“There’s a Final Fantasy Legend THREE?” I said to my mum, screaming. “WHY DON’T I HAVE IT?”
Things haven’t changed all that much. I am driven, as I imagine you are driven, by a powerful, ever-consuming desire for The Next Big Thing. There’s some chunk of our brain, some lizardy chromosome that encourages us to read Kotaku and browse screenshots and watch trailers as we greedily anticipate all the great-looking video games that aren’t yet out.
If you’re anything like me, all it takes is a couple of minutes of gametime for the apathy to hit. Oh, what’s this? The next Final Fantasy? Another Dragon Quest? OK. What’s next? Before we’ve even played for half an hour, we’re ready for more.
The other day, Nintendo sent over a copy of Paper Mario: Sticker Star (which I’ll be covering and reviewing over the next few weeks). This is a game I’d been anticipating for close to a year now. I saw a hands-off presentation at E3. I played a demo at PAX. I couldn’t wait to dig into it.
Around the same time, I read Jeremy Parish’s great preview of Bravely Default: Flying Fairy, a game that Square Enix really needs to announce for U.S. release already.
“For [Final Fantasy: 4 Heroes of Light‘s] spiritual sequel, Square has pushed the design sensibility forward by about a decade, tying together the feel of Final Fantasy IX (a whimsical-looking fantasy underscored by disaster and tragedy), the visuals of SaGa Frontier 2 (beautiful hand-drawn backdrops, these deftly combine 2D and 3D elements to create a stunning, immersive look), the Job mechanics of Final Fantasy V, and a somewhat old-school turn-based battle system that expands on some of 4 Heroes‘ concepts without being as hands-off or punishing about it. Parish wrote. “Despite its name, Bravely Default really is the sort of Final Fantasy experience gamers have been clamouring for.”
See what I mean? I often wonder if our ability to enjoy entertainment is hampered by the constant buzzing in our brains about what’s coming next. And I often worry that being excited about a game I don’t have yet is more fun than playing something I do.
Granted, working for Kotaku gives me far more exposure to exciting new video games than your average gamer. Not only do I read and experience everything there is to read and experience about what’s coming out in the near future, I tell other people all about them. And I play a role in encouraging peoples’ fixations on the new. But even before I started keeping up on the 24/7 cycle of video game news, I was always addicted to anticipation.
The other day, a friend of mine e-mailed me with a link to a Google document. On it he had written his entire backlog of video games. Games that he had purchased, but never played, from L.A. Noire to The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. The title of the document: “A personal neverending hell.”
My first reaction was not to empathise, but to wonder how much worse my version would be.
Maybe you’ve got something similar. A Steam library full of games you’ve bought and forgotten, purchased during cheap summer sales and immediately left to collect digital dust. Or a stack of discs next to your television with a note next to them: “To Play!” As if you ever will.
Or maybe it’s Amazon. I bought Star Ocean: The Last Hope on Amazon yesterday when it was on sale for eight bucks. The Last Hope is generally reviled by RPG fans as a mediocre game and horrific abuse of the Star Ocean title. But come on. Eight bucks! Will I ever open it? Who knows. I just couldn’t resist the call. An RPG I haven’t played yet. Super cheap. Brand new.
Even with these backlogs, these shelves full of discs and harddrives full of games we know we’ll never have time to play, we still continue to look to the future. We’re searching for something. Chasing something. Like heroin addicts hunting for black tar to shoot into their veins, we are constantly looking to get our fix. And we’re never satiated.
Not to get all depressing on you, but how many times have you purchased a new game only to find that it has lost your interest, that something bigger and better is on the horizon? How many games in your library have you finished? How many times have you stopped playing a game after just a few hours because some tantalising new siren is chanting for you?
So let this be a call to you. To me. To anyone who feels like they’re constantly looking to the future for new things to experience. Let’s take more time to appreciate what we have. Let’s look through our backlogs, pour over our shelves. Let’s spend a little less time in the future. Let’s spend a little bit more time in the present.
Random Encounters is a weekly column dedicated to all things JRPG.