If it seems like I haven’t been writing quite as much about games on this weblog as I used to, it’s probably because I haven’t. If I was feeling particularly geeky about it, I could do some kind of graph based on posts to different categories over time, but that would just be silly.
The main problem has been an interruption in the flow of games through my home. A few months ago, I cancelled my RedOctane account, mainly due to their sketchy availability. Of course, not working generally means not having much money to buy lots and lots of games at $40-$50 a pop. Then there was the distraction of television: between TiVo, Netflix, and the fact that I’m taking a class on television criticism at the U of M, I’ve been using my TV set more and more for things other than games.
This is changing, though, and the pitch of the multimedia battlefield that is my living room (and I just realized that radio is an innocent casualty here) is shifting the other way again. In a fit of desperation, I signed up with GameFly, so hopefully I’ll once again have a regular stream of game rentals coming into my mailbox.
I’m still afraid, however, that these new games may not add up to an increase in the number of game-related postings to this site. This is because I’ve started writing game reviews for PopMatters, a very groovy “magazine of cultural criticism.” My first review, of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, is up now. I’ll spare you all the “oh, I’m so embarrassed, how could I have written that” spiel that I go through in my head whenever I look at something I’ve written. I’ve slowly come to realize that I am utterly unable to evaluate my own writing; I just assume that everything is horrible and should never see the light of day. In this case, though, it’s too late; the review is up and I can’t take it back.
Re-reading the review, it occurs to me that while I was busy with my ridiculous crypto-structuralist babbling about the game’s narrative, I totally forgot to mention one really important thing about Nocturne: it’s really, really difficult. While a large part of the game revolves around the usual RPG levelling treadmill, it’s also vital to have the proper skills/spells and immunities available at all times, because even mid-level monsters have a tendency to use status effects and elemental spells with a frightening amount of skill. At one point, I was stuck in a dungeon for a ridiculously long time because some random demons had a habit of casting Sleep on me (causing me to be unable to dodge attacks), followed immediately by Death (game over). The only way out was to level up until either I could acquire an immunity to their spells or bash them in one turn before they could get around to pulling their nasty tricks. The game is full of situations like this, making the whole affair a complex juggling act where you have to keep all the right party members, skills, and equipment close by to handle whatever rough terrain you’re going through at the moment.
Actually, it’s just as well I left that out of my review; that’s the kind of low-level technical stuff that’s amusing to think about (for me at least), but doesn’t really fit in with the kind of criticism that I’m being asked to do. At any rate, I’m expecting to save those kinds of remarks for this weblog, while I write the more generalized reviews that I used to practice on here for PopMatters. At any rate, even if you think my article is crap, give the rest of the site a spin; there’s a lot of good stuff there.