The Casual Gamer: Introduction

This entry is part 1 of 6 in the series The Casual Gamer

I’m a gamer, but because I’m also a full-time professional with a family, farm, and other ambitions, I don’t have the time to play games nearly as much I would like to. I’m also a writer, and I enjoy writing about the games I play. For a while now I’ve wanted to start a new web site called “The Casual Gamer” where I could pontificate at length on this particular passion of mine. Except there ended up being a little hitch in my plans. As it turns out, just about every variation of domain name involving ‘thecasualgamer.xyz’ has already been purchased by some cyber-squatter or another, and I’m not really interested in paying the exorbitant fees that will undoubtedly be required to get one of them released.

So I’ve decided on a compromise of sorts. Instead of building a whole new website with a domain name I’ll never be entirely happy with, I’m going to start a new series here with the same name. Doing this is an on-going series allows me keep each essay linked together and serves the additional benefit of keeping my work consolidated under my own brand.

I’m planning to run this as a weekly series, with new essays appearing every Monday, rather than as a daily or even semi-weekly series. It is called “The Casual Gamer,” after all. There are some weeks I never have time to so much as pick up a controller.

You can expect to see game reviews, philosophy and psychology of gaming (which will hopefully be more interesting than it sounds), discussion about exciting moments, and anything else that happens to interest me that given week. I also don’t plan to limit myself to just video games. There will also likely be essays on tabletop and card games, as well. This is going to be a bit of an evolving experience, I think, and I hope you’ll come along with me for the ride.

The first official essay in the series will appear sometime on Monday, so stay tuned!

The Casual Gamer: Assassin’s Creed

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series The Casual Gamer

Over this past holiday season I finally finished the first title in the Assassin’s Creed series. I picked up the Platinum Hits edition a few years ago, playing it in fits and starts, but it wasn’t until now that I decided to push through and complete the game. And I’m really glad I did.

Be forewarned: potential spoilers beyond this point. Continue reading The Casual Gamer: Assassin’s Creed

The Casual Gamer: Elemental Kingdoms

This entry is part 3 of 6 in the series The Casual Gamer

I’ve been a fan of trading card games (TCG) for several years now, but the fact that you have to keep investing in new expansions as they become available in order to remain competitive prevents me from enjoying them as much as I’d like. So, whenever a free TCG for iOS launches, I get curious. Finding one that’s actually enjoyable over the long haul, though, is a bit more of a problem. (You get what you pay for.) →

The Casual Gamer: Grinding, Energy Caps, and Other Arbitrary Limiters

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the series The Casual Gamer

If you happen to be one of those individuals lucky enough to make video games for a living, then do me a favor. Have a seat, grab a drink, and listen up. Because as a gamer, I’m about to have a chat with you about a couple of elements of certain types of games that infuriate me. This isn’t because I want to hear myself gripe, but because I want you as a developer to start making better games.

So, comfortable? Good. Now pay attention. I want to chat about game mechanics that block forward progress. Let’s grind away at this issue.

The Casual Gamer: Console Wars

This entry is part 5 of 6 in the series The Casual Gamer

This past week I entered the ranks of next-generation gamers. What’s remarkable about this, at least for me, is that this is probably the earliest in a new console cycle that I’ve acquired a next-gen system. When I received my first-gen Xbox as a gift, that system had already been on the market for two or three years. The Xbox 360 had been out for nearly two by the time I acquired one. This time around, both the Xbox One and the PS4 have been out for just a handful of months. It’s… odd being a (relatively) early adopter, and the decision about which console to purchase first was not an easy one.

I’ve been an Xbox fan for years. I originally acquired an Xbox because I wanted to play Halo, which was surprising in itself. Shooters aren’t typically my bag. When the 360 came out and the Halo franchise continued on that system, upgrading was a no-brainer. I barely even looked at the Playstation line. Sony had few exclusive titles for its console that interested me, and the few that did still didn’t make it worth investing in the Playstation ecosystem.

