I tried several times to determine when I started playing video games and failed. Someone, probably my parents, brought a mega drive home when I was three or four years old. Nearly three decades later, I have sonic tattoos on my hands and I am trying to figure out exactly when is the right time to introduce the game to my own child. He’s two, almost three, and he’s just starting to show interest. It all started with Kirby and The Forgotten Land and I have a controller while playing Mario Kart, Rocket League and Lego Star Wars. You know, when your little siblings want to play, what tricks do you want to play but they are not old enough to know what they are doing.
It will be a while before we get together at Fortnite or take my partner’s place for it takes to playthrough. However, even as he began to show interest in gaming, his presence meant more rather than less playing time. In fact, many of you will be able to see that adult life really gets in the way of playing games. Getting paid to stay alive and making sure your kids don’t get out the window or play with the oven can really eat up your gaming time.
Gone are the days when I would say another game so many times that the only thing that stopped me was the awareness of the rising sun. Now I have to carefully take out the small parts of the day in which the games are to be played, usually an hour or two in the evening and maybe a few more on the weekends. My time is so limited that when Todd Howard boasted that there would be more than 1,000 planets to explore when Starfield launches in 2023, my eyes sparkled and Bethesda’s ambitious sci-fi RPG quickly slipped off my radar.
I don’t actually have an Xbox since 360. However, because of the affordability of the Series S, I have seriously considered breaking that duck so that I can enjoy some of the special things I lost. Starfield has overtaken Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 at the top of the list before 1,000 planets appear. Now not only do I have almost no interest in Starfield, but choosing the Series S has come down to the list of things I want but don’t really need. He will not buy the Sonic Lego set himself.
Bethesda is not the only studio to blame for this. Earlier this year, Techland happily bragged that Dying Light 2 would include 500 hours of content. Again, I saw that announcement on Twitter and mentally drew a line through Dying Light 2 on the checklist in my head. One studio tells me that his game has 500 hours of content which fills me with fear, not intrigue. Unless the game demands my time, whether it’s for review or something related to work, I get 15 hours of game time a week that I have nothing else. So yes, I’m sorry if I don’t like the idea of blocking most of the rest of my year playing a single game.
Yes, I know that after this discourse Techland made it clear that you don’t have to spend 500 hours in its game, but still see it as a major selling point. The same applies to Starfield. You don’t have to visit all of its 1,000 planets, of course, but if its creators are eager to identify its shape outside the gate, if one of the selling points, chances are it’s a very important part of the game. I feel so bad for dropping Side Quest while trying to complete the story of the usual size game. If I knew there were 995 planets I would never be able to see, especially if I loved the five planets I discovered I would have trouble sleeping at night. Then again, it would give me more time to explore those planets, but maybe the rest of the time would make me a terrible parent.
There are other big turn offs for me as a gaming parent with limited free time. One of them is the inability to leave the game and start where I left off. The idea of saving the game when I was younger was an innovative thing. Many times when I was in school I would turn on my console all day, stop playing because I would have to restart, and when I got home I would be hit by my parents. Another game I omitted is Returnal, mainly because, despite its flashy reviews, most of the discussion around the game when it was launched was about how you can lose the burden of progress if you die in saving opportunities. As a person who is not keen on replaying a part of a game, I have played at virtually the best time, done in an incredibly difficult game because I have no qualms about having to struggle to change nappies.
Metrod Dread is a rare example of a game that slipped out of a crack. I’ve never played a Metroid game before, but Dred looked so good I couldn’t resist. I find the hard way to save Dread only when you specifically point out specific points in the game, when you find a save room or after you check in with ADAM. I also found in a hard way that Dred doesn’t volunteer after you travel to different areas on the map. Not a big problem with the switch because if you don’t turn off the game, the backup will load right where you left off. When you have a son whose love for Mario Kart is growing day by day and other people in your household do not know that you left the dread because you did not save your game after knocking out the cradle after 20 failed attempts.
I know that if Starfield doesn’t win me back now and between launches, I’ll feel the intensity when FOMO arrives because I know this because I’ve experienced it many times before. I keep feeling it with the Alden Ring. Although its scope is not reflected in the software as in the examples above, I am well aware that if you do not have 50 hours or more to immerse yourself in it, it may not be the right time for you. However, I also know this for every Starfield, instead I have ten more games to play. So be it the titles I lost, something in the pile of games I kept unfinished, or something launching at the same time. Let’s just be honest, 2023 looks like a lot right now, there’s still a lot to play for when everyone else is scattering themselves in Bethesda’s vast new galaxy.
Next: Citizen Sleeper’s DLC is another excuse for me to ask you to play this game