12/05/2016

My PC Gaming Dilemma

I have had a Steam account since about early 2015, and haven't purchased a single game on it until the weekend of Black Friday. There was a massive sale and I got a bunch of games; some I have been familiar with and loved for years, others I have always wanted to try, and then some that my friends really wanted me to play online with them. It has been a good ride (despite PC troubleshooting bullshit) and I still haven't even tried Chivalry, BattleBlock Theater, or Rivals of Aether. Soon.

Another sale item I purchased via Steam while it was discounted for a limited time was not a game, but software called liteCAM. One of my main reasons for avoiding PC gaming like the plague is the same reason I only have eight 3DS games: I try to stick to games that I can capture footage for and talk about on the channel with functioning capture software that I have obtained legally. Now I have. I haven't done too much with it yet, but regardless liteCAM seems to be pretty reliable. Now that I have the power to record PC game footage at high resolution and frame rate without feeling dirty... should I? Or will I just feel dirty for different reasons?

Console games are typically pretty easy to review. Reviewing any game requires the reviewer to write a script that acknowledges the main focus of the game they are reviewing, or point out if it seems to have no real focus or contradicts its own ideals. A review in itself must also have a focus; a point that it is trying to convey made with multiple arguments that could probably make ten-minute video topics by themselves. Console games are usually relatively easy to form a consensus on through one playthrough and a swift drive-by of any extra content. This is because console games, especially older games like those on Super Nintendo, PS1, Nintendo 64, are designed to end. They have a main goal for you to accomplish in some respect, even more open-ended games like Animal Crossing or games with very vague plot-portrayal like Soul Calibur. Because the game's content is purposefully finite, you can make a critical analysis that has points made to hold up if someone were to look at our review five or maybe even ten years later. Your horrible jokes about Knuckles the Echidna or ad-lib rants about modern gaming philosophy might not hit as hard, but your underlying message should. Was that too specific to me? Yes. Let's move on.

The reason I said all that is to pose the question to the alternative: how do you make a concise conclusion on a game designed to live forever? A lot of PC gaming differs from most console gaming in the sense that things like open betas or MMO's are far more common. This line is being broken down year after year nowadays, but that's not the point of this post. For example of what the hell I am trying to say, I will bring up Smite. I love Smite. Smite isn't the best game in the world or anything, but it is absolutely my favorite MOBA and that along with League of Legends were admittedly the two games that restored my faith in PC gaming and showed me that the concept wasn't really as scary as I thought being raised on Crash Bandicoot: Warped, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, and Super Smash Bros., ergo games that just work when you turn them on. Smite is designed to keep going. Your only goals are to keep playing matches until you hit all of the available milestones on your account and then your incentive is to use your rewards from hitting those milestones to keep playing more matches, upon which you can play bigger ranked matches... so more matches. Playing matches to play different matches so you can be considered good enough to play another subset of matches. See where I'm going with this? Animal Crossing games have goals that you can tackle at your own pace, but because there are no microtransactions and there is a finite list of things to gather and do, Animal Crossing can be "completed". The player can get to a point in Animal Crossing where doing anything would be, by proxy, doing something in the game they have already done. Because Smite is designed to constantly be patched and periodically add new characters, skins, and potentially game modes, Smite is a bit harder to review. See what I mean yet?

When you review a game, you are reviewing an experience. When I say "Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus has interesting platforming choices and charming characters that make the game a unique experience", that is something that can probably be argued pretty easily in the year 2040. If my review said "Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus holds up to today's standards" (which I think I actually did do that), that statement will eventually become obsolete in at least one respect, but probably more because that's how time and manifest destiny work. But you can say the former statement about Sly Cooper 1 because the game, whether on PS2 or the PS3 remaster, is not going to change. It's standard of scrutiny may change, but what has been published on disc or digitally distributed on the PS3's network will still play out as the same game. The Smite of today will not be the same Smite two years from now, and that statement will probably apply until Hi-Rez abandons the game completely. 

The same I feel goes for a lot of indie titles. Two specific examples of games I got on Steam recently are Skullgirls and Bombernauts (both of which are super fun and impressive and if you haven't played them, you should at least find some way to give them a whirl). Skullgirls currently has two versions on Steam: Skullgirls and Skullgirls Endless Beta. Endless Beta is what it sounds like. So that's another game that is constantly maintained. In this case, even reviewing the old version seems a little pointless in some cases doesn't it? Or at least in the way I review. Bombernauts is also constantly being worked on as well. In fact, it is labelled as "early access" as of this post. What's the point of making a full review on a game that the developers have openly declared unfinished?

So the question still stands on how many of these games I will actually make a full Randomrings Reviews installment about and if doing so would tweak the integrity of the series. I haven't even mentioned mods in this post. That's a whole other field! A whole other sport! I wish this blog post came to an actual answer for myself to give anyone who reads this closure, but in this case, you really more just witnessed an argument I have had with myself since 2014 or so. Yes. I planned a Smite review in the very, very early days of Randomrings Channel. The main excuse I gave myself for not doing it was because I did not have a way to capture footage efficiently at the time, but even then I pictured a world where I did have that ability and still wondered if I should review a game with somewhat amorphous design.

On the other hand, I did get some games that I think (keyword there: "think") would still be about the same principle as doing a console review like I have been for a while. Closure is a game that greatly interests me that I have been having a great time with since I finally re-obtained it on Steam (long story). Broforce seems like a viable target but I don't know how much to say about it.

Oh well. That's my rant on whether or not I will actually review PC games in the future. It's a strong maybe but at least now I have the option to do it if something really strikes me... like Closure.

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