Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Late To The LAN Party

This was originally a post I wrote for Forces of Geek, it spawned from the fact that I received my limited edition Halo 4 game just after my fiancĂ© received his Assassin's Creed 3 edition with awesome Connor statue - consequently this made me super jealous. It got me thinking about the stigma that comes with people who buy games on release date - namely, they are the superior, truer fans. Well, I wasn't happy with that, hence my post... Enjoy! 

They say cool kids come to the party late and if that's the case for games then I must be pretty cool. I'm a bit of a fangirl when it comes to certain titles and I'd never miss their release date however a lot of the games I play these days are well beyond their initial launch period.

Just because you turn up late for a party, it doesn't mean you don't respect the host. You're not relegated to less of a friend so why is it when you come across a game after everyone else (or a TV show, comic series, film for that matter) suddenly hordes of militant fanboys/girls descend upon you to accuse you of not being a real fan or that you're only jumping on the bandwagon because everyone else is? Why do these select few get to decide how you feel or assess the validity of your love of a game? What right do they have?

I've concluded, they don't have the right!

Gamers are not held hostage by release dates, we can play whatever game we want, when we want and at our own leisure. If you don't believe me, I have several friends who went out of their way to buy their significant others an aged console (such as a megadrive or gamecube) just so they can share a beloved experience.

Of course, buying a game on the release date or pre-ordering has it's benefits, but unlike food, games don't have an expiry date. Just because you purchase it a little later or didn't attend the midnight launch doesn't make you any less loyal than someone who spent three times what you paid for the special-super-awesome-limited-extra-geekgasm-inducing-edition. Which, as a newer fan to a game you're probably now a tiny bit jealous of...

Portal is one of those games for me, I LOVE Portal like a weighted companion cube loves Chell - in fact I've yet to play a Valve game I dislike - and I came to the Portal party extremely late. When I played it for the first time though, that was it, I couldn't get enough. It was all I wanted to play. 

But Portal is, at its core, a puzzle game. Sure, there's hilarious dialogue and a story to follow but it's not as if you can have the narrative ruined for you by spoilers. These can take a few forms. The first is the rather obvious, spoilerific review. Most professional journalists and reviewers will respect a gamer's wish to enjoy the story at their own pace, rather than having it revealed to them before they're ready. Having said that, sometimes a title's saturation is so high, that one cannot avoid spoilers.

Then there are the ever annoying housemates, friends, family, partners, etc, who work their way through a single-player game whilst you happen to be around. Even if only for a minute, walking through a room, you can still have a whole game (possibly even a series) ruined in one fell swoop. This happened to me with GTA IV; over a series of evenings, I caught glimpses of a friend playing it through and became so engrossed in the latter part of the story, I felt bored trying to work through the earlier chapters. To this day I still have yet to complete it, even though I know it's a brilliant game. All of which is made more frustrating, with the pending release of GTA V.

Sometimes I try to immerse myself in a franchise when a sequel is on the horizon, in order to get in the right mindset. A good example of this, would be Gears of War, which I played through with my fiancé. We rushed through the first two titles, avoiding any of the collectibles, nuances and tiny details, in order to be prepared for Gears Of War 3. Which was strange, as when we actually came to purchase GOW3, we kinda didn't want the co-op experience to end and have subsequently dragged it out - in fact, we have yet to finish a single play through. So, what can we take from this? More speed, less haste? Finish what you set out to achieve? Take your time in future? I dunno, they all seem good. Pick one of those.
Returning to game franchises is made all the more exciting when you can introduce a friend to something you're passionate about. I have a friend who has never completed any of the campaigns for either Left 4 Dead 1 or 2. This affords me the perfect opportuity to return to this beloved series and guide him through the hordes of zombies and special infected. I will also be able to relish his enjoyment whilst reliving the excitement that I first felt myself. Plus it's an excuse to play Left 4 Dead without that nagging "You should be diversifying your range of games" that often echoes through my mind.

Another extremely important factor (on when to arrive at the 'party') is the multiplayer aspect - and lets face it, if a game wants to achieve any kind of longevity, they usually need a solid multiplayer mode. If you are there right from the outset, there's a chance you'll overload the servers. If you don't believe me, this happened recently on the release days of both Halo 4 and Assassin's Creed 3. However, if you leave it for a few months, patches and updates will have been applied and all those issues and teething problems are fixed, meaning you can experience the game as the creators intended: bug free.

Having said that, if you leave it too late there are less people playing. One could argue that games with a mass multiplayer following, such as Call Of Duty and Halo, are an exception to this, however, their hardcore fanbase will no doubt purchase the latest releases and devote less time to their predecessors, no matter how much they like/liked them. This is something I regret about playing BioShock 2 late, there were less available players or those that were still playing vastly outranked me, to the point I had no chance to improve. Still, I could convince my friends to purchase a copy of a decent game (at a reduced price) and meet me online for some 'quiet' gaming, without the myriad of unknowns. Basically, it becomes more fun.

Having weighed up the pros and cons, I'm going to stand by my earlier statement. People don't have the right to look down their noses at others, who purchase a game long after it was first released. Equally, just because you've found an awesome game from several years ago, doesn't make you Indiana Jones, a lot of people knew about it, you were just cheap and lazy. The key issue is less when you purchase a game and more the type of game you're purchasing because ultimately, a good game is always a good game, no matter when you discover it.

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