Tuesday afternoon I got the Internet connected in my new home. From Wednesday morning until Thursday afternoon, my PlayStation 3 was downloading every free title due to me as a PlayStation Plus subscriber. Since I moved, that console has literally spent more time acquiring games than I will likely spend playing them, or any game on that console for at least the next month.
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine? Did I have any interest in that game before now? No. Lara
Croft and the Guardian of Light? I wasn't even aware of that until it showed up. Sure, I'd been meaning to get around to inFamous 2, but Choplifter HD? Really? Why?
At least it's easy to identify why I picked all of these up: They are free, and if I don't download them, then some or all of the subscription I'm paying to Sony is being wasted.
But most of the others I have, especially those gathering dust on a shelf, don't afford the same excuse. I cataloged every single video game I own — console and mobile, retail and downloadable, even including the free-to-play clients I have installed and the stupid poker simulators I bought for my iMac in 2007. The total? Four-hundred forty-seven.
Think about that for a second. That's more than 400 video games. That includes titles like MLB Stickball and Red Dead Redemption. It applies to beloved, dog-eared titles like Borderlands and classics I never finished — but should have — like Grand Theft Auto III. It gives Canabalt equal weight to DC Universe Online, sure, but it also doesn't account for a game that took hours from me — like L.A. Noire, or Bully or Mafia II — before I traded it in. Nor all of the sports video games I have played, from NCAA Football 2005 through countless obsolete versions of Madden NFL.
I seriously must wonder if having video games has become a greater priority than even playing them.
This isn't like a music collection, in which you are practically assured of owning more content than you could possibly be expected to know in a firsthand, critical fashion. It's more like a wall full of unfinished great books. The difference is, frankly, it's easier to fake knowledge of the contents of a book, no matter how important the work, than a video game. Cliffs Notes and Wikipedia will give you what you need to know — the story, the characters, their motivations, etc, from Moby Dick to Anna Karenina. I can find all of that for the original Mass Effect. But if the controversy over that trilogy's ending, and reconditioning, has shown us anything, it's the necessity of actually playing through the game to speak to its outcomes with any sort of authority.
I'm never completing the entire Mass Effect trilogy, but I still have all of it. I still have Fallout New Vegas, which I swear I haven't touched beyond speccing out my first character at 1 a.m. one night and then realising there would be no way I'd ever finish what I had started. I have Saint's Row: The Third still in shrink-wrap, next to SSX and WWE '12 I can go ahead and sell WWE '12 now, I won't finish a career in it before WWE '13 arrives. And, hell, maybe not before WWE '14 comes around.
This is where the Pile of Shame, which every gamer has and refers to in a self-deprecating manner, begins to anger me. Because it represents a waste of money — a game you'll never play; or a waste of time — thousands of man-hours spent building something that only got a weekend rental's worth of use, even if it was purchased.
In one sense, this is my occupational hazard because I'm required to have an inch-deep/mile-wide understanding of my subject. But unlike a film critic, I really do take my work home with me. I keep it. I put it on a shelf. I tell myself I will see all it has to offer. Some day. When I'm stranded on a desert island with a console and a TV and a power supply.
Hey folks, Something Negative is a rant. Love it or hate it, we all need to blow off steam on Fridays. Let yours out in the comments.