Image by Flickr user Steve Paine (CC)

Deleting the Fluff; Playing with Passion

Image by Flickr user Steve Paine (CC)
Image by Flickr user Steve Paine (CC)

If I was placed under duress to name one amazing aspect of modern gaming, (because there are many) it would be accessibility. Simply put, one need not stray far from common technologies to access video games. They are available through consoles, desktops, laptops, streaming devices (i.e. Roku), tablets, and phones. And perhaps most importantly, a good many available games are FREE. Well…make that “free,” at least in some cases.

When I first got a phone that was capable for playing games, I loaded it to the brim with free fodder like Angry Birds and Cut the Rope. Same thing happened when I got my first tablet. Only with the tablet, I expanded my game gobbling to include paid titles as well as freemium games like The Simpsons: Tapped Out and Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff. And I was happy. I was happy to have nothing less than a plethora of quick and easy games right at my fingertips for any occasion: my morning commute, waiting for an Xbox One game to load, or trying to ignore a “fun” family conversation. If you had seen my tablet just a couple weeks ago, you would have seen a full page of game icons. Because even if I didn’t really like one of the free games I had shamelessly installed, I still liked having it around just in case I changed my mind or got really, really, really bored.

I said “a couple weeks ago” because as of today, that home screen looks completely different.

It looks so...empty. (Image by cary)
It looks so…empty. (Image by cary)

Yes, I recently said goodbye to nearly all of the free and freemium games cluttering up my life. (I even made Google Play “forget” me in case I feel off the free games wagon.) And you know what’s mostly to blame for the extreme purge?

Xenoblade Chronicles.

At the tail end of January, my family got together for pizza and games. It was a fun evening made all the more memorable by my brother handing me a copy of Xenoblade Chronicles. “I’m not playing it right now; would you like to borrow it?” he asked out of the blue. I was taken aback, as I don’t recall recounting to him my sad ordeal with the game. (TL;DR, I quit the game due to its extremely long main story.) “YES THANK YOU” was about all I could sputter in the moment. (And part of me still can’t believe that the game is sitting in my house right now.) I had been pining for Xenoblade Chronicles ever since I called it quits, and witnessing the fine prospects of Xenoblade Chronicles X made me regret that decision even further.

I loved the time I spent with Xenoblade Chronicles. Despite some graphical drawbacks, it was truly captivating in story and scope. Colony 9 was a seemingly limitless world filled with vast places to explore. The game’s control scheme was unique and offered something new from your same ol’, same ol’ real-time combat systems. If I had had the time to rightly sink my teeth in to the expansive game when I first played it in mid 2013, I absolutely would have. But time was not on my side then.

Is time on my side now?

Well…no. If I’m being honest, my current path to Xenoblade Chronicles is littered with obstacles. Yes, I wanted to get rid of the fluffy games because they were becoming little more than un-enjoyable distractions. But beside tons of real life duties that constantly beckon, I’ve got tons of other non-fluffy games to play! Let’ see…so there’s Metroid Prime and continuing with the series. There’s my slow restart of Dragon Age: Inquisition. There’s Batman: Arkham Origins, which I recently started (and love!) in preparation for Batman: Arkham Knight. There’s the Bayonetta games that I can’t quite stop playing because I might just be addicted. Oh, and because I’m crazy, now Pokemon Emerald.

But one thing that binds all those games together over the “fluff” is meaning. This is not to say that Angry Birds is meaningless, but for me, at this stage in my gaming career, playing it is nowhere near as close to my heart as delving back into Xenoblade Chronicles, a game that’s replete with story and wonder. Because of that, priorities must be set. And I could probably devote a whole post the strange joys/evils of freemium games. Suffice to say here that though I truly liked the games for a time, both The Simpsons and Family Guy games eventually became dull and formulaic. Plus, both displayed some really obnoxious ways to try to get you to spend real money on in-game stuff. I’m sorry Homer, but not even your loveable, self-deprecating humor and coarse, ultra-self-aware jokes about EA could sway me. (Besides, millions of other people are keeping those games alive and well, and they have every right to do so.)

Of course, it’s easy enough to say “no more distractions from fluffy games; time to play what I’m really passionate about,” but it’s hard to put into practice. Because the fact of the matter is that though I really, really, really want to complete Xenoblade Chronicles, it’s not a huge priority either. I still can’t quite get past its lengthy gameplay, and I haven’t been in the RPG mindset much of late. But, if anything, just having the game once again is motivation enough to place it on the soon-to-play list.

How do you deal with setting gaming priorities? What factors do you take into consideration when you choose to game? Do you think that “fluffy” (free/freemium) games like The Simpsons: Tapped Out serve a greater purpose beyond simply filling time?

