It’s been a slow few days around here, at least as far as my engagement with nerd stuff is concerned. After three days in a row where there were Many Things That Needed to be Done, Sunday was spent in full on recovery mode, and today was mostly about playing catch up. This pattern actually has a lot to do with why I normally have so much time to spend on hobbies – my limiting factor is almost always my energy, not my time.
Now, it’s Monday evening, and perhaps there’s enough time to start up something new, but since I’m also very aware that I have a few small commitments over the next few days, and that I should be able to dive in Psychonauts 2 sometime tomorrow, I don’t really want to start something new.
These weird “gaming gaps” aren’t really that uncommon for me. I’ve finished – whatever that means for me – the last thing I was playing, and I don’t really have the energy or mental bandwidth to jump into something new. However, during a Blaugust where I’ve already missed a couple of days, they’re awfully inconvenient.
For today, I have another small thought experiment. Feel free to steal the questions / images for your own blog post, or just to chat about things in the comments.
For the purposes of this thought experiment, I’m going to say that when considering the questions I’m adding an unspoken “for one year” because man, forever is a long time. I’m also going to look at each question individually rather than assuming I’d have to do all of these concurrently. If you choose to answer, obviously, you can set your own parameters.
This one, at least for me, is a no brainer. I do own a Switch, so it’s not like I don’t even have a console to consider at all, which was the case until about 6 months ago. However, I would still absolutely choose my PC every time. Firstly, my library is so much more robust for the PC, but there are also so many more games available.
While I am guessing most gamers would struggle with this question as well, and although I would miss the few multiplayer games I dabble in, single player is the clear winner for me. I grew up playing almost exclusively single player titles, most of my preferred genres are either designed for the single player experience, or work just fine without multiplayer. There’s definitely more I would miss here than I would by giving up the console, but I could absolutely give up my multiplayer game time.
Sure, this question was more than a little bit inspired by my Low Spend 2020 plan that went completely off the rails. In spite of that, I think my choice would be to play games I already own. That covers a lot of territory, and although I am very much distracted by the new and shiny, I think it would be somewhat easier to avoid that temptation than to be locked out of all my comfort games.
Discounting for a moment how little it takes to challenge my physically, I’m still going to go with mentally. I don’t want to play Dark Souls anyway, or any game that wants to be like Dark Souls, or arcade shooters, or precision platformers. All of those things make me crazy anyway, so giving them up wouldn’t represent much of a hardship. However, I love strategy games, and puzzle games, and I think those are the types of games I’d sorely miss.
This one is going to hurt either way. I’ve really been enjoying shorter games over the past year or so – there’s something very satisfying about a compact experience that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Even still, I think I would go with the long or endless games, because that would give me a good excuse to tackle some mammoth RPGs interspersed with some rogue-lites, some city builders and simulation games, as well as still spend time playing my preferred MMOs, which for all practical purposes, are never over until they go offline for good.
I know this one is my own fault because I came up with these questions, but this one is downright evil, and I spent more time thinking on this one than all the others that came before it. I absolutely love diving back into classic games, but I think I would still go with the last 10 years, just because of the absolutely blossoming of the indie game scene in that time frame. It would also (maybe) push me to play some of the newer entries in series that I keep putting off because I feel like I should play them in order and I don’t want to play the early titles.
This week has been a rough one for me, anxiety-wise, so it’s made it awfully difficult to focus on much of anything, really. Sometimes, when the creative juices just aren’t flowing, it’s nice to have a list of questions to answer and just see where that takes you. So, without further fanfare…
Have I Ever…
Rage quit a game?
I’m sure that I have, but I cannot for the life of me recall any super-memorable bounce off. I do play a lot of puzzle games where I might just shut it down in frustration if I can’t figure something out and come back to it later on. I’m sure I have, from time to time, come up against a mechanic that just sucks the fun out of everything else and uninstalled. I’ve definitely quietly logged off of a multiplayer game from time to time after a particularly bad experience. I guess it really depends on what your definition of “rage quit” is – I tend to think of it as being overly dramatic, and if I have had one (or more) of those moments, I’ve blocked them from my memory.
