Playing Games Like You Watch TV Or: Why It Took Me Over Two Years To Finish Dragon Age: Inquisition

DAI

I’ve spoken about my gaming habits plenty in the past but I’ve noticed another shift in the last year or so. If I have an hour spare now in the evening I’m much more likely to play an online game, not something single player based.

While it sounds contrary to the above, I feel like I want to invest more time in single player game sessions than ever and really lose myself in that world, which conflicts with my gaming schedule – essentially the odd hour here and there in the evening. I’m finding that I don’t want to play something story based for 45 minutes or an hour. Or at least that’s how I feel about open world games, I’m certainly still happy to play an hour long session to complete a chapter of Uncharted or a main mission in Tomb Raider. More linear games still lend themselves to that style of play. I’ve always played those kind of games like TV shows anyway, a chapter or two at a time over the course of weeks rather than days. I’ve never been a gamer who will rush through a 15-20 hour game in a weekend.

Horizon

Horizon: Zero Dawn is a good example of this new play style, a game I likely would’ve rushed through before is now a title I’m planning to play over the course of months rather than weeks. Crucially, I also feel like I’m getting more enjoyment out of the game by taking the time to explore and discover smaller content along the way.

I think there is an accompanying parallel change in multiplayer games, which are doing a much better job of getting you to come back and play more often. There has been a positive change in a huge amount of games whereby new content (new levels/maps or characters) is being added free of charge for all players. This is important because, firstly, it means the player base isn’t split (some that paid have the new content but others don’t and they can’t all play together) and secondly it gives people a strong reason to come back to games they might not have ever returned to before this trend. In addition a lot of games are rewarding players for logging in and playing, which keeps people interested for longer.  I also feel like there are a ton of pick up and play online experiences that last 5-10 minutes per game, which align perfectly with the time I have available.

If I only have 30-45 mins spare why waste my time on an open world title and have to turn it off just as I’m getting into the rhythm of the game? I’d rather play a few rounds Overwatch and a game of Rocket League. It’s also occasionally quite nice to play something that has a set beginning, middle and end. I guess it’s similar to watching a really good eight episode TV show knowing it only has one season and tells a complete story within that.

OverwatchTV

Big, sprawling open world titles are definitely still attractive to me, Horizon is one of the best games I’ve played in the last 4 or 5 years, but I just need more time to play and invest in them. Dragon Age: Inquisition took me over two years to finish. Why? I suspect the TV season-like structure helped, along with the change in my own gaming habits. What I loved about the structure of Dragon Age in particular was that your main hub in the game was your ‘War Table’, where you and your colleagues/advisors would plan your next tactical move and which mission to take on. On this table you had a selection of smaller missions, including favours for your colleagues that would reveal more about them and strengthen your relationship with them, but also one bigger mission that moved the main story on considerably. So for me, the game became like a TV show in so far as I would spend a few weeks playing side missions, levelling up and getting some character development for my team before doing the big, climatic ‘end of season’ mission and then putting the game down for a month or two.

Another huge title in terms of scale is Fallout 4, which I’m still playing 18 months after I started. Why? Well for similar reasons to Dragon Age but with the added decision from the outset not to follow the direct path for ‘character reasons’. I decided to make my character more selfish than my usual created characters, for example my elf Inquisitor from Dragon Age or Commander Shepherd from Mass Effect. In Fallout, Bella would be a character that was, for the most part, more interested in her own current affairs than any grander goal – which has been great fun and I’d recommend everyone to try playing a character like it at some stage!

FALLOUT4TV

Another issue with mainlining games is burnout, doing the same thing over and over again is certainly not fun and can severely lessen your enjoyment of a game. However, I think there is a huge difference between repetitive gameplay over a longer period of time in hour sized chunks and repetitive gameplay experienced in bigger 3 or 4 hour time slots.  I genuinely believe that the reason I still enjoy long running game series like Assassin’s Creed, where you are essentially doing the same thing in every iteration of the game in a different setting, is because I’ve never really sat down and played them for 4 or 5 hours at a time.

Episodic gaming kind of solves this play style problem, although it doesn’t always necessarily do the best job. Titles like The Walking Dead and Life Is Strange are great games, although each episode usually runs the length of a film which runs into the same problem for me time-wise. Hitman, which is perfectly suited to the episodic format, is another title with lengthy levels (a positive when I have the time to invest) although the inclusion of smaller one off assassinations does mean that is a game you can also dip into here and there.