Then this past year, Microsoft and Sony both revealed their next generation consoles, along with several titles that would be appearing in the first year’s library (and beyond). Most of these titles were cross-platform, and both consoles touted powerful features that made them highly attractive options. For the first time, I actually found myself actively interested in both consoles. The decision to upgrade was suddenly vastly more complicated, since the individual price points for the consoles would make it impossible to adopt both at the same time. Whichever one I purchased first meant it would be a while before I could acquire the other.

Ultimately, the decision came down to a single game, ironically one that will be available on both systems. Which, of course, is the reason why I ended up acquiring a PS4 first.

1. Destiny

The one title I’ve been looking forward to for the better part of two years has been the forthcoming Destiny from Bungie. Ever since Bungie passed the Mantle of responsibility for the Halo franchise over to Microsoft and 343 Industries, I’ve been eagerly awaiting their next Big Thing. Destiny is that thing. Originally, I’d planned to follow with tradition and play Destiny exclusively on the Xbox One. I’m already well invested in that particular ecosystem, after all. But the more I’ve learned about Destiny over the past few months, the more I’m convinced that the premium Destiny experience will be found on the PS4. All other things being more or less equal, this ultimately was the final tipping point in my choice of next-gen systems.

2. Tied the Leader

One of the factors in this equation that made this decision so difficult was considering the clan I’ve been a part of since the Halo 2 days — Tied the Leader. The Gunslingers have been like a second family to me for years, providing an armed escort that is focused on sportsmanship, camaraderie, and teamwork whenever venturing into the killing fields. TTL has taken a casual stance of adopting the Xbox One as our clan’s primary next-gen console, which meant that if I went with the PS4 first I would potentially be cutting myself off from my allies on the battlefield. Many of the Gunslingers have stated, however, that they plan to keep at least one Guardian in the PS4 ecosystem, so I’m optimistic I’ll still be able to have my Gunslinger escort whenever I go out to reclaim our lost worlds from the encroaching Darkness.

3. Time Is Scarce

With a full-time job, a farm to run (which may as well be a second full-time job), a family that includes two small children (one currently less than three months old), and various other obligations, my time to game is sparse. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve gotten any games in with my fellow Gunslingers, who have themselves moved on to other shooters. TTL is no longer a Halo-exclusive clan, and that’s a good thing. What that translates into, though, is that, even if I had more time to game, I probably still wouldn’t be playing much with TTL. The shooters they play aren’t generally attractive to my own interests, so I feel like what little time I have to game is better spent on titles I’ll actually enjoy. Trying to ramrod gaming sessions into an already busy schedule just to have a little face time with the Gunslingers doesn’t make sense. Destiny will, of course, be the exception to that rule because A) it’s a Bungie shooter, B) it’s going to be a rich mythic sci-fi story, and C) it’s a multiplayer game I’m actually interested in. Knowing there will be Gunslingers playing Destiny on the PS4 made it that much easier to move in that direction first.

Conclusion

There are a dozen other little factors that played into my choice, ultimately, very few of which would be interesting or relevant to anyone but me. I’ve had my PS4 for just under a week now, and I’m already very happy with the decision. I do plan to acquire an Xbox One sometime in the next year, hopefully before Halo 5: Guardians launches (which, incidentally, is another case of a single title driving a console purchase decision). Most of the games I buy for that system are similarly likely to be single-player games, because that’s what I can fit into my busy schedule. It’s an interesting time to be a gamer, and I’m looking forward to seeing what new titles are added to the libraries for both systems in the next year.

The Casual Gamer: Destiny First Look Alpha

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series The Casual Gamer

For a week and a half, I was privileged to be able to play BUNGiE’s First Look Alpha build of their upcoming new title Destiny. This has been one of my most anticipated gaming titles, and being able to get a sneak peek at their next big thing was an amazing experience. With the lifting of the media embargo last week, there are already a lot of resources out there to get a sense of what Destiny is all about, so I won’t rehash those. A quick Google search will turn up a wealth of information about this new IP. I do, however, want to add my own take on the game with regard to what I most enjoyed about the Alpha and what I’m most looking forward to about the finished game. Continue reading The Casual Gamer: Destiny First Look Alpha