Earned all achievements in a game?
Technically yes, meaningfully no.
Steam actually has this tab in your games list for “Perfect Games” which translates to games in which you have achieved 100% completion. I was actually surprised to see 10 titles in my perfect games list.
However, this is a bit misleading, since one of the listings is for something that isn’t even a game, and just about every other game on the list is one where achievements are just passed out for hitting milestones for playing through the game. Hence, the technically yes.
But it seems like there is always at least one achievement that is just beyond absurd, or frustratingly difficult, so I as much as I enjoy unlocking achievements, I’ve mostly given up on ever getting 100% completions. It’s just not worth it to me.
Pulled an all-nighter gaming?
This is another one I feel like I must have done, but I have no concrete memory of. If I have (and I believe that I have), it was definitely right after a World of Warcraft expansion drop trying to get myself up to max level.
I have also, most definitely, accidentally played a game I was really enjoying until the sun came up.
Livestreamed your gaming?
This is another one I can say yes to, but not meaningfully. I have definitely streamed, and I definitely had absolutely no one watching. Which is how I came to discover after playing a game on Twitch for a couple hours that I had no game sounds on for the entire time.
Honestly, streaming just isn’t for me. I understand the appeal, but I’m just not that social – I don’t even play a lot of multiplayer games without some serious arm-twisting from my friends. When I’m playing, I just want to play and enjoy, I don’t want to have to worry about chatting and being entertaining. Also, a webcam is not something I’m ever going to have, so even if I wanted to push myself, it’s unlikely I’d ever see any real success.
So if it’s not fun, and it’s not profitable, I just don’t see any point in it. Which is not to say I won’t pop something on a Discord stream if someone wants to peek at what I’m playing, but as far as any public streaming platform, I have no intention to be anything other than a viewer.
Pre-ordered a game?
If we’re taking Kickstarter out of the equation (which I’m assuming we are), this is something I’ve only done a handful of times, and mostly for games that I felt were pretty safe bets. The most recent title I pre-ordered was New Pokemon Snap, and the last game I pre-ordered that I had to pick up in a store was Skyrim.
I’m not opposed to pre-ordering, but honestly? I’m mostly a patient gamer these days, and there just isn’t any reason for it. Since I hardly use consoles at all, everything is digital, and it’s not like they’re going to run out if I wait.
Bought a game and never played it?
I don’t think it’d be an exaggeration to say I’ve done this hundreds of times, especially if you count games that come as part of a bundle. Sure, I might play the game that convinced me to buy the bundle, but I tend to activate a lot of other keys and then immediately forget they exist. Sometimes, the sheer mass of my unplayed games bothers me a little, but it also let’s me do fun things like pick through my library and find interesting titles I didn’t realize I already owned.
Been jump scared by a horror game?
Yes. And by an RPG. And by a FPS. And by just about any kind of game that could potentially have something startling happen. Really, I’m kind of a chicken.
Had a set squad for a specific game?
Well, the core of my World of Warcraft guild has been together for over 10 years now, if that counts. There was also a group of five of us who worked our way through the dungeon challenge modes during Mists of Pandaria.
I also had a regular five man group that played Conquest in SMITE many moons ago, and sometimes we’d also do some pretty wacky stuff.
Honestly, if I’m playing multiplayer at all, I’m either treating as 100% a single player game, or I have set days and times I play with friends. I’m not really into that PuG-life.
Bought a game on multiple platforms?
Being mainly a PC gamer, this isn’t a thing that comes up too often, but I did pick up a couple games for the Switch that I already owned on Steam because I thought I’d really enjoy them on a handheld.
I have, however, re-bought games for different launchers, which is probably worse.
Got a console for the games specifically?
I think this one I can actually say no to, since the only consoles I have personally owned, someone else either talked me into or handed it to me. However, once I have a console, I do tend to poke around and see if there are any console exclusives I really want to play, but for the most part, PC gaming is really what I do, and everything else is just extra.
Bonus Blaugust prompt idea: Um, there are questions up there. You too can answer them!
