I had a good year in 2010 on a number of fronts, and gaming in particular. I’ve been reading all of the retrospectives in the video gaming press and the idea certainly seems to have caught in my head, so I figured I’d try and put it to words rather then let it fester. I got about half way into writing this and decided to split it up over a few posts. In his post I’ll cover the intro and PC and web gaming. Subsequent posts will cover Xbox and mobile gaming.
This year I played video games on the Web, Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Xbox 360, Microsoft Zune HD, Palm Pre, Nintendio DSi, Microsoft Kinect, Microsoft Windows Phone 7 on HTC HD7, Nook Color, and at the dining room table.
Reading that list it is more obvious then ever that I’m really heavily invested in the Microsoft eco-system of products and I’m happy to say that this year really feels like Microsoft tried harder then any year in recent memory to make that worth my while. That is certainly not to say that they don’t have a long way to go on a lot of fronts: Why can I not “Play To” an Xbox 360 directly from a Zune HD, any WP7 device, or any of the other Windows boxes on my network? Why doesn’t the Zune interface on the 360 allow for local media playback? Why don’t my “hearts” in Zune persist across all interfaces? Among MANY other weird little missing bits. Still it does all work together pretty well and I’m fairly happy with it. But back to gaming…
PC gaming this year fell somewhat by the wayside. It’s been something that I’ve been doing a bit less and less of over the years but this year in particular really seems to have taken a big step back. I played a few fun little “casual” games, most of which I don’t really remember but I only played two “AAA” games on my PC this year and one lower tier MMO and I didn’t really do much with any of them. Those three in particular were Dragon Age, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, and LEGO Universe. All of them are great games. They have oodles of fairly interesting content, are open to several different types of play, and generally look stunning but with all of them my interest just waned over time. I do still intend to finish the main storyline of Dragon Age, but I think I’ll be cancelling my WoW subscription again this afternoon and I’ have pre-payed for LEGO Universe through the end of the year but I just don’t know how much time I’ll be spending logged into it. Part of the problem is that I can not quite put my finger on what precisely about these games doesn’t hold my attention. Is it that they are too big and so I don’t quite feel like I’m getting far enough fast enough? Or is it related to a similar theme in my fiction reading where I’m just not interested in fantasy environments anymore but still have fun with Science Fiction settings? But if that was the case, why didn’t LEGO Universe have more attraction for me over the long term?
Some casual games on the PC that did stand out this year are all PopCap properties: I continued to play Plants Vs Zombies occasionally and both Zuma’s Revenge and Bejeweled 3 were released this year and managed to soak quite a few hours but after the initial time spent on them they have joined the collection of icons in the start menu that I tend not to think too much about. The game that I played the most on the PC for the umpteenth year in a row? Minesweeper.
LEGO Universe probably deserves a few more words from me. I was in the open beta for most of the summer and so I’ve seen it progress from a seriously buggy game to a fairly fun romp through a simplified MMO universe. Is it great? Well…. no. But it is fun and there is plenty there for people who want to spend the time in it. For me though I don’t find building in LU to be worth the effort when I could be doing the same sort of building in LDD or MLCAD and be able to share those creations with a whole lot more people. The animation options in LU do make it a bit of a different experience, but I got to do many of the same things in LEGO Indiana Jones 2 on the Xbox and I got Achievements for my Xbox Gamertag for doing it. I think I might show it to K and maybe M later this year and see what they think but without a solid social lure with people I know playing it I just don’t think it’s something I’ll be spending a lot of time with.
Games on the web suffered somewhat similar fates where I spend some time on them initially and after not too much time just stop playing them. Echo Bazaar (sometimes called “Fallen London”) held my attention for a good few weeks and was a lot of fun while I was still playing it. It’s still fun to see tweets from my friends when they re-light their candles. If you are looking for a Facebook style of game without having to deal with Facebook, it is absolutely worth a look. The other web game that I can remember is one I finally got around to in the last couple of weeks of the year: Zuma Blitz. I spent some time in 2009 exploring apps on Facebook and was generally unimpressed. I tried Bejeweled Blitz earlier this year and thought it was decent but it also didn’t hold my attention. So far Zuma Blitz is about at the point where I expect that my interest might either continue at the current level (where I pull it up a couple times a week) or decline to nothing and I think I would be happy with either of those options. However, I think if PopCap released a PC or Xbox native version of the game I might stick with it a lot longer. Not saying that I’ll spend any money on the game, but it certainly is tempting some days.