There are lots of games I see people thoroughly enjoying that interested me very little - mobas, online match-based multiplayer, rural management cuteness - and I'm really pleased they exist and provide such entertainment. But it's not for me. However, there are other games that I have absolutely no intention of ever playing that absolutely fascinate me, and I love to read about the adventures people have within. Below are three of them.
I think that this is perhaps the game that most people would cite as their example of games they read about but would never want to play. A massively multiplayer online game that's genuinely massive, and magnificently online. Years of extraordinary space combat, warring factions taking part in months-long battles across vast regions of space. It sounds so hugely overwhelming, and completely alienating, to me. And I feel real envy for those who have the brains and characters that let themselves excel in such a game.
Brendan's extraordinary account of the collapse of the Goons is one of the best things RPS has ever published. Steven Messner has written brilliant accounts of EVE's goings-on, including this piece on how players generate propaganda. The game has a historian! It has diplomats! Philanthropists! Invisible bastards! I remember going to Jim's house and listening to him regale me with amazing tales during the five years he spent with the game. I remember seeing the game running on a second PC on his desk, alongside whatever freelance work he was doing, and being just fascinated. But never for a moment having a single inclination to play.
Gosh I love that EVE exists, that I get to read about it, and that I'll never have to play it.
EVE I think I could, given time, actually play - I just don't want to. Stellaris I cannot play. It's like trying to parallel park in a space shorter than my car - it just won't let me in. But I've had a great time reading about it this year. Adam's told some fantastic stories from his time with the single-player space sim, exciting enough that I became determined to play it myself, before bouncing off it like it was made of space trampolines.
Brendan leapt in with a mod letting him play as a Synthetic and this great tale to tell. This is a brand new game that's already seeing mods that make it more extraordinary. It's so brilliant that this is happening in gaming! And goodness me, I'd rather rip plasters off my testicles than try to play it again.
I suppose I could appear disingenuous here - "Oh, look at me, the confused old fuddy who doesn't truck with these young people's gimmicks". That's really not it, as tempted as I've been to fall into it over the last few days. I've never played a Pokemon game, beyond a completely bemused hour or two with one of the DS versions. Completely didn't get it. Still don't. I vaguely understand what it's all about, but I still haven't gotten around to finding out exactly what Go does beyond letting you pick up imaginary creatures form real-world locations.
And the truth is, this augmented gaming idea sounds brilliant! Pokemon GO, based on my limited understanding of the concept, sounds like a great idea - you get to turn your real world, your everyday happenings, into gaming moments. As a big fan of games that blur the edges of a game's fiction and your own reality, this sounds like a splendid thing. I just... I've never cared about Pokemon, and I feel no incentive to collect them. I'm not even sure what you do with them once you have - is there responsibility? Do you have to look after them? I have enough trouble remembering to look after my son, let alone some cartoons on my telephone.
So, truth be told, this does eventually devolve into smugness, because what I'm enjoying reading is people's scorn, people's horror at the ubiquity of it. Dan Marshall's version of the game where he collects the monsters via other people's tedious tweets about it, for instance.