I never really talk about this, because I associate playing games with Not Working, and to be Not Working is to be a Failure. However, upon consideration… I work my backside off anywhere between 40-70 hours a week, exercise, study, read, learn and haven’t had a proper holiday for years, so yeah… damnit! I damn well play computer games when I damn well can, and love it. Take THAT my tangled up work ethic!
With which in mind, here are a few that stand out
1. My Youth.
I first got into gaming with a few classics of the genre, which I haven’t played for years but still remember fondly….
Age of Empires I and II. Resource management and archers are basically my two favourite things, and these were the games that got me into military strategy in a big way.
Civilization II and Alpha Centuri. “I will not confront Planet as my enemy [something something something]… the sky will open, and I will drink my fill.” Yes guys, I played both these games enough to recite the little snippets of dialogue you got whenever you unlocked a new technology. Every time I played, I would always set out to annihilate my enemies, because it just felt so joyfully challenging; but usually I’d win by Wonders or Transcendence, because I really hate declaring war without provokation.
Balders Gate II. [Spoiler alert.] Remember that moment you go all spikey and lose control and start butchering your mates? Remember that? That screwed up my tiny gamer’s mind.
Neverwinter Nights. A game that was infinitely superior to its sequel. Also [spoiler alert] remember that moment when the dudette who you looked up to more than anything suddenly went a bit loopy after an act of injustice that while dubious was also sorta inevitable? Remember that? That screwed up my tiny gamer’s mind. Also I got to stop time while throwing fireballs, and my pixie friend was good at picking locks. It was the shizzle.
Honourable shout-outs should also at this point go to Populus (becoming a god!), Black and White (being a God, if only my ape would stop eating the farmers), Stronghold (“get up on them walls!”) and Theme Hospital (“player is cheating”).
And that was my youth.
2. Runny Jumpy Stabby
I think I should take this moment to say that I got into Mass Effect before it was cool to get into Mass Effect.
Also: controversially, I didn’t mind the ending of Mass Effect 3 at all. Story-wise it felt like they were in a corner, but dude, when the choice came to jump into that great big green column of narrative solution, I was right there with a cry of “Yeah, I reconciled the Geth whoooo!”
In answers to other questions: I saved Ashley, ‘cos I felt it was sorta the duty of senior ranks to go down before sacrificing the juniors; always wound up with Garrus despite fancying Liara; and let Mordin do the right thing even though it’s the closest a game has come to making me cry.
I haven’t played Andromeda yet. Like most things I’m waiting for it to drop down to £14.99, and for them to patch some of the stupid. Also it’s got iffy reviews, so I’m a bit meh.
Assassins Creed. Obviously, II was great, and I kinda enjoyed Brotherhood. I wished I’d enjoyed Revelations more, given that the Ottoman Empire is totally my thing, and vaguely remember the original being fine. But Black Flag. Oh my god the sheer genius that is Black Flag. Full sail, me’hearties!
Because it was so universally panned, I haven’t played III, might get round to Unity one day perhaps, haven’t tried the other stand-alones, and am waiting for Syndicate to drop down to £14.99 or less. Oddly enough, I find I don’t care about Origins, because having tantilised us with a hint of an assassin with a uterus, I regard it as backtracking to go back to Hunky Dudes With Arms.
Dragon Age. So, remember that moment in Origins when you’re a bit like “Uch he did do a bad thing but then it’s politically savvy to keep him on board but I know you’re pissed with me if I do that Alister and there is a demonic dragon but also his daughter seems sorta sensible and UCH IT’S SO MESSY.” That moment? Yeah. Origins was great, and I really liked the dog. II… was ok. Trying harder than it needed to be more than it actually was, I think. I haven’t finished Inquisition because it’s feckin’ epic and I like to be thorough and also, for all I love computer games, there really haven’t been enough hours in the day. Also I loathe the fact that I’ve only got ten hot keys but know, like, a shit-tonne of awesome spells. Why tantilise me with toys and then take them away again?
Skyrim. Actually, originally it was Morrowind, which I loved. Christ knows what the story was, but yeah, I was the damned Nerevar and I made things awesome with like, stuff. Then it was that one with Sean Bean in it and again, not quite sure what went down but as well as saving the world from glowy fiery stuff, I wound up head of the Thieves Guild, the Mages Guild and had a spectacular tower full of plants and shit. Then Skyrim happened, and my God, it was awesome. I think I have clocked up more hours on that game than any else, despite the fact that basically, I couldn’t care less about Vikings. Which is what Skyrim did. Vikings with magic swords and dragons. I was totally down with the giant mushrooms and levitating slugs of Morrowind, culturally speaking, but it’s a testimony to just how damn good Skyrim is that I still love it, despite wanting to beat everyone I meet with a beard over the head with this big stick I found on a dead guy in a hill.
However, I have never joined the Dark Brotherhood. I wanna, ‘cos it sounds funky – but I just can’t bring myself to kill the sleeping innocent people. It’s not what Azura would want!
3. Archers and cavalry.
Total War. Basically, most of the Total War series ever, including Empire but excluding Warhammer which I haven’t really bothered to look into, because my elf quotant is satisfied by other things, and it doesn’t cost less than £14.99 etc.. I’m probably a fairly poor player, to be honest, as no matter what happens I can’t abide losing too many of my troops (feels like letting the side down), and will ALWAYS bombard you with long-range artillery, then archers, then flank you with cavalry that I hid in the forest. Be it in medieval Japan or on the fields of ancient Rome, it’s just a thing.
Age of Wonders 3. It’s not even got archers on a hill, but hey. Somehow it seems relentlessly addictive, and I’m not sure why.
Stellaris. So I grant you, there’s not much in the way of archery in my epic mission to conquer the galaxy. But it’s a similar sentiment, right? Once again, I keep on trying to crush my enemies beneath my iron fist, but usually just end up building federations and peacefully assimilating until the apocalypse comes. I try to be open-minded and welcoming to the various fungal and plantoid species of the galaxy, but will admit that when I accidentally elevated cockroaches to sentience from the frozen wastelands of Earth, granting them full citizenship and access to luxury goods, I felt a bit weird.
4. Build That Shit
Cities: Skylines. I just can’t get it right. I can’t convince people to take the bus instead of drive without going bankrupt. I don’t know why. But I keep on trying.
Anno 2070. Hey, I might not be able to fix global warming right now, despite contributing both time and money to fairly decent causes, but at least in my digital fantasy land I power my sushi factories with solar! Whooo!