The Parent Trope’s Top 5 Games of the Decade

Before writing this, I had to decide if I wanted to base this list on games I played from 2010-2020, or games that were released between 2010 and 2020. I ended up going with the release date, mainly because I couldn’t remember if I played Dragon Age: Origins in 2009 or 2010. (I think it was 2009.)

5. The Sims 4

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I didn’t like The Sims 4 as much as The Sims 3, but 3 came out in July 2009. And even though I miss many things about 3, I’ve still enjoyed 4 quite a bit after I got over the fact that it just wasn’t going to have the create-a-style tool. The graphics in The Sims 4 are gorgeous, and even with more limited options I’ve had a lot of fun building various things in the game. Such that I’ve clocked a lot of hours in the game. I don’t know how to check that in Origin, and frankly I’m not sure I want to know.

4. Life is Strange

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I like adventure games. Life is Strange is an amazing adventure game. I was completely hooked by this story, and the time travel piece added just the right extra element. I played quite a few adventure games in this decade, but this one has to be my favorite. The plot, the characters, the choices, the incredible length of the thing. It somehow manages to be a classic adventure game and a modern game at the same time.

3. Civilization 6

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Civ 6 was my game of the year last year, and honestly I thought about making it game of the year again for 2019, because it’s that good. The Gathering Storm added many fun new systems to the game that made it exciting all over again. It might even be my favorite Civ game, although I still have a special place in my heart for Civ 3.

2. Don’t Starve

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This is one of my favorite games ever. Top five for sure. If we’re just going by hours played it would probably be number two (after The Sims 3). Let’s not find out, though, because that would be embarrassing. The point is, I love this game. A friend told me about it when it was released in 2013 and then I spent so much time trying not to die.

Don’t Starve made me think I like survival games, but eventually I realized that I don’t. I just like Don’t Starve. I like the artsy graphics that look hand-drawn. I like the little characters and their quirks. I like the weirdness of it all. That’s what I like the best. Running into something and not knowing if it’s going to kill you or if you can chop it down or eat it. Maybe it will make you go insane and start seeing shadow creatures. If it chases you, jump down a wormhole and end up who knows where.

1. Mass Effect 2

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Mass Effect 2 barely scrapes into the list having a release date of January 2010. I played Mass Effect 2 after finishing Dragon Age: Origins and hearing that Mass Effect was “like Dragon Age in space.” It did not disappoint. I don’t know why I started with 2 and not 1, but I loved 2 enough that I went back to play 1.

Mass Effect 1 had overly complicated combat and that terrible mako vehicle you had to drive around on occasion (see why I never got past the 4 hour mark in Mass Effect: Andromeda). But by now I was hooked on this whole universe and I wanted to start Mass Effect 2 with choices I actually made in the first game. Plus, I’d discovered the joy of playing renegade–and I really wanted to be able to recruit Morinth.

This game is, to me, what an RPG should be. Intriguing plot, exceptional characters, smooth combat, and not wasting countless minutes getting from quest point A to quest point B because someone decided all RPGs have to be “open world.” It’s the best. I don’t think we’ll ever get a game quite like it.

Cover image via xbox wallpapers.

Witcher 3 First Impressions: Is it Really an RPG Though?

I realize it’s been months since I last posted, and here I am ready to talk about a game I recently started playing: The Witcher 3. Yeah, I know, it came out in 2015. I’m a bit behind. I bought it on Steam sale for about $7 and decided to give it a whirl. Even though it’s a narrative heavy RPG (something I like) I’d avoided it because I prefer RPGs where I can customize my character or at the very least play as a woman. In The Witcher 3 you’re stuck playing Geralt, an overly-buff, white-haired sword wielder who has a few minor magical abilities.

Playing Geralt definitely feels like I’m in a heterosexual male fantasy: he’s muscular, sarcastic, and has plenty of girlfriends. His voice is deep and grizzled, and I wonder how many packs of cigarettes the voice actor had to smoke before completing his scenes. I rebel by making my Geralt the kindest possible version of himself in his dialog options.

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Geralt. So broad-shouldered. So gravely-voiced.

I play this and wonder if you can really call it an RPG? RPG stands for “Role Playing Game” and while technically you’re playing the role of Geralt, the term RPG is taken from the tabletop gaming world where players create their own characters. Can a game be considered an RPG if you’re forced to play a specific character? Or is Witcher 3 more of an adventure game with combat? Most people wouldn’t call Life is Strange a roleplaying game even though you’re playing the role of Max Caulfield. What makes that an adventure game but Witcher 3 an RPG? Is Witcher 3 an RPG because of it’s fantasy setting? is Life is Strange an adventure game because there’s no combat? I really don’t know–let me know what you think in the comments.

On to better topics: cats in the game, and whether or not you can pet them.

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Early in the game I ended up at a tavern and while questioning in the patrons I found a cat. I couldn’t pet the cat and the cat hissed at me. It might have something to do with my cat eyes. Very disappointing.

Despite not being able to pet the cat and Geralt not being my ideal player character (he does have nice hair and the cat eyes are cool), I am interested in the lore. I’ll try to focus on that as I keep playing.

Cover image via this website. I thought I’d finally found one without a person in it, but I was wrong. Cat photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash.