10 thoughts on “Deleting the Fluff; Playing with Passion”

  1. I ditched fluffy games a while back and don’t miss them. It was the time limits that got me. So many of them are “click and wait an hour.” I hate that. It’s not even real gameplay. When it comes to prioritizing, I have three categories: mobile, with the kids, and solo. The games currently occupying those slots are Majoras Mask, Kingdom Hearts, and Minecraft. When I’m done with one, I replace it. Minecraft has been on there for a long time.

    1. I like your categorization method! I follow a similar path, except my categories fall into handheld (Pokemon Emerald), console (up to three at a time — Batman: Arkham Origins, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Metroid Prime [on and off]), and PC (Stacking). And yep, when one’s done, another takes its place. It helps keep a nice rotation going.

      When I was heavily into the Simpsons and Family Guy games, the waiting was indeed bothersome, but it never got to me as much as when they’d promote irksome “sales.” Either things were barely on sale or you had to check the game every day/hour/minute to catch something for cheap before it disappeared. The money-grabbing was just too much in the end.

  2. I have a ton of free games on my phone and used to play it for a time until I started not playing them as much. Part of it has to do with not wanting to drain the battery on my phone when I’m out and the other being that there’s so much more better games I could be playing. I still keep those games on my phone, but I should probably consider doing a clean sweep too.

    1. Oh man, battery drain — that’s exactly why I had to stop playing games on my phone! Only then I started adding more and more to my tablet. And I think the battery drain became even worse there. I’m not advocating for the demise of free games — I can think of no better way to pass the time while sustaining a lengthy wait in a doctor’s office! — but when you realize you’re spending more time tapping or swiping a screen than battling demons and romancing lords and ladies in shining armor, maybe it’s time for a change. :)

  3. Do freemium games serve a higher purpose than time wasting? Well… yes and no. To be fair, I do play The Simpsons Tapped Out, but it is a skinner box through and through. I get a quick time-waster with little upkeep that’s quirky, familiar, and entertaining, and in return I let them attempt to sway me into buying into their devious paid currency. These games are like appetizers. They help relieve a little stress from my day, and allow me a few minutes of respite. But after I get home and can boot up my PC? Then little games like that mean nothing. I can definitely survive without them, but having them around is still a nice option.

    1. See, that’s how I used to be with the Simpsons and Family Guy games. They were stress relief and precursors to playing “real” games. Like, a few minutes of world-building and fun storytelling was enough to whet the big gaming appetite. But after a few months of disciplined tapping for only a few minutes a day, I found myself checking in on the games more and more. Soon, a few minutes here and a few minutes there added up to loosing a couple hours a day just finagling with those games, and that was not good. I have zero qualms with these games and know that they really can be enjoyable in moderation (or more, for those more controlled than I). And it’s great that they have a pretty stable place in the gaming world — variety is the spice of life, after all!

  4. Reblogged this on Recollections of Play and commented:

    I’ll admit it. For awhile there I was hard into playing games on my tablet. I had lots of games from which to choose, and that number seemed to grow weekly every time I logged into Google Play. All it took was the re-introduction of Xenoblade Chronicles to make me take a long, hard look at the direction in which my gaming life was going. I covered this journey to redemption (or maybe “redemption”) in the following post for United We Game.

  5. I like that you call those games “fluffy” games. It’s very fitting. I have never played any “fluffy” games myself because my favorite aspect of video games is an interesting plot and characters, which doesn’t seem to be present in all those silly, little Angry Birds games and those Tetris-y games with the candy or whatever. My mom tries such games from time to time on her tablet, but they never last long, either because they become tedious or she grows tired of the game begging her for money. Ads are tiring enough on TV without popping up during games.

    And now that my time has become more limited, not only will I not play the “fluffy” games, but I’m getting really tired of games like Super Mario Bros, as well. I used to love Mario games, but it’s just the same old thing, and they’re too difficult, so they’re not very fun. I want deeper games, so my gaming priorities currently consist of games that have meaning to me, whether they have a story that captivates me or great gameplay I can’t get enough of. My current game is the remake of Kingdom Hearts 2. It’s fun, and I have a deep connection to it. That’s how I choose my games nowadays.

    1. I’m so glad you said that about Mario games, because I feel the same! I got Super Mario 3D World at Christmas, and I really enjoyed it for a couple weeks. I got all the way to the end, though I didn’t defeat Bowser. Instead, I moved onto other games thinking that I’d return to Mario as soon as I could. It has yet to happen because, really, I already know how the game ends. It never changes. Now, that’s okay for Mario because that’s the way it is, but for me, when I have more compelling things to do than to beat Bowser, again, and watch Mario and Peach celebrate, again, it’s just not a priority. Story and gameplay are now pretty key for me when choosing games as well. At least for now.

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