Thoughts on Default Games


We all usually have genres we prefer to the point of at least checking out any new entry, or we have developers we trust so will look into any product they’re a part of, or whatever else.  In whatever area of gaming we’re into, we usually look forward to new games (even if just of the new-to-you variety).  Some of also have a few games I like to call “default games”.

Default games are the ones you put in when you don’t really want to worry about completing objectives, unlocking things, and so on.  Where you just want to play.  Me, I have three default games: Spider-Man 2, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, and Billiards.  My review of Spider-Man 2 is up and I’ll have one for Ultimate Destruction up soon, so on those I’ll be comparably (and, for me, shockingly) brief.

Part of the appeal of Spider-Man 2 is not only that it’s Spider-Man, one of my favorite comic characters, but primarily that it’s so fun.  You feel freedom in a way that’s rather rare in video games—the city is insanely huge, and you really can go anywhere.  It’s not like other games, particularly the Grand Theft Auto franchise—sure, if you wanted, you could go anywhere (after “unlocking” everyplace), but in most other sandbox games you still have to worry about enemies dropping in on you; think of Grand Theft Auto‘s “wanted” system.  After only a few stars, you’d be worried enough about simply staying alive.

Spider-Man 2 gave you a huge city and the freedom to run around in it, tending to enemies only if you wanted to, only on your terms.  It gives you the freedom to simply have fun.  If you wanted that fast-paced surrounded-by-enemies action, you could get it—but if you didn’t want it, you could avoid it.  That is something I haven’t really seen in games, and it lets you have fun just swinging and running through the city.

For The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, it offers what we’ve all wanted to do in nearly every other game—the opportunity to just go bat guano nuts and destroy things.  Sure, we can enjoy our deep and complex stories, our interesting character evolution, and whatever else—but sometimes we just want to tear things up.

Even in other games that kind of allow it, there are large drawbacks.  Take, again, the Grand Theft Auto franchise.  You’re given numerous weapons, numerous large vehicles—but the minute you start to really go nuts, you’re going to get police on your tuchus trying to give you a lead colonoscopy.  Add to that the fact that there really isn’t much to destroy (at least up through San Andreas; I’ve not played IV so I couldn’t say) other than cars and random pedestrians.

Ultimate Destruction handed you an entire city from the get-go and no enemies that early could do much more than mildly annoy you.  It gets insanely difficult later, but early on, it’s pure destructive fun.  You could only destroy certain buildings, sure, but there were other structures you could smash, plus the ability to “weaponize” things—like ripping the wrecking ball out of a wrecker and using it like a lethal yo-yo, or using a gas station globe-sign as a bowling ball.  It’s just plain fun with only as much story progression as you choose.

Billiards is one of those games that, if it were new, you’d expect to find in the bargain bin at your local supermarket, right next to the mini-cooler filled with energy drinks.  It’s a little no-frills game (compared to even other titles on the PlayStation at the time) developed by A1 Games where all you do is what it says on the case—play billiards.

Technically, there’s a progression through opponents, but I can’t say as I’ve ever cared enough to play through it.  For me, the biggest draw was just the ability to play billiards, whether alone or with a friend.  You could choose from one of three “rooms”, which altered the look of the table, the backgrounds, and the music.  All three music selections are soft, interesting but not so complex as to keep attention away from playing.

The backgrounds all have a sort of “billiard hall” feel to them, of various levels of “class”, and it’s similar with the tables.  Ultimately, there’s enough there to be interesting without being detracting.

Unfortunately it wasn’t received well, but I think it’s partly because it doesn’t offer anything but the ability to play pool.  It wasn’t all that expensive even when it was new, which was nice.  You didn’t pay fifty dollars just to play pool, after all.

I like to think we all have our “default games”, the games we just pop in and play.  For some, it might be that our default games are simply time-killers, things to play out of boredom and between other games.  For others, it might be cathartic, letting go of some negative thoughts by running rampant in a video game.  For still others, they may simply be favorites, how you might pull out a favorite book you’ve read numerous times before and read it again.

It crosses gaming sub-sets, too.  Console/computer games, Interactive Fiction, Flash games—whatever you like, there are plenty of games to just load up and play.

If you don’t have a default game, I would actually recommend it.  There’s something comforting in having something you enjoy, right there—like the novel analogy above, you can curl up on your couch and re-enter a world or setting you enjoy and even love.  Whether you re-enter that world to relieve boredom, to blow off a bit of stress, whatever other reason you might have, there’s something—well, just something comforting, there.

I don’t mean to repeat myself, but that comfort is an important quality; especially in a world with as much stress as it has, it’s nice to be able to let it go.  Some people do it with music, some with books—the gamer has his games.  It’s certainly a safer way to do it than some others we could all name.

At the end of the day, it’s relaxing and fun to load up something we enjoy, to escape the stress or boredom.  No matter the game, no matter the type of game—what’s important is that you enjoy it, and default games offer an enjoyment that we never need to question, never need to worry about it ending.

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2 Responses to “Thoughts on Default Games”

  1. WhiteWolf Says:

    I must say I do love my default games. Billiards is a great and fun game. My default games are Superman Returns, Madden and Fish World. I enjoy flying around the city in Superman Returns although it does require a cheat, so that when flying you don’t have to worry about the city being destroyed. But that is something I am always willing to do. Madden, any generation really, is great. I love football and even when not really caring whether I win or lose, I find its easy game play and set up fun. Also a nice one when a friend is over and you can just toss the ball around, in a way. Fish World on Face Book, to me is a great game. Sure you have to feed your fish or they will die, but I love the creating of tanks. The limitations of stuff you have to work with can be a bit annoying at times, at least until they upload more, but over all I find it relaxing to play. I also must add that any game with character creation is fun. Some how it is relaxing to me to put in a game where I can create something.
    Great post, I really enjoyed reading this and never really thought about default games.

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