I’ve been thinking a lot about the games that have absorbed the most of my play time over the years. You see, i’ve pretty much always been one who, when I get into a game, I get SERIOUSLY INTO IT. Going back to Final Fantasy II (Japanese IV) on the old SNES, I could sink hours and hours into that game. Of course I was only like 9 or 10 at the time, so what was originally a 25-35 hour game could easily have been stretched into double that time. Nonetheless, I was utterly enthralled. I played through that game several times over in my teenage years (and, lets be honest, beyond that too). I did the same thing with Final Fantasy III (Japanese VI) a couple years later, only with much more gusto. I knew from a very early age that I was a fantasy genre nut. Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Breath of Fire, Dragon Warrior, etc… these games were pretty much the best things ever for me, but some games grabbed me much, much harder than others did.
In more recent years, my gaming has continued in this trend, only (mostly) with more recent titles. Elder Scrolls, World or Warcraft, Diablo III, Mass Effect, Final Fantasy (hey, you can’t kill the classics)… Of course, there are some games that have taken much larger chunks of my life than others. World of Warcraft is certainly at the top of the list. I played the game for almost 7 years, regularly. I raided, I did some other stuff along the way i’m sure… I put a LOT of hours into that game. Diablo III is probably second right now (at least, as far as games in which I can legitimately measure my time played), and then after that… Well, if any of you know me it’s not going to come as much of a surprise, but 3rd place in Number Of Hours Sunk in my life is probably Skyrim.
What is it about these particular games that has absorbed me into playing so many hundreds or (in WoW’s case) thousands of hours into them? Well, I think WoW is a more obvious answer for the moment, so i’ll bypass that one. What about Diablo III? I think, in large part, this harkens back to some college dorm room nostalgia. I used to spend a lot of hours (in which I should’ve been doing homework, to be honest) playing D2 with my friends and finding new and insidious ways to kill lots of new and insidious demons. This was my first real experience with playing games WITH people who weren’t my brothers, so that was a really new kind of experience for me. Plus… Fantasy Multiplayer games? Fuck yes. The first one I remember that pulled THAT one off was Secret of Mana for the SNES, and it was… difficult, at times, but I digress. Diablo III, and more specifically the Reaper of Souls expansion, injected a LOT of replayability into a game that could pretty easily have gotten stale. It improved the classes, added new abilities, changed old abilities, and just in general made it so you could go out and slaughter demon hordes by the billions (or so it seems anyway). That shit is fun, and that’s why D3 has such a high place among my “Time Spent” list.
Now then, what about Skyrim? It’s in pretty stiff company with WoW and D3:RoS, but I’ve found the answer to this much harder to quantify. Skyrim is a beautiful game, and ENORMOUS, and fun, and probably one of the best single-player RPGs of all time… I don’t think too many people would dispute that, but I have sunk over 600 hours into this game. Why? I think, a lot of it has to do with my need to kind of buck the systems. My first playthrough of Skyrim (in which I actually beat the main storyline) was as an archetypal mage character, but it wasn’t wholly satisfying. It’s hard for me to put into words as to why. The magic system left a little to be desired, but I think there was more to it than that. See, Skyrim lets you level as many or as few of the various skills as you like. Which means, as with most of the other Elder Scrolls games, you can create pretty much whatever kind of weird hybrid character you can imagine, and this appeals to me greatly. I have spent a LOT of time creating new characters to try different combinations of skills, some failed spectacularly, and some worked out pretty well. Through my experimentation and exploration of the internet and stuff i’ve come across I have found some very dangerous websites, like the Tamriel Vault (formerly the Skyrim Blog), which has only caused more problems than it solved. Seriously, I want to go through and try SO MANY of these builds and I keep rolling new characters to do just that. My wife gives me this smug little look everytime she sees the character creation screen. She doesn’t even have to say anything, she just gives me that look. Anyway, I’m getting a little sidetracked. My point is, the idea that I can create a character that’s not… “typical”. I can create a warhammer wielding, robe-wearing summoner. Which is both hilarious in it’s visuals, and also surprisingly fun to play. I like doing things out of the norm. I also like exploring the lore of some games, and the Elder Scrolls series has a very rich and deep lore, so creating characters that fit into the lore (in their motivations or their story or… ANYTHING really) is especially fascinating to me.
In short (ha!), I will never know what games are going to suck me in. I wasn’t expecting Skyrim to suck me in the way it has, but I still really enjoy myself still, 600+ hours in. Even if I am creating a new character every 2 or 3 days and only playing them up to level 20 or so before I go off and see a new shiny I want to try.
By the way, for anybody wondering about the title… when I was a kid we had this thing called music. And this song was a pretty big deal at the time. Enjoy the glorious 80s crap.