Life Is Strange 1

Some people are quick to mainline these huge games and I just don’t get it. Why would you want to rush through these big titles? Where Uncharted is like a film, games like Skyrim, Mass Effect or Dragon Age are like having 10 seasons of a TV show in front of you. Finishing these open world games as quickly as possible by doing just main quests would be like having a cut down version of the TV show that just focuses on the main character and no-one else. Sure you’d get to experience the story at the centre of the show but without any focus on other characters. Imagine a Buffy The Vampire Slayer without any development of Willow or Xander? Or an Orphan Black with no focus on Donny or anyone except Sarah? Indeed, imagine a Mass Effect that didn’t bother to flesh out your crew but just double downed on the main story.

I’m as guilty as the next person of binge-watching TV shows but I do feel that for games it is a little different – as I mentioned above my confusion isn’t really based on people playing games quickly, it’s what you might be missing along the way. Even if I binge something like Jessica Jones I am still seeing all the story the creators put in there and want us to see. If you mainline a game you could be missing a wealth of interesting content and potentially things that might be integral to the wider plot of the game.

hITMANtv

Even in this age of on demand binge watching it can be nice to watch a TV show week by week – one of the biggest luxuries of the ‘old’ approach to watching TV or playing games is that you have time to think about and appreciate the content you’re consuming. I’ve found that in games but also in TV. Recently, Legion was a delight to watch week by week and I actually think I needed that time between episodes to process what I’d seen. Sure, there is a rush from getting through something you’re enjoying – it can exhilarating knowing that you are just a click away from another episode or main mission but I’d recommend giving slower paced gaming a shot. It’s definitely a different experience and one, for me personally, that means I’ve gotten more enjoyment out of open world games.

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TV – What Are You Watching? October 2009

Ashes To Ashes Cast

As time has gone on I’ve found myself becoming more and more disinterested in TV and concentrating on gaming for good stories and interesting concepts.

But there are still some programmes I’m happy to watch and recently we caught up on lots of stuff we’ve had sitting on the Sky+ Planner!

 

Hairy Bikers Tour Of Britain

Hairy Bikers

I love the Hairy Bikers. I’m not afraid to say it.

For those of you that don’t know the Hairy Bikers, they are two cooks that do mainly down to earth recipes and travel all over the world getting easy but tasty local recipes.

Well this time they are staying closer to home and taking in a tour of 30 British counties – making a traditional dish and also facing off against a local chef in each place.

If you like food then this has been an informative and lively series thus far (I’m almost halfway through the thirty 45 minute episodes) – definitely recommended.

 

True Blood

True Blood

I’d heard only good things about this new US show which focuses on an alternate reality that has seen Vampires both confirm their existence and also start to integrate into society.

Most people are suspicious of them and take a negative view of the Vampires but not waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), who longs to meet one.

Soon enough Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) shows up in town and is revealed to be a Vampire – much to Sookie’s excitement.

What with the scrapes her brother Jason gets into as well, this highly sexed drama has more than enough to raise a smile and keep you interested.

 

Ashes To Ashes

Ashes To Ashes

Well we finally got round to watching Series 2 of Ashes To Ashes and it was great to step back into the world of DCI Gene Hunt. (The ever excellent Philip Glennister)

Alex (Keeley Hawes) was still trapped in 1982, stuck in a coma in the present day and desperately trying to find a way home.

There were a fair few stand out moments, one being a traitor within the squad that was a great storyline.

I felt the ending was a bit of a let down but overall Ashes To Ashes maintained a high standard throughout the series.

 

Warehouse 13

Warehouse13

I’ve only seen the first, feature length episode (clocking at at over an hour and a half) but that was enough to hook me into Warehouse 13.

Basically two FBI agents (Eddie McClintock as Agent Pete Lattimer and Joanne Kelly as Agent Myka Bering) get relocated to a mysterious warehouse in the middle of nowhere in South Dakota.

Warehouse 13 contains any supernatural or unusual artifacts that the government don’t know what to do with. They are catalogued, boxed and kept on site.

The agents jobs will be to hunt out new artifacts, isolate them and bring them into the warehouse to be stored.

Angry and confused at first they soon come around to the idea after solving their first supernatural crime.

I think this one could have legs as long as the writing continues to be as strong as the opening episode. One to keep an eye on.

 

(WARNING)

If you want to maintain no knowledge of Ghost Whisperer then stop reading now!

(SPOILERS AHEAD)

 

Ghost Whisperer

GhostWhisperer1

Well it’s been quite a season so far with the death of Melinda’s husband Jim and his subsequent return via a new body (seriously? :lol:) shoehorned in amongst everything else.

I liked the sinister Dr. Epstein and was surprised they didn’t string it out for a few more episodes.

I really enjoyed Jay Mohr as Professor Payne and was sad to see him go. However his replacement Jamie Kennedy who plays Dr. Eli James (and is dating Jennifer Love Hewitt in real life) has been a great addition to the cast.

We’ve still got a few more episodes of this season to get through before we finish and I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

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