Last August I became a father and naturally my spare time became increasingly sparse. My evenings used to be fairly free from 9pm onwards; after sitting through 3 hours of soaps, the TV was mine, so on goes the console for a few solid hours of gaming. But I’ve now gone from playing Dark Souls 2 for 8 hours at a time to grabbing 30 minutes when and where I can (eagle-eyed readers will notice that my contributions to this blog have been fairly spaced out recently too). Not that saying parenthood is a problem of course, totally far from it. Bringing a child into the world is an incredible thing and something that I’m incredibly grateful for. I wouldn’t trade it away for anything. So, yes, this is all a bit ‘Oh woe is me, I can’t play my videogames any more boo hoo‘ but as someone who’s main hobby for 20 years has been playing games I’ve had to seriously change habits for fear of dropping the hobby altogether. (It’s also worth noting that during the week my wife deals with the brunt of the crying, the feeding and the lack of sleeping because she’s amazing like that…but I obviously don’t just sit there and play games whilst my boy is screaming or hungry. I’m not *that* much of a cock).
THE ALIEN PROBLEM
Most of last year’s big games have so far been totally inaccessible to me. Long, narrative led games used to be my crack; throw an open world at me and I would happily blow 150+ hours in it. But since my boy has decided that staying awake and laughing is preferable to sleep, I just can’t get into them any more. Evil Within: got to the second chapter, haven’t had chance yet to go back (though some of that is due to my fear of the dread that game oozes from every pixel). Assassin’s Creed Unity, a game I enjoyed enough to write about, sits unfinished at the second to last chapter. Diablo 3 is the same and a recent attempt to play Dragon’s Dogma stalled about an hour into it. Alien Isolation should be something a man who writes blogs about Alien games would be hunched over at, drooling at it’s lavish attention to detail, soaking in that wonderfully crafted atmosphere. But it’s such a s l o o o o o o o o o w game with a punishing (but brilliantly implemented) save system that my time simply doesn’t allow for it. I was making such mediocre progress with the short bursts I could play that each death equaled an hour lost, ending a gameplay session back where I started. And really, there is nothing more frustrating than playing a game and making zero progress. Playing Alien Isolation usually resulted in an evening wasted and a reluctance to load that save up again.
THE VITA: SAVIOR, FRIEND,
It was after this frustration on Alien that I was drawn to my Vita and my lovely collection of games from PS+. Games like Rogue Legacy, Binding of Issac and Spelunky! actively reward short game sessions. Each game features similar mechanics: a randomly generated world, progression carrying over each ‘life’ and clear, easy to reach goals. You can sit down for 20 minutes with Rogue Legacy and make good chunks of progress. With each life lasting usually between 2 – 5 minutes, it fits my constrained time limits perfectly and more importantly allows me to feel like I’ve achieved something. Same with the neon soaked Ryan Gosling simulator Hotline Miami. Fire it up, die, hit X, die, hit X, die, hit X and eventually smash through a level in minutes then put it down again. I imagine most people probably use these games to fill their lunch break or to pass the time on a train journey, but for me, this is now my main source of gaming pleasure. I honestly think if it wasn’t for these games that are more suited to short play times, I may have actually lost all touch with playing games. (again…boo-fucking-hoo…).
THE ORder conundrum.
Then a few weeks ago came news that The Order 1886 was only 5 hours long and I saw my chance to get back into the AAA game…game. I wasn’t remotely interested in The Order up until this point. I thought it looked a bit generic; Gears of War in a Steam Punk London, but the idea of a big release that I might actually have a chance of completing grabbed my interest by the balls and wouldn’t let go… Until the reviews came out and then that grip released nice and fast leaving me bruised and sore…what? Whatever. Stop looking at me like that.
So yeah, it seems The Order is a bit lacking in not only the length but the gameplay department too. See, to me, a games length is never as important as the experience. I can smash through Streets of Rage 2 in under 40 minutes easily and that ranks real high on my never to be published ‘Best Games Ever’ list. So if it had come out that The Order was 5 hours but OH MY GOD what a great 5 hours they are? To me and my limited free time, that right there would’ve been a definite purchase. But as we all know it’s not a particularly great 5 hours, so chances are I’ll grab it when it’s under £20 and feel totally underwhelmed by it. I did it with Army of Two: 40th Day and by god, I’ll do it again. Though Amy of Two was excellent in co-op.
But until then, I’ll keep my Vita close by for those brief moments of quiet when I can do another run on Binding of Isaac and maybe finally beat Satan. Then, in a few months when my boy sleeps through the night, I’ll dive so deep into Alien Isolation you’ll probably find me installing strobe lights and smoke machines in my house and walking around in tight white pants and a vest to make the experience of being Ripley that much more real.