We, as lovers of video games have all been asked the question before. “What’s your favourite video game of all time?”. A lot of the time I think mine is either Mass Effect (the series as a whole) or Star Wars: Knights of the old Republic and that’s probably what I would say to you if you asked. But is that actually true? How do we actually decide or define what our favourite games are?
There are a number of factors that will have an effect on whether you enjoy a game and thus having it be your favourite games, and that will obviously vary from person to person. Some people will say you need a good story, and from that perspective both Kotor and Mass Effect hit those nails on the head. They were very memorable experiences that I loved playing through. But I’ve never completed them more than once, I’ve never properly gone back to them and I don’t really want to. But surely if a game is our favourite ever we’d want to play it over and over?
I’ve clocked up over 300 hours in Overwatch, it’s a game that I love playing and generally if I find myself playing online on my own I’ll hop on to it for a few games. But if you asked me, I’d probably never consider it to be my favourite game. I would probably have to make a long list of games before it popped up. The reality is though; is that it must be one of my favourites, otherwise why would I keep playing it? There’s no real story to it though, beyond the additional lore stuff – which you can easily bypass. So maybe I don’t need a good story. Maybe it’s the gameplay that I crave, the responsive controls, the quick, intense and competitive matches. But if it’s gameplay that makes me love a game then why do I have hundreds of hours in what is basically a glorified spreadsheet?
Over the years I’ve played basically every Football Manager game since it broke off from the original Championship Manager format and I also played those games too. The split happened back in 2004, so that’s almost 15 years of this franchise. I’ve poured hundreds of hours in to them as a whole. But they have basically no real ‘gameplay’ to them, they’re pretty much spreadsheets with some nicer visuals. Only in the last few years have we actually seen the addition of a 3D match engine, prior to that it was just dots moving around a pitch. But back when it was still Championship manager it was even less than that, it was just a bar of text. But it’s addicting, the management side of the game keeps you engaged, tinkering with your tactics to find the sweet spot in every game is a challenge. Taking on a giant in a cup game as a minnow and scraping the draw forcing the home replay feels rewarding as you know it means a few extra bucks for your tiny kitty.
The truth is, is that I kind of find it impossible to pick an all-time favourite because it’s just too broad of a question. There are no doubts about some of my favourite games, but it’s a pretty big list. At one time I thought maybe it would be best to think about them by genre, but picking my favourite FPS is tough. Half Life 2 was a revolutionary game and I think it’s incredible, but I don’t play it any more. On the other hand we have Destiny a game that I’ve played to death for the last 4 years. They’re both FPS games, they’re both very different but I still love them both, just for different reasons.
That got my thinking a bit more about what makes my favourite games, maybe it’s certain things in certain genres that makes a game my favourite. I think this is probably a most accurate way of looking at it and when you think about it, its kind of obvious really. For an RPG I want a good story, I want depth to my game, customisation and interesting characters to meet, with challenging circumstances to face up to.
Whilst an FPS can and sometimes should have these aspects it’s a little more flexible. But the things I think an FPS needs are good, responsive controls, interesting environments that create fantastic sections for firefights, good gunplay at the centre of the game. In most cases I’d say the story doesn’t need to be incredible, and I certainly don’t want something that gets dragged out for longer than necessary.
Then there are more open games like DayZ, Rust and Miscreated, there’s no story here. It’s the freedom that makes these games, the freedom to be able to interact with people in interesting ways, the freedom to be the kind of player you want. That’s what makes these good. Whilst I will continually say that DayZ has intense firefights, the gunplay isn’t great, it’s clunky and a little awkward at best with melee combat being even worse. But that doesn’t matter, in fact it almost adds to the game in a weird way. Knowing that my aim will be awkward makes things more intense, knowing I have to access my inventory to reload guns if I haven’t previously planned it all out creates suspense and vulnerability.
Each game gives me something different, it scratches different itches and those needs, those feelings for what I want to play constantly evolve and change. If you looked at my games library today compared to 5-6 years ago it looks completely different in terms of the types of games I play. But that doesn’t diminish or negate what I used to love playing. It’s just that my tastes have changed and because of that I find it incredibly difficult to pick my favourite game ever. In fact, I just can’t do it, it has to be a list, it’s impossible to limit it to just one game.
My favourite games are all, in a lot of ways, quite unique from each other and that’s why I love them and love gaming, there is something out there for everyone, for every mood, for every playstyle, whether it’s planning out grand strategies to dominate your enemies, or being the hero at a centre of a gripping adventure. Whether it’s solving puzzles or building anything from your imagination there will be something for you to play and love.
The greatest thing video games is the diversity and that my tastes, as they evolve, are catered to by that diversity.