By request: Buying games outside your comfort zone

By request of acurran

I confess, I find some of the Talking Time fundraiser topics I’ve been handed to be bafflingly ambiguous. I suppose I could confirm the intent behind them, but where’s the fun in that? No, better to just wing it. It’s the most righteous way of things.

This topic is one of them: “Buying games outside your comfort zone.” Did acurran mean buying games in genres and styles you don’t know and feel intimidated by? Did he mean shopping in parts of town you find frightening? Or did he mean exploring content you find uncomfortable? It is a mystery. So let me address all three possibilities.

1. Buying games in genres and styles you don’t know and feel intimidated by

Simple solution here: Don’t do it.

To put it in a less glib way, there’s no need to do it. To go out and spend $30, $50, $60 on a game you don’t feel confident about. It’s dumb and pointless.

Speaking from personal experience here, I have spent – or rather, wasted – thousands of dollars over the years due to some weird, misguided sense that I need to buy games. I need to be a well-rounded gamer and expand my horizons. I should support developers even if they make games I don’t enjoy. I need to be on top of every single current release in order to do my job. Yeah, that’s all bunk. I don’t owe no one nothin’, and neither do you. It took me years to figure this out; I hope you’ll sort it out more quickly than I did.

It’s good to be a well-rounded gamer, if that’s something you want. It’s good to support developers you like. And even if your job is to cover games, it’s the height of futility to attempt to stay on top of releases, considering how many games come out each week these days through both retail and the various digital venues. It’s OK! Relax! Unless you’re making them for a living, games just aren’t that important. Enjoy them, and don’t force yourself to slog through genres and formats you don’t enjoy (unless you’re getting paid for a review, in which case follow that suffering with a chaser of a personal favorite).

Rentals and demos exist for the explicit purpose of giving you a chance to enjoy a taster of things you’re not sure about. For some reason, once I started working (and thus could afford to buy games) I stopped renting. That was dumb. There’s value in trying games in new genres and styles – I picked up games like Final Fantasy Tactics, Klonoa, Pikmin, Marathon, and many others not expecting to enjoy them and ended up loving them. But at the same time, I’ve wasted a crapload of money buying lots of other games I hated, or that gathered dust. The misses grossly outnumbered the surprise successes. I could have so much dough in the bank if I’d had the sense to rent instead. Don’t be me, kids. I’m dumb.

2. Shopping in parts of town you find frightening

Yeah, upscale malls weird me out, too. What are you doing, risking your life amongst the yuppies? Just buy online, jeez.

3. Exploring content you find uncomfortable

This one’s a little trickier. What content makes you uncomfortable? Sexual content? Violent content? Cute? Grim? Austere? Emotionally raw? Whatever the case, there’s value in pushing your own boundaries. In challenging your assumptions. If only to reaffirm them.

These days, I’m most put off by (mostly Western) excessively violent games and (mostly Japanese) games that sexualize characters who clearly couldn’t legally be sexualized if they were real people. I’m perfectly happy to avoid those games whenever possible… but I’m also willing to listen when people tell me, “There’s more here than the surface appearances you’re reacting to.”

I recently did that with Senran Kagura, which some people swear has super engrossing game mechanics and excellent characterization that more than makes up for the fact that the entire cast consists of 15-year-old girls with enormous breasts presented with a camera that embodies the concept of “male gaze.” OK, I said to myself. I will review the game for USgamer.

I managed to survive about three hours with the game before abandoning ship. I could feel the sliminess oozing over me with each new mission I played. I guess the text-based narrative sequences were meant to offset the camera-zooms that focused on their butts and breasts whenever their costumes exploded from taking damage, but it doesn’t matter how many visual novel segments you shoehorn in to talk about these innocent girls’ hopes and dreams. It doesn’t change the fact that the game action revolves around stripping those innocent girls down to their underwear while zooming up close to their massive wobbling secondary sexual characteristics. I ended up not reviewing it, and also deleting it from my 3DS.

Hmmm… I’m not sure what advice this constitutes, besides “Senran Kagura is pretty gross, y’all.” But you know, at least I gave it a shot, even if it turned out to be every bit as terrible as I feared. On the other hand, Yoshi’s New Island turned out to be much better than I expected? But then again, I didn’t pay for either game, so I can’t really say I would have felt good about taking a failed chance on Senran Kagura.

Actually, my advice to you is… make friends with someone who has no impulse control about buying video games and mooch off them. Don’t indiscriminately buy games outside of any comfort zone you may happen to possess. Demo, rent, borrow. Save your cash for the games you like enough to want to own. And for ice cream!



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