Anthem? No Thank You

Anthem. It’s coming soon, people are talking about it, there was a demo, and yet I wish it didn’t exist. Let me explain why.

I primarily play four types of video games: adventure games, RPGs, strategy games, and MMOs. Let’s put aside strategy games and MMOs for a second and focus on story. For me, both RPGs and adventure games are all about the story. The story is my reward. In adventure games it’s more obvious: solve some puzzles, unlock more stories. When I play RPGs, what hits my reward center in the brain is the same: more story. Kill some baddies, do some quests, unlock more story.

Loot and gear doesn’t interest me aside from that it allows me to complete more content and get more of the story. If I could play the entire game with the same armor and weapons I’d be fine with that. Gaining new skills is fun, but also not my primary motivation.

It should be no surprise that I loved Dragon Age: Origins. It was completely story-driven and everything I did unlocked more pieces of the story. I knew next to nothing going into the game; I’d only heard from others that it was good. I called in sick the next day because I had to keep playing. I’d become attached to the characters and I needed to know what would happen next. Someone told me I’d probably also like Mass Effect 2, so I played that. When I finished, I wanted to play the first one to play the story I’d missed. The first one wasn’t as good: the combat was clunkier, but the story was still there so I didn’t mind. I was just killing baddies to get more story. The one part I hated was driving the mako around desolate planets looking for stuff.

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Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy exploration. I particularly dig it in MMOs. What I hate is being unable to find something specific, which is exacerbated by trying to maneuver a vehicle with difficult controls.

People gave Dragon Age II a hard time, but I loved it. Yeah, the combat zones were all repeated, but who cares? The combat isn’t the point of the game! And the story was good and not your typical fantasy RPG story. Plus Hawke is the best player character since April Ryan. I didn’t love the Mass Effect 3 ending, but it didn’t bother me as much as most people. I still loved those games.

Then Inquisition came out. Before Inquisition there was Skyrim. It was very popular and featured an “open world.” I played it. It took me a while to get into it. I hadn’t played a non-Bioware modern RPG. I found the NPCs incredibly boring and my quest log just filled up with so many quests and I didn’t know what to do. I’d about given up on it when I read somewhere about certain quest lines that were interesting, and after a lot of mods, I finally got into it. When I heard Inquisition was going to be more open-world I was very disappointed. I didn’t want Bioware following trends and trying to make their next game more like Skyrim. I just wanted another Dragon Age game.

The intro started off well enough. We had some returning characters and intriguing new ones. Then we were dumped in this Hinterlands place—and it was an open world and we had 101 things to do there. I didn’t want to do these things. They were boring. I don’t like side quests. They distract from the main story. (Unless it’s Skyrim and the main story is boring and the side quests are more fun, but I’d prefer a brilliant main story and a handful of side quests that tie in to the plot—which I thought Mass Effect 2 did the best.) I found out I just had to do enough to get out of there and unlock more main quest, but I kept getting lost. My objective would be just beyond that mountain that I couldn’t climb over! I’d run around in circles and just get mad at the game. I’d still say I loved Inquisition—there was enough story and character development to make up for all the frustration of not being able to find silly side quest objectives.

But then we got Mass Effect: Andromeda. Which seemed like Inquisition, in space. And the mako came back. My least favorite thing in the entire original Mass Effect trilogy was a big part of the new game. I have 4 hours into my trial on Origin and I keep thinking maybe I’ll come back, but my play time is limited.

All I want is for Bioware to make the kind of game they’re good at. No trend chasing. I don’t love open-world RPGs and I like playing Bioware games alone. By myself. Aren’t video games supposed to be an introverted hobby? I like MMOs because they’re a mix of playing solo and being social. I like RPGs because you can play by yourself. I’m not a trend chaser. I’m not interested in MOBAs or battle royale, and Don’t Starve is the only survival game I’ve ever loved.

This is a very long explanation of why I’m not interested in Anthem to the point of being disgruntled about its existence. While I know there is a story, from what I’ve read, it’s not _about_ the story. Gear collection and customization seems to be a primary goal, which as I’ve said, does not interest me. After the game releases, if the reaction is positive, I might watch some Let’s Play videos and decide if it’s something I want to spend money on, but I’m not feeling optimistic. The flight suits are a turn-off for me: if I’m going to be playing a game that involves just running around fighting things, I don’t want to have to navigate a 3D space. I’m a bad enough navigator in real life. My biggest hope for Anthem is that it flops and Bioware can go back to making Bioware games. It seems more likely that it will flop and Bioware will fold into EA’s all-encompassing bosom. Even more likely that it will succeed and Dragon Age 4 will be an open world RPG focused on multiplayer and crafting where you fly around on a dragon.

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Jetpacks? Power suits? Sounds fun in real life, but more trouble than they’re worth in a video game.

I want _story_. I think video games are the best way we have to tell a story. Better than TV, film, and even books. Because they’re the most immersive, they have the biggest impact. I was thinking recently about the huge emotional impact I felt after playing Life is Strange. I wondered if my feelings would have been as strong if I’d read it as a book. Probably not. A major part of the impact comes from actually being a participant in the story.

Bioware was a major studio actually leveraging the amazing storytelling power of video games. Now their next major game gives story a backseat. Where do we go from here?

Cover image is from Dragon Age: Inquisition. Still a good game, despite all the boring bits.