable.

Some of my comfort games? I'll indulge you. I had my fair share of comfort games over the past, must have been about, 12 years. So I will contradict myself and say that comfort games have come and gone. Change of hardware, evolution of game design. I will still vouch these games for being great, great games in the past. That doesn't necessarily mean they are as great today. Mind, I've been playing games since NES days, but in those days, a game was a game. It didn't have critical acclaim hanging in the balance, it was all good fun. Though our child minds still had the equipment to detect a stinker. So with that said, some past highlights.

First off was Jedi knight: Dark forces 2 (oh snap, Star Wars again). I played through the story numerous times, building my character differently discovering all the secrets. It was my very first online addiction, and to clarify, I played it competitively.
I should praise this game on another blog post, or this one will become rather lengthy. Anyway, if you have the ability to play it, you probably should. And I've got an extra incentive right here.

Along came Sacrifice, in my opinion Shiny Entertainment's masterpiece. It was a hybrid between an RTS, RPG and Third person action. That might seem like a strange combination, but it made for great gameplay. Top notch voice talent and some pretty good story telling. An art style that holds up today (and will do so in the future). In all, it made for a solid universe. For all those who wish to experience this unsung classic, go buy it over at Good Old Games.

Another chapter in my personal gaming history, Guild Wars.
One of the most successful MMOs out there. I was deeply involved in the game. Played in a highly ranked guild that got to and held third place on the world ladder. Which can be an indicator as to how engaged I was into the game. Unfortunately for the game (do not read as "the ingame world"), once I joined the workforce, I quit playing. I log in from time to time to see what's happening in there. It's sort of like visiting the place you grew up in, albeit not quite as profound.
Some highlights in the game which would be a must see for anyone with a taste in gaming art, Kaineng city and the Jade Sea (factions) and the Realm of Torment (nightfall). The art direction in Guild Wars is an exquisite blend of real world locations and the artistic interpretations of said locations.

Finally, some current games I fall back on. It's hard to invest into a game these days, since there's not that much time for gaming as there used to be.
I spend a lot of time shuttling between work and home, so there's a big portion of mobile gaming at this point. So I either carry a GBA micro or a DS to work.

Advance Wars has been a comfort game for me for years now. I own and have played through every game (barring the games before GBA that never came to the west) in the series multiple times. The gameplay, the happy-go-lucky art style, the music, the over the top vibe to it all. I think all this is material for another blog post.

Recently, I've been looking into casual games, both from a personal and professional interest. And one of these games has me hooked. Puzzle Quest.
It's a match three game, which on it's own is quite simple. But PQ adds a few more layers of RPG gameplay that directly involve and influence the match three gameplay. Upgrading your character with skills, spells and equipment make it all the more addicting. It's an ideal game for quick and short game sessions. It's not quite a comfort game just yet, but it could become one. Only time can tell.

1 comment:

SimoensS said...

I like the concept of 'comfort games'. When I want to play a game during periods in wich I'm not really engaged in a game (because I haven't bought a new one or I just finished the one I was playing) I tend to find my happiness in the Tekken series. I've been playing Tekken for at least 8 years now, and I still enjoy it everytime I play. But from the moment I have a new game, or I'm playing a time-consumer like Zelda, I stop playing Tekken, knowing it will come back