I can’t remember which of my Twitter friends was the first one to start talking about it, but around the beginning of June somebody discovered that there was a new MMO coming to town. Palia is being described as a community simulator rather than a role-playing game (the type of game that usually comes to mind when you’re talking about massively multiplayer online experiences). The game is currently in very limited pre-alpha testing, but the official Discord currently has more than 30,000 members, so obviously, the interest for this type of game is definitely there, and it’s not a small demographic!
A lot of people might point to Stardew Valley as being the beginning of the renaissance of cozy PC gaming going mainstream. The breakaway 2016 hit has sold over 10 million copies across multiple platforms over the past five years, and that’s pretty damn significant for an indie game by a solo developer. I’m not sure there’s a whole lot of other cozy options, outside of the Sims series, that can compare to those sort of numbers (although I admit, I haven’t fully committed to the research so I’m just guessing here).
Of course, there have been tons of life sims focused on farming and crafting released since then, and there are still even more muddling their way through early access and Kickstarters, some of which only have the vaguest of release dates. But it wasn’t until the past year or so, after the runaway popularity of Animal Crossing: New Horizons on Nintendo Switch, which released around the same time as the start of Covid-related lockdowns, that I’ve been truly aware of just how much the cozy gaming category has been exploding.
Wholesome Direct 2021 featured 75 titles in one very short hour, and while I really enjoyed the variety of games they showcased, I almost feel like having the show be so short and cover so many titles did the majority of the games a disservice. Of course, I still pumped up my wish list with games that focus on mundane gameplay over heroism. Games in which you fish, farm, cook, tend to animals, and take oh-so-many photographs. Games in which you write letters, paint pictures, and explore interesting worlds. Games that don’t ask you to kill anything at all.
This feels like the wind is changing, and I’m not sure if there’s any single reason we can point to. It seems like every few years, a new genre pops up as the Next Big Thing, and if the Next Big Thing (or the Now Big Thing) is cozy gaming, I am so completely here for it.
Bonus Blaugust prompt ideas: Why do you think so many cozy games are being worked on and released? Do you think AAA game publishers are going to jump on this bandwgon? Is this a genre of gaming you enjoy? Do you have a favorite cozy game? Do you remember the first cozy game you fell in love with? Are there any cozy games you’ve backed on Kickstarter, or that you’re eagerly anticipating the release of?
Much thanks to GoG.com for giving me the inspiration for this post!
I am now Of A Certain Age, and if I’m being really honest, I don’t entirely remember the order of things from my childhood. I remember my uncle, who lived with my grandparents at the time, having an ColecoVision, which according to Google could have been as early as 1982. I remember many, many hours spent playing games on an Atari 2600, which was originally release a few months before I was born, and was, in fact, the majority of the console gaming that I did prior to being an adult. I definitely cut my gamer-baby-teeth on Space Invaders, Megamania, Pitfall, and yes, even E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. But I don’t think any of those were what really got me into gaming.
I didn’t really fall in love with video games until I spent some serious time with computer games. I vaguely remember having some sort of computer at home, with a few text-only video games accessed via cassette tape, but I don’t really have any strong memories of what exactly I played like that, or where that machine ever ended up. No, the first video games I remember getting really invested in, I wasn’t even playing.
From the time I started school until we moved after I finished fourth grade, I spent most of my afternoons with my grandparents and my uncle on my mother’s side. If I do the math (and boy, do I hate doing the math), in 1986, I would have been nine. My uncle, who I realize now must have had the patience of a saint, would have been around 25. I don’t know that Might & Magic was the very first game I watched him play for hours on end, but it’s the first one I remember that I can put a name to.
I can only imagine I asked a bajillion stupid questions, as children tend to do, and he was always great about talking me through whatever I didn’t understand. I remember using the code-wheel and game manuals to help him get through the onerous copy-protection. And I remember being absolutely entranced in this oh-so-pretty fantasy world he kept in a small box on his desk.
