Gamer, know thyself

For years, I’ve considered myself an Xbox gamer. I collected achievements, and spent time customizing my avatar. I beat Culdcept SAGA. I played through Oblivion twice fully, and Skyrim 1 1/2 times.  I have literally hundreds of hours logged on Xbox. But it’s been a while since the last Elder Scrolls game, and the Xbox has gone unplayed this year. And we didn’t get an Xbox One. I’m not sure I can call myself an “Xbox gamer” anymore. Maybe not even a “gamer” at all.

Double Rainbow in Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

But hold on, I’ll always have my DS, right? In theory, my busy lifestyle demands the flexibility of on-the-go gaming. My husband and kids all play DS. I used to, when Professor Layton first came out, but my daughter had inherited that DS and I hadn’t replaced it. But when Animal Crossing New Leaf came out, in the middle of my existential gamer crisis, it seemed like the perfect time to get back into DS gaming.

It was a barrel of monkeys for a while. I synched up with the kids and visited their Animal Crossing towns, something I’d envisioned doing with them since 2005. New Leaf is unarguably superior to its predecessors. But as usual, I started out vowing to complete my museum for real this time… and got tired of the game long before I could. I was left with a new DS and nothing to play.

Meanwhile, a friend had told me about a Kickstarter for a game called 7 Days to Die. Minecraft + zombies? You have my attention! I dove into the campaign whole-heartedly, reveling in the excitement as they passed the $500,000 mark. And the game delivered. There’s just something about searching through abandoned houses for canned food that does it for me.

It was during the 7 Days Kickstarter that I came across a YouTuber by the name of Rhinocrunch. You can’t always trace an event origin back to its catalyst, but for me, this was the catalyst. Because that’s how I discovered Don’t Starve, and Nether, and started spending more time gaming on my PC.   And because of Nether, which is only available through Valve’s Steam service, I started using Steam. For whatever reason, I’d always avoided it in the past. I just didn’t understand what it was all about.

Call me a born-again gamer, though. I GET IT NOW. And because I’ve been away from PC gaming so long, the Fall and Winter Steam sales were major “kid in a candy store” moments for me. Another thing that helped this transition happen was buying a USB Xbox controller. Not all Steam games work with it, but Nether and RAGE do. And DayZ… sort of.

I tried to make my relationship work with the DS, picking up the new Pokemon that many of my friends were raving about, but it just didn’t grab me. Nintendo just doesn’t cater to my favorite genres (primarily post-apocalyptic survival games like DayZ, first-person RPGs like Oblivion and Skyrim, and simulation games like Populous, Dungeon Keeper, and Caesar III).

What I learned about myself in all of this is that I’m what you call an “Immersive” style gamer. I play games to escape stress. I usually look for realistic graphics and a bit of competitive element. According to a study I came across, less than 20% of female gamers prefer this style. Which explains why players are often surprised to find a female in the games I frequent.



(Note: if anyone out there has a link to the actual presentation these images came from, please share. It has proven remarkably hard to find, and I’d love to read the whole study.)

Favorite games of 2013:

  • Metro: Last Light. In a non-Elder Scrolls year, Metro blew me away with a compelling story in a well-imagined and believable world. First game since Skyrim I’ve completed, and it made me want to dress like its characters next Halloween.
  • 7 Days to Die. I spent many hours and many late nights building bases, shoring up buildings… and growing corn underground.
  • Rust. The latest post-apocalyptic PvP survival game on my roster. 30-some hours in and still loving it. Props to them for making both PvP and non-PvP server options, something Nether was lacking. And to the fool who broke down my metal door on the non-PvP server to try and steal my stuff: you think I’d actually leave any valuables in such a conspicuous house? :p
  • Outlast. I’m not far into this one, but it makes me scream, literally. It’s also cool that you don’t have a weapon.

Games I’m looking forward to playing on Steam this year:

  • Fallout: New Vegas. Didn’t work out on Playstation, partly because of the ergonomics of the PS controller. I adore Bethesda, and I loved the setting, so I’m giving it another go.
  • Civilization V. I was a big Caesar series fan, but never tapped into Civ. Almost every one of my Steam friends have it, so I’m looking forward to trying it out.
  • Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Because whales and sharks.
  • Morrowind. An Elder Scrolls game I haven’t played?  This must be rectified. Although I’m not going all the way back to Arena.
  • A couple dozen other titles I gorgingly purchased over the holidays (hey, including a Humble Bundle set, I’m helping charity!)

It would be so much more convenient for me if I could just be a casual handheld/phone gamer. But the leopard can’t change its spots. I like those kinds of games some of the time, but in the end, I’ve always been a PC gamer. Thanks to Steam, I’ve come home again.  The cool part about it is, it’s also led to learning how to livestream games, and I’m observing with great interest how deftly Steam handles gamification. It’s nice when a hobby can have positive career benefits, too.


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