Ask the Game Trust: Your Guilty Gaming Pleasure
You already know that the Crispy Gamer Game Trust knows its stuff when it comes to gaming. But where are the writers really coming from? What are their favorite games? Their defining gaming moments? Their favorite members of New Kids on the Block?
To answer these questions, and many more, we present our "Ask the Game Trust" feature. Every week we'll ask and answer a different question about our collective experiences, opinions and general thoughts on videogames and life in general. Feel free to open a similar window into yourself in the comments thread.
This week's question:
What game is your biggest guilty pleasure?
Kyle Orland: Bejeweled Twist
What's to be guilty about? Come on, it's freaking Bejeweled -- the game that's come to symbolize casual gaming and all that is wrong with the industry from a "hardcore" standpoint. Plus it's super-popular, so whatever indie cred I earned by playing Mighty Jill Off goes right away every time I fire it up.
Why do you play it anyway? There's just enough strategy to keep me from getting bored, but not so much that I feel like I'm actually, y'know, thinking. Plus, it's just incredibly relaxing to watch those gems twist into place and explode in a beautiful burst of light and color. After a long, hard day in the word mines, there's no better way to unwind than turning on a truly mindless television show and firing up Bejeweled Twist on my laptop.
Steve Kent: Pok?mon
What's to be guilty about? As an adult male of reasonable intelligence, knowing the difference between a Chimchar and a Turtwig is utterly pathetic if you ask me, but here I am. It's a curse I brought upon myself.
Why do you play it anyway? Why does any human waste his life on Pok?mon? Because I gotta catch 'em all! I have to evolve my Chimchar into an Infernape, and I need to evolve my Slackoth into a Slaking, even though I prefer Vigoroth -- because if I don't, I'll never catch 'em all. And now, there's another Pok?mon game coming out with an all-new group of critters to catch. Why couldn't id have launched DOOM with the slogan "Gotta shoot 'em all," or Harmonix have given Rock Band 2 the slogan "Gotta play 'em all"? My kids could have grown up so much less embarrassed.
Harold Goldberg: Horror-based games
What's to be guilty about? I will play the crappiest, most odiferous piece of shovelware if it has an infinitesimal possibility of scaring me.
Why do you play it anyway? If it raises but one goosebump, I'm there. For instance, I thought House of the Dead: Overkill was a completely badly, fart-stinkingly written parody of a badly conceived but better-written parody, "Grindhouse." It included a zombie pissing like an elephant and moments of incest that would have made Freud give up psychiatry. But I played it more than twice in the Director's Cut mode. Waste of time? Yes. Embarrassing? Yes. But what if it had scared me? I had to play it.
Steve Steinberg: World of Warcraft
What's to be guilty about? I'm not embarrassed, per se, about playing WoW. I think it might be the greatest game ever made. It's the way that I've been forced to play at times that's embarrassing. Between clients and writing deadlines, there have been huge stretches when I haven't been able to crank on a three-hour gaming spree. Since I was only able to log on for dozens of short spurts throughout the day, there were entire months during which I wouldn't kill a single thing. I'd just hang out in the Auction House, buying stuff that my characters could make into other stuff and then sell. There was probably a six-month period where the whole game was nothing more than an elaborate shirt-making and bag-making simulation.
Why do you play it anyway? I knew that -- eventually -- I'd get back to leveling up, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to have a mess of gold ready for when that happened. I've just gotten back to actually using my swords and stuff, so it's nice to have 40,000 gold to buy whatever cool junk my characters need. Yeah, it's kind of embarrassing to be able to discuss with authority the histories of the prices of Netherweave, Primal Life and Fel Lotus, but -- in the grand scheme of things -- that's not nearly as bad as the time I spent an entire day tracking down a teal fez that matched my character's tunic in Microsoft's MMORPG, Asheron's Call (she did look really hot in it when I finally found it, though).
David Chapman: Karaoke games
What's to be guilty about? Obviously, if you're asking, you haven't heard me sing. While I've been told I can carry the occasional tune here and there, you won't see me in front of Simon, Randy and Paula anytime in the near future. Still, there's something I find addicting about videogame karaoke, from hitting the high note in a-ha's "Take on Me" to bustin' out some Young MC in "Bust a Move." We're all guilty of singing in the shower and thinking we're great when we're alone. Karaoke games force us to put our money where our mouth is. And while I'll gladly drop a few bucks for tracks from Depeche Mode and Jason Mraz, it's not something I'm usually bragging about to my gaming cohorts. (What's that? You just unlocked the "Artist of War" Achievement in Gears of War 2? That's nothing; "I'm Kind of a Big Deal" in Lips.)