It wasn’t until I was in my teens that we had a computer at home that I had regular access to, and I didn’t have a machine of my own until I was in college, but playing games on PC always seemed like the “right” way to play. This is probably why I am, to this day, crazy clumsy with a controller, and really awful at platformers. I would occasionally play console games when I was at a friend’s house, but the games I really enjoy were all better suited to mouse and keyboard. In fact, some of those games I really fell in love with in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I still go back and play to this day. The very first game I ever purchased on Steam was a copy of a game I played to death when it came out in 2003.
Sometimes, I feel like this is a thing I probably should have grown out of by now, but mostly, I have a deep appreciation of the evolution of gaming just from having seen it grow as I have also grown. I cannot even imagine how different my life would have been if I hadn’t had my uncle to introduce me to this absolutely fascinating world.
Bonus Blaugust prompt idea: You all don’t need me for this one, do you?
This is kind of an awkward post to be making so soon after talking about how my experiment last year made me more conscientious about how I spend money on gaming, but the past few weeks have been a lot, and arguing with myself about whether or not I actually need some random games just isn’t a big enough deal to be sweating right now. Which has led to a bit of a spending spree the past couple of days.
So what did I buy?
This one I primarily picked up for Afterparty, which has been on my wishlist for quite a while now, but I figured since I was there, I’d also activate a few other keys for games that looked moderately interesting. Lately I’ve been drawn more and more to games that can be completed in just a couple of play sessions, but I rarely want to pay full price. Spending $6 on this one felt pretty good, even if I never play anything else from the bundle.
Another short, low-pressure title that caught my eye was Haven Park, which just released on August 5th. I’m not sure exactly what made this appealing enough to grab immediately – normally this type of game would be one I’d wait for a deep discount on. I’ve played a little bit of it so far, and other than really struggling with making my way around the map, I’m really liking the vibe of it and the art style.
I played the demo of Alekon awhile back, and really liked the vibe of it, but I wanted to wait a bit after release for the reviews to come in. The reviews are pretty good thus far, and I do sort of have a Pokemon Snap-sized hole that needed to be filled up. If this sounds like your jam, there’s still a demo available!
Atrio: The Dark Wild was one of my favorite games from the recent Steam Next Fest back in June that I hadn’t already backed on kickstarter. It just released into Early Access today, and I knew this was one I wanted to play sooner rather than later, so I scooped it up on day one. I have a few things I want to wrap up before I dive in, but I expect I’ll likely be spending some time with this one before the end of August, which means this was actually a good purchase for me – in other words, one that I won’t just file away and forget all about.
Bonus Blaugust prompt idea: What games have you recently picked up? Do you play games fairly close to when you purchase them, or are you more likely to be tempted by sales or bundles even if you know you won’t get around to something for awhile? What is your decision-making process (if any) that goes into determining whether you purchase a game soon after release, or if you wait on it?
Over the past couple of weeks, I find myself re-playing Stardew Valley. I picked it up shortly after it released back in March of 2016, and played it for well over 100 hours across a pair of playthroughs. I probably never would have loaded it up again, but recently a friend asked me to try out a multiplayer game with him, and after our second session, I started up another single player game, and it’s been all Stardew Valley all the time around here since then.
Over the last five years, I’ve bought quite a few titles hoping to recapture the magic I felt playing Stardew Valley for the first (and well, let’s be honest, the second and now the third) time. Some were pretty great – I really enjoyed Verdant Skies and My Time At Portia. Quite a few more either didn’t do it for me, or I never actually got around to playing them.
However, quite a few new titles are expected to drop over the next year, and if you loved Stardew Valley, you might want to drop some of these on your wishlist. Click the pictures to go right to the Steam page for each game!
Coral Island looked so good to me, I backed it on Kickstarter in order to get alpha access (which is anticipated to be available sometime in June). And I don’t seem to be alone in this – the crowdfunding campaign brought in more than 23 times its original $70,000 goal! Needless to say, that hit all the stretch goals, including console ports, mod support, multiplayer, extra characters, and a more robust endgame than originally planned.
Coral Island will offer all the traditional farming sim elements – farming, fishing, raising livestock, mining, crafting, cooking, and socializing with the villagers. What it brings to the table that sets it apart is its underwater world – spend some time cleaning up the coral reefs and you might run into mermaids! I expect there will be enough here that is familiar to appeal to fans of the genre, and enough unique mechanics that will set it apart.
