In what has become something of a yearly ritual, the time between early Spring and the next release of Madden brings with it almost nothing of interest to play. Last year, I was saved when Oblivion hit and kept me busy for a couple of months in this normally empty time. This year there is no such white knight to save the gaming industry from my disinterest. Worse, some new equipment and a nice overseas vacation have awakened other obsessions that have for the most part been dormant while the gaming obsession has taken its course.
It was probably inevitable that the lull this year would be worse than last. We are, after all, in the middle of an awkward, lurching transition into the latest generation of new hardware. There are not many good new games. Even Nintendo, the current darling of the universe, has only a few real titles for their adorable little box. Meanwhile, Sony is still selling stupidly expensive boxes that no one wants and Microsoft seems to think that the way to beat Sony is to do exactly the same thing. As a bonus, the Microsoft boxes also break all the time.
I think at some point the army of Sony first/second/third parties will step up to the plate and provide the machine with the library that it needs. I think when this happens the only thing the Xbox will really have going for it will be Halo 3, which I will play for a few months. Then maybe my 360 will melt and I can get just get rid of it.
All of this leaves me bored. I should be happily curled up with my copy of Puzzle Quest, or Pokemon Diamond or Paper Mario or Zelda instead of writing about how I’m not playing anything. Instead, I have found that I just don’t have the mental energy to invest right now. There are other things occupying those slots in my brain. Luckily, I can still get my gaming fix. I just let others do the playing for me.
Every week, I download the Gamers With Jobs podcast. Then I listen to these guys tell me what all they have been playing. It’s mostly a lot of obscure PC stuff (like World of Warcraft, ha ha just kidding) with the occasional console title or downloadable game tossed in for variety. They cover a lot of ground, and I get to hear about games that I probably would never attempt to play (I don’t own a PC). What the podcast does is allow me to vicariously consume some of the content of these games while never actually having to pick them up and play them. Thus, they remain latent objects, and as such can be somewhat idealized, and yet I still find out a bit about what goes on. The best of both worlds. It’s like reading a very detailed review or synopsis of the final season of The Sopranos. You get to find out roughly what happens, but you don’t have to sit through, or pay for, 20 hours of HBO content to do it.
For years, I have had a similar relationship with World of Warcraft. For various reasons that are too boring to go into, I will never play this game. Luckily, I don’t really need to because everyone else on Earth has already done so and told me what it’s like. I have one buddy who shall remain “anonymous” who has had his entire gaming life replaced with WoW. Where he used to play two or three different games each week, I believe he’s basically done nothing but WoW since the game launched. Whenever I need any new poop on the game, I just ask him. And, if I really need to be immersed in the WoW culture, I can go and watch that episode of South Park again. Really, that’s all I need to know.
The result of all of this is that I’m not feeling too bad mired in my little lull. The combination of other activities and these indirect gaming streams will keep me busy until the next thing comes along. Meanwhile, the occasional bout with the DS and a few innings of baseball on the PSP have been enough to keep my gaming brain happy.
As a side note, if you don’t know about Gamers with Jobs let me encourage you to go over there. It has the distinction of being the only place on the Interweb that I am familiar with that has a “message forum” where nitwits and assholes are largely absent (except for me). This is nothing short of a minor modern miracle.