So I’ve looked back on the past year, now its time to look forward. I really am using the word “resolutions” just to tie in with the New Year, but mostly these are plans, and we know how easy it is for plans to go awry.
In 2009 I want to dig into my back-log of single-player games rather than constantly running out to buy the next shiny new toy. Part of this “resolution” is based on the fiscal reality that here at Dragonchasers HQ we are damn broke and 2009 is going to be a tough, tough year as far as money goes. But another part is because it just seems a damned shame to have all these experiences locked away in little boxes. I’ve always struggled with “game-grazing” but now I’ll be forced to stop. Actually I’ve already started this: I still don’t own Fallout 3 (waiting for a price drop) and the only reason I ended up with Fable 2 was that it was a gift from my awesome lady Angela. Single player games age better now than they used to, and I don’t hang out in forums constantly in danger of having a game “spoiled” for me, so why not wait a few months and save $20-$30 on the cost of a game?
In 2009 I will embrace the fact that I’m just not a guild kind of gamer. In all my years of gaming I’ve gotten into about three guilds that I actually felt a part of, and one of them was composed of friends from outside the game. Even in a group of awesome people like Casualties of War, I never really clicked with the guild as an entity, just singled out certain individuals who I felt I could relate to. I need to factor this trait in when I pick an MMO. I might’ve enjoyed Age of Conan a little bit more if I was a more social person (I was in a huge guild — The Older Gamers — but rarely talked to anyone and never grouped). I’m not a “team-oriented” person in ‘real life’ either; not sure why I ever thought I could be on in-game.
The rise of voice chat as an assumed tool is making this even more of an issue to me; I hate talking on Vent, or for that matter on the phone, or anywhere that I can’t see the face of the person I’m talking to. I hate listening, too. I play MMOs for the RP experience even if I’m not actively RPing, and hearing the voices of the players behind the characters shatters that sense of immersion. I can understand the appeal of voice chat to folks who play these games to make friends, because voice chat does lead to friendships. But I’m a fairly “lone wolf” kind of individual in the real world as much as I am in-game. I can count my “real life” friends on one hand and have plenty of fingers left over. I’ll use voice chat when it is needed as a tool, like in a WoW instance or a War scenario, but day-to-day, I just don’t like it, and these days most guilds use it and assume you’ll be using it too. So no guilds for me in 2009.
A lot about 2008 brought home the fact of my own mortality. In 2009, I’m going to accept that fact that I’m damned near 50 and my tastes in games are changing. The last FPS I enjoyed was Resistance: Fall of Man and I probably will never play another FPS. I’m no longer interested (if really, I ever was) in gouts of blood and “gibs” as they used to be called. Gears of War was a bust for me. Halo 3 was “meh”. I find violence with no context unappealing.
But beyond subject, my tastes in game systems are changing. I read folks like Rick talk about how much they love the RvR in Warhammer because of the adrenaline rush they get from it, and I while I can remember craving that rush, I no longer do. I don’t play games for excitement any more; I play them to relax. I no longer like a frantic pace to my gaming; frantic in any aspect of my life just leaves me feeling jittery and irritated. I see myself playing a lot of turn-based single-player RPGs and Strategy games from here on out. And spending a lot of time soloing and exploring content in MMOs. And ditching PvP once and for all. I joked over at Ysh’s place about my looking forward to Hello Kitty Online (read this preview!), but I really *am* intrigued by some of the systems in that game (if only it didn’t have that huge thick layer of cute all over it).
I think 2009 is going to be a strange year. Although some analysts have called gaming ‘recession proof’ I’ve been reading an awful lot of news stories about layoffs and closings inside the gaming industry. And I know for a fact that I’m not the only one having to curtail game and MMO subscription purchases because of hard times. As hard as its going to be for the individuals who make the games we love, I think it might be good for gaming as an industry if we get a bit of ‘burn off’ and see fewer (but higher-quality) games released in future years.
I don’t know what’s going to happen in the MMO space. If Mythic, with the resources of EA behind them, can’t manage to release a fully polished MMO, I don’t know who can. And yet players are going to continue to compare every new release to games that have been running for years and have had plenty of time to do that polishing, and those new releases are going to come up short. Is Tabula Rasa the start of a trend? Will Warhammer Online and Age of Conan end up with short lifespans?
I’m actually taking comfort in the pile of DS, PS2 and PSP turn-based RPGs I have sitting on the shelf. I’m ready to hunker down and ride out the storm. And keep exploring smaller ‘niche’ MMOs as I go.