This is the ultimate first-world problem: you have a massive backlog of games you’ve purchased and you’ve been meaning to get to them for a long time now. But when it comes time to sit down and actually play something, you gravitate to one or two old favourites. Does that sound like you, or am I completely alone here?
It’s not like SUPERJUMP hasn’t well and truly considered this question around big gaming backlogs in one form or another over the years. But it occurs to me, sitting here right now, that the problem has only gotten worse thanks to the rise of services like Microsoft’s Game Pass — where I once thought I had a fairly defined backlog that I could work through, I now have access to this seemingly never ending ocean of content that is continually coming and going, with games being added and removed from the service on a regular basis.
And, look, I don’t mean to complain here: in my view, there has never been a better time to be a gamer. It’s even finally getting easier to access and play very old games now thanks to devices like the (absolutely lovely) Analogue FPGA consoles or the remarkable Polymega. And that’s not to mention services like Nintendo Switch Online, which is increasingly becoming a rich treasure trove of NES and SNES era classics — all available in the palm of your hand, and with fancy new features (like online multiplayer) to boot.
Nevertheless, I find there are certain games that I automatically return to. I’d almost call them “lifestyle games”, in the sense that they are like toys you can pick up and play with at any time, with as much or as little time and energy investment as you prefer. Some games specifically strive to be “lifestyle games” (I’m looking at you, Destiny 2), with the inclusion of elaborate post-campaign scenarios and some combination of daily, weekly, and event-driven activities. There are two games I regularly play no matter what other new shiny thing has just been released: Apex Legends and Splatoon 2.
I’ve written quite a bit about Apex Legends (even going so far as to discuss teamwork tips over at IGN). I’m certainly not an elite Apex player. In fact, I’d say I comfortably occupy the snug spare-tyre wrapped around the game’s mid-section where most players probably sit. I’m just good enough to enjoy myself, but I’m certainly challenged in every single match (and I’ve had plenty of near-instant deaths). What’s truly awesome about Apex Legends is that it’s so frighteningly easy to dive in and play a few rounds — sure, you can make some Battle Pass progress, but I’ve never really cared about that — and then you can put the game down for days or weeks at a time. It’s just so effortless; each match is a self-contained story, and I have so many fond memories of specific moments (from hilarious to hair-raising and everything in between).
Splatoon 2 — which I’m currently not playing so much — has played a similar role in my gaming diet. Easy to jump into, each match is a self-contained event, and my skill level is reasonable enough not to be either frustrated by constant defeat or bored through effortless victory.
As I grow older — I’ll be 38 this year (yikes!) — it’s certainly becoming apparent that leisure time can be both precious and limited, especially as my career carves out ever-larger overheads (both on my time, and on my intellectual and emotional capacity). So, although I love diving into a great new game (right now I’m thoroughly enjoying Assassin’s Creed Valhalla), there’s something absolutely wonderful about the ability to cozy up with an old friend that never demands more of me than I can give.
Do you have a go-to game of your own? I’d love to know what it is!
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