For me, Roots of Pacha looks particularly interesting thanks to the setting; it takes place in a pre-technology world! This adds an interesting research tree mechanic, where you decide which of your community’s ideas you want to work towards figuring out. You also won’t get to just pop over to the shop for your seeds and livestock – you’ll need to forage and domesticate wild animals in order to build your farm.
You will have NPC community members, but Roots of Pacha was designed for co-operative play, so it’s a great choice if you prefer farming with friends.
Although I didn’t personally back this one, it did have a Kickstarter, and is still accepting late pledges.
Sun Haven is closest to release, if you’re not inclined to be very patient. This farming sim has a distinct fantasy spin; you’ll be able to choose any of seven playable races, the livestock options are far from traditional, and a dragon serves as the protector of your town. Combat options will include spellcasting, and there are significant RPG elements as well as the typical farming sim fare of crafting, cooking, fishing, and socializing.
As if there weren’t already enough here to set it apart from other similar games, Sun Haven will feature a wish mechanic, allowing you to change the world around you through the power of wishing. It will also have multiplayer support at release, so this is another great choice for people who prefer farming with friends to farming alone.
Ok, so calling Witchery Academy a farming sim might be a (very small) stretch – the concept is that the player is a student at a school of witchcraft. There are farming sim elements, as you will learn to brew potions, so you will need to grow and forage for your ingredients. The game will also include fishing, cooking, and “spell catching” but seems to lack the dating sim element that’s usually standard in these types of games.
Witchery Academy is planned to release on Steam and for Nintendo Switch, and it looks like something I’d really enjoy having on the more portable platform.
Snacko seems to borrow slightly more from Animal Crossing than it does from Stardew Valley & Harvest Moon, but I still think it fits. You will be able to farm, and raise livestock, but there will also be a lot of mechanics catering to folks who like building and customizing the look of their town. Also, you get to play as a cat, and I mean, who doesn’t want to do that?
The developers are giving monthly updates on their blog, and progress on this game seems to be proceeding steadily, despite there still not being any indication of a release window.
Chances are good I’ll be picking up all of these games at or near their release dates, but I don’t think there’s a bad choice in the bunch if you like the gameplay loop offered by these sort of farming sims. I don’t know if any of these will be the huge success story that Stardew Valley was, but the market for this type of game still seems to be pretty robust.
Unless I am overtaken by an overwhelming urge to make just one last purchase, I am done with the 2020-2021 Steam Winter Sale. For someone with over nearly 300 games on her wish list, I found it surprisingly easy to whittle my choices down to a couple of dozen titles I was most interested in this time around. Many titles were eliminated from contention due to having seen better prices in the past, and I have quite a few games on my wishlist that have yet to release. However, I found that, while scrolling through, there were quite a few that I just wasn’t that interested in anymore, so I’m probably not far off from yet another wish list cleanout.
The First Cart – $50.82
I thought I had done so well, keeping my first cart under $50, but it ended up being just over once sales tax was applied. I finally gave in and picked up Disco Elysium – the new computer I bought in the fall has a NVIDIA video card, so I no longer have to worry about the problems reported with AMD cards. The news that the game is going to receive a giant free update means I’ll likely wait until then to play it, but I expect it’ll also see less deep discounts as that gets closer.
Godhoood has been on my wish list practically since it was announced, as I’ve been a big fan of all of Abbey Games’ previous titles, but early reviews weren’t great. Since it’s original release, it seems that things have improved quite a bit, since it’s now sitting at an overall Mostly Positive, and that was good enough for me to finally pull the trigger.
I picked up three small puzzle titles that I’ve had my eye on for awhile, but my big wild card choice was Uagi-Saba, a creature raising simulator that seems to have flown under everyone’s radar, having only a dozen reviews more than two years after release. I’m getting some major Creatures-vibes from this one, and I used to love those game (although they’ve aged poorly, in my opinion).
