Thoughts on Back-Up Games


Many of us have different “types” of games, whether a default game or, as we’ll discuss today, what I like to call a “back-up game”.  Back-up games can sit on our shelf for weeks, months, even years—but we still pull them out every now and then.  They may not be played often, but they are important to us nonetheless.

Most gamers have their “default games”, ones they pull out when they just feel like goofing off, when they’re bored, whatever else.  “Back-up games” occupy a somewhat-similar place in our lives, but the differences are substantial.  They can sit, waiting, for a long time—but we’ll pop them in sooner or later.  Often, there are aspects of the game we may not like, but one or more aspects we do.

For example, I’m not really a big fan of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.  I thought it was a fine enough game for what it was, but didn’t really like what it was.  However, the world was so expansive, filled with such a variety of people and places, that it’s fun to pop it in every once in a great while and just goof off.  Driving through San Fierro is always fun, as is taking a