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Editorial - 'Too Many Games Spoil the Broth'

by Ben Parfitt on May 31, 2004 @ 2:32 p.m. PDT

This is an article for you younger gamers out there, but even you oldies can take note. I remember what it was like when I was a wee nipper (as we call it here in Britain). I’d read the odd magazine and drooled over what seemed amazing new releases for the Megadrive/Genesis and SNES. I would have loved to own them all but seeing as my only income was the pocket money given to me by my parents, purchases were few and far between and had to be very carefully selected.

I think this partly explains the fierce “my console is better than yours” debate that has plagued gaming since day one. If you can only afford one system and only a couple of games to play on it then of course you’re going to be keen to assure yourself that your purchasing decision was correct. I may be relatively skint when compared to many of my peers, but being a fanatical gamer I always manage to find a way to make my green stretch just far enough for that vital purchase of all good or interesting new releases. For my sins, I own an Xbox, Gamecube, PS2, Dreamcast, Megadrive, Super Nintendo, N64 and GBA SP and generally I’m able to keep my gaming catalogue reasonably up to date and varied.

For some of you youngsters out there this may seem like a dream come true. Of course I’m grateful that I live an affluent enough society to allow such a filthy level of commodity indulgence but such a situation is not without its major flaws. I remember one week in my youth when a mate and I came across a review for Alien 3 on the Megadrive (or the Genesis was called in America). The game looked totally awesome and all I could think about was getting the chance to play it. At the time my pocket money was £10 a week so I convinced my dad to give me my next month’s pocket money in advance. Yes, I was totally broke for a few weeks but I didn’t care since that afternoon I was able to go out and buy myself a copy.

Is this a scenario that sounds familiar to you? If it is you have my sympathy. Even in the last few weeks, in what is commonly accepted to be an extremely quiet time of year for gaming releases, we’ve seen titles such as Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow, TOCA Race Driver 2, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, Transformers, Hitman Contracts, Ninja Gaiden, Deus EX Invisible War and Rallisport Challenge 2 all receive a European release. To someone like me, and to perhaps yourself, all these titles are essential in the same way that eating and sleeping are essential. Having to pick one above the other is a virtual impossibility, but when your only income is your pocket money there simply is no alternative.

I hope I’m not getting you too depressed. What I really want to share with you today is the silver lining provided by your financial impediment. I may be lucky enough to just about be able to afford all these titles but there is a quite major flipside – time, something I’ve spoken before on these pages (it’s definitely my number 1 gaming hang-up). I may be lucky enough to own over 150 of the greatest games ever coded, but have I got the time to play any of them? Hell no! What with the games I have to play to review, the articles I write for these very pages, the need to sleep, eat and wash very few of these titles ever get the attention they deserve.

But for you, the young and financially challenged gamer, this is a problem that you’re not going to face for many years. You buy a game and you enjoy it as much as you possibly can, you explore all it’s intricacies, discover all it’s depth, pillage it for all it’s worth. I had a discussion a few weeks ago on a gaming forum where some fellow gamers were explaining the joys of Knights of the Old Republic to me. One guy said “You can probably get through it in about 25 hours if you ignore all the side quests and just tackle the vital tasks.” Another guy replied, “That’s what I did first time through. Then I played it again doing every single mission in the game. It took me about 70 hours that time trying to be a good Jedi. It was much more fun third time when I played through turning to the dark side. Yeah, you should really play through once being good and the play through again being as evil as you possibly can.”

I’ve played quite a bit of KOTOR, enough to appreciate it as an utterly awesome game. I doubt though that I’ll ever have the time to finish it once, let alone go through it again enjoying all the joyous evil offered by succumbing to the dark side. I have similar experiences with folk telling me about the wonders of Final Fantasy VII. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game. Yes, I know it’s awful and I probably deserve all the abuse you’re currently hurling at your PC monitor. I do recognise this vital omission in my gaming heritage. To try and address it I went mad on a £60 auction on Ebay for Final Fantasy’s VI though X. I have them all sitting in my flat, I can see them right now, touch them if I reach across. Am I ever going to have time to play them all? Am I even going to have time to play one of them? A guy at work was telling me that it took him about 90 hours to clock VII. The whole situation saddens me deeply.

So the next time you look at all three games in your collection and your lonely PS2 standing proud by your TV, take a moment to remember that it’s not all bad. You’ll probably experience those games in a way that I can only dream of, so make sure you enjoy it – you owe me that much!

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