Why do you play it anyway? There's an inner rockstar screaming for attention. And while I won't get a record deal or be belting out the National Anthem at the World Series, if I want to reenact Tom Cruise's scene in "Risky Business" away from prying eyes, then damn it, I will do it without being ashamed!
James Fudge: Dynasty Warriors/Samurai Warriors/Warriors Orochi
What's to be guilty about? Guilt is for criminals and the elderly. I am in love with a game series that every critic seems to hate, and yet I feel guilty about nothing. Why should I feel guilty for playing what someone else thinks is a crappy game series? Why should I ever feel guilty about playing games of any kind? I shouldn't, and I don't.
Why do you play it anyway? Many say that these games lack innovation, that they are repetitive, banal, etc. While all of that might be true, I say that they are "fun" (a word that has apparently become taboo for some critics). Dynasty Warriors is uncomplicated comfort food -- easy and fun to return to, and easier to leave.
Troy Goodfellow: The Sims
What's to be guilty about? A couple of weeks ago, I contributed to a staff list of "most anticipated games for 2009" and The Sims 3 was at the top of my list. And my editor gave me nothing but grief for it. (Thanks, Abner.) I guess I'm supposed to be ashamed that I play house and try to get my doll to improve his skills so he afford that nice stereo system and work on his dance moves so he can make a play for the hot blonde neighbor who keeps coming by to clean his kitchen. What's wrong with that?
Why do you play it anyway? Because, as unmanly as it is, I suppose, I like writing my own soap opera. I hate cleaning and decorating my real house, but I can get a real sense of fake achievement for making my Sim's life as germ-free and inviting as possible. And what are games good for if not instilling a sense of fake achievement?
Evan Narcisse: Tekken
What's to be guilty about? I try to blow the conch shell for games that experiment, either narratively or with different play mechanics. The Tekken games do none of that. They're just shiny, slick fisticuffs-engines and, God help me, I love them so.
Why do you play it anyway? I feel masterful at them. Having to constantly go from one game to the next as a game journalist leaves me feeling like a jack-of-all-trades, but master to none. With all my years of playing Tekken, I feel like my Lei Wulong skills could smack down a fair amount of competition.
Gus Mastrapa: Any Game I'm Not On Assignment To Review
What's to be guilty about? Critics play games differently than the average gamer does. We plow through them when they're brand-new, then cast them aside when the next job comes up. Playing old games usually means you're not doing work.
Why do you play it anyway? Friends frequently pull me back to games that are gathering dust. That's why I've been playing Gears of War 2 so much lately -- so I can hand out with four of my friends from California. Same goes for World of Warcraft. I play every Sunday with my sister and her husband. The rest of the games I find myself playing are usually time-wasters -- Flash games on Kongregate that I fire up when I'm procrastinating.
Russ Fischer: Nothing
I'll make a joking reference to the catchphrase now and again, but I reject almost absolutely the notion of the guilty pleasure. If like something like Pok?mon (of which I've played very little, but don't ghettoize or reject outright) then I like it, and I'll stand up for it.
If I ever feel anything like guilt about playing a game (not counting that "I should really be working" feeling) I stop playing. World of Warcraft may have been the last title to fall. I realized that I felt guilty about playing four to six hours a night because I was engaging with the game compulsively and, as Maude Lebowski says, without joy. I wasn't transported anywhere, I wasn't getting anything out of the grind of playing, and so I stopped.
Robert Ashley: Any game
What's to be guilty about? These days, spending any amount of time tapping away at a videogame feels totally indulgent. Shouldn't I be filling out credit card applications or spending the afternoon on a busy street corner wearing a sandwich board advertising some kind of closeout sale? Shouldn't I be slow-cooking the leather uppers of my cowboy boots?
Why do you play it anyway? If I didn't, I'd have to think about the future, which recently transformed in the American mind from a land of high-tech wizardry and sustainable peace to a wasteland of deflation, war and environmental disaster. Strangely, Fallout 3 feels like a nice escape.