Myself, in Games

January 24, 2020

Since I decided to start reviewing games on this website, I figured I should provide a little bit of information about my background when it comes to games. Hopefully this will help people understand where I'm coming from when I make certain points—and more importantly, why I give certain games the scores I give them.

Through the Years

I've been playing video games as a hobby since I was about five years old. My first video games were Toy Story and Columns for the Sega Genesis. My first serious "favorite video game" was probably Sonic 3 & Knuckles, which I still love to this day. Other early favorites included Ristar and Dynamite Headdy, also for the Genesis. By the age of eight or so I was developing rudimentary software using Visual Basic 4.0. This was eventually followed by Clickteam's The Games Factory/Multimedia Fusion and I ultimately ended up going to college for game development. The degree itself didn't really pay off, but the networking did, and I ended up where I am today, which is coding intranet software for the state in NJ. (Disclaimer: This website has absolutely nothing to do with my career at the DEP and does not reflect the views of the DEP or the State of New Jersey in any way).

Throughout all this, video games followed me wherever I went. I never really followed one particular company. I spent some time as a very young child with my parents' Atari 2600, Colecovision & Intellivision, but the first console that was "mine" was the Sega Genesis. I bought a Game Boy Color with my own money to make sure I hit the Pokemon craze, of course. I bought a PS2 late in its life cycle specifically for Guitar Hero. One of my fondest memories is of the Sega Dreamcast, which introduced me to plenty of cult classics like Elemental Gimmick Gear, Jet Set Radio and Evolution. The Nintendo Gamecube & Game Boy Advance were also some of my favorites along the way—plenty of classics to be found there.

Eventually, my interest in consoles started to wane; or, more specifically, I got pretty heavily into World of Warcraft for a very long time, starting around my sophomore year in high school. The Nintendo DS was another favorite somewhere along the line, and I had tons of fun with the touch & dual screen gimmicks. I did own a Wii which lasted me through the beginning of college, though I started to find myself with less time to sit down and play video games. I also owned an XBox 360 and ended up developing a small indie game called Euphorium for the XBox Live Indie Games service. This is where I fell in love with Rock Band, and I have fond memories of the series. I eventually had a Wii U but found it lackluster and barely touched it (as I think many people did). In retrospect, I missed out on a lot of classics, but that's in the past.

After college I transformed into primarily a PC gamer. I started using more of Steam (although to this day, I disagree with many of their business & licensing practices). I started to grow tired of this platform as well and found myself spending more time chasing achievements than actually enjoying games. In 2019, after much hesitation, I bought a Nintendo Switch and ended up falling in love with it. Around this time my girlfriend also moved in with me and we found it an excellent system that we could both enjoy.

Now, More Specific

Aside from what systems I've owned, it's prudent to mention what type of "gamer" I am as well (I dislike the word "gamer", but that's neither here nor there). In game design, we use the terms "softcore", "midcore" and "hardcore" to refer to gamers. The general rule of thumb is that hardcore gamers structure their lives around their game time, midcore players structure their game time around their lives, and softcore players play when the opportunity presents itself. I would say I fluctuate between all three categories, but I mainly hover somewhere within the midcore demographic. I am interested in excelling at games, but only at games I am interested in. I'm not the kind of person who will throw his life away just to play video games, but I do love them as a hobby and I do play certain games into the ground. Typically I will try to 100% most games I am interested in, unless it's incredibly tedious or simply un-fun to do it. If a game REALLY ropes me in, I will 100% it and complete every possible optional objective (even if it isn't all that fun) for the satisfaction of having done it and to spend more time with a game I love. To summarize, I'm a midcore player who likes to complete everything he can, but only as long as I'm still having fun—so I have my limits.

I wouldn't say I have one favorite genre. I tend to like games featuring robots or the themes of man/nature vs. machines, but it's not a requirement. I definitely like quirky, interesting, and novel ideas, and those games usually intrigue me the most. There is also a spot in my heart for games that take a very standard concept and polish it until it shines. Being trained as a game developer and being a software engineer, I also like to dig into the mechanics of games and I appreciate when a game does something very well—even if that something is not particularly new or exciting. Some of my all-time favorite games include Mother 3, Jet Set Radio, Sonic 3 & Knuckles, the Danganronpa and Phoenix Wright original trilogies, Sanctum 2, Nier Automata, Super Mario Odyssey and Rock Band 2 (Which I miss dearly). More recently, I've really enjoyed Yoku's Island Express, Sayonara Wild Hearts and Diablo III for the Switch, and at the time of writing this post I am just rounding out my relics in the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy.

An Ideal

My goal with these game reviews is to keep it as objective as possible. It's never going to be possible for me to completely remove my opinions from everything I write, so of course there will always be some bias; but I assure you there will absolutely never be paid reviews here. No social media either: I hate that stuff. The language I use throughout the site will range from "kind of formal" to "completely informal", so expect swearing. My rating scale is from zero to five in increments of 0.5, and 2.5 is precisely "average"; you will see no "7/10, it's an average game" statements here. I aim to be as honest and transparent as possible, and I will try to point out when a game has micro-transactions or any sketchy business models. I understand that corporations need to make money, but I believe there are fair and moral/ethical ways to do that, so I will try to point out when a company is doing something that goes against a more ideal standard.

As somewhat of a completionist, I will really dig deep when I review these games. I also consider myself fairly decent at video games, so what is "easy" to me might be "challenging" to an average player. Conversely, there are some mechanics and types of games that I am simply terrible with; for example, I can get really hung up on the most basic of puzzles, then breeze through very difficult ones. Because of all this, some of the things I experience may not apply to you. My girlfriend at the time of this writing is a very casual player, so where it's prudent to do so, I will include my observations of the game from a casual perspective as well to try and round things out a little more.