The Second Cart – $20.86
Another case of sales tax messing up my carefully budgeted purchase! I had already decided to skip getting any other “big” games, and instead to just pick up $20 worth of smaller titles. I debated far far longer over this cart than the first one.
Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker I decided to pick up to play during #DatingSiMonth. Archeo: Shinar is a game I keep only almost buying, but I love the concept of managing a team of archeologists, and it will probably be among the first games purchased this sale that I play. Despotism 3K is a resource management simulation game that is probably going to be too challenging for me to enjoy long term, but maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised. My final pickups were two more puzzle games – apparently I can’t get enough of those – Animated Puzzles and Senna and the Forest.
Titles that I seriously considered during this shop, but that ultimately didn’t make the cut, included Firewatch, The Almost Gone, and Sagebrush, three narrative heavy games. Ultimately, I decided that games with less of a story focus were more likely to see playtime before the next major sale.
Games I Was Gifted
I received four games from friends during this sale, and although only one of the four was something I was considering buying for myself this time around, I’m pretty stoked to try out all of them. In fact, I’ve already played the tutorial level of Dawn of Man, which I expect to lose many many hours to, and have decided to start Outer Wilds later this week for #PuzzleGameMonth. I have no doubt I’m going to love Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, and Donut Country is the kind of puzzle game I am likely to blow through in a weekend.
Overall, I probably acquired too many new games (especially in light of how many games I’m interested in from the January Humble Choice and the Fanatical Mega Bundle I scooped up a few days ago), but I’m absolutely delighted to have added all these titles to my library.
It wasn’t even a case of not liking the game – Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments is great! Early in the month, I played through the first two cases, The Fate of Black Peter and Riddle on the Rails, and I fully intended to get back to it.
But World of Warcraft has really devoured all my gaming time this month, and it’s not like December doesn’t have anything else going on. I just never managed to carve out 90 minutes or so where I could really get deeply involved with a story game after completing the second chapter.
That was, in fact, the only complaint I had about the game. I’m actually really glad it required thinking and paying close attention to the story, but that also made it nearly impossible to take an extended break in the middle of a case. More than a day or two, and I’m fairly sure I would have had to restart any given case. That said, carving out a couple hours to play through a case isn’t at all an unreasonable ask.
I loved that the game allows you to … well, it lets you totally drop the ball. Each case has a right answer, of course, but it’s also really easy to overlook something and end up accusing the wrong person (or the right person for the wrong reason). You also have the opportunity to make a moral decision at the end of each case, and that will effect the way the final scene plays out. As with just about any adventure game, there’s some tedious backtracking and some pixel-hunting, but overall, I found those things mild enough to not detract from the experience.
I absolutely intend to go back at some point and play through the remaining four cases, but this just wasn’t the time for me to play something so heavily story-focused.
It’s that time of year again, and although I primarily enjoy the two major yearly Steam sales for the opportunity to send (deeply discounted) presents to my friends, I do also tend to spoil myself rotten. Since my husband and I mostly don’t do gifts for Christmas or our birthdays (both of which are close to the holiday season), we do tend to get a little splurgey on whatever fun stuff catches our eyes this time of year.
On the first day of the sale, I check out all the stuff on my wish list that’s marked down and try to prioritize. As per usual, I find myself debating whether I’d rather pick up some pricier titles with some real meat to them, or if I want to pick up a whole mess of smaller indie games. This year, I decided to make two lists of similar cost, and then turned those into a graphic to really look at my options.
Even throwing a couple of somewhat higher-priced titles onto the “cheap stuff” side, I was surprised that picking my top three “big” games actually would cost just a smidgen more than buying all fourteen titles on the right.
Although the graphic makes it look like this is an absolute binary choice, it’s absolutely not. In reality, it’s much more likely I’ll grab one from the left, and four or five from the right, and call it a sale. After I’m done with all my gift purchases, of course. In fact, between making this graphic and posting this blog, I can no longer just go for the three games on the left, since I’ve been hit by the Steam Sale Santa and gifted Outer Wilds as an early birthday present!
Are you planning any purchases this year during the Steam Winter sale? Or are you side-eyeing your backlog and making the choice to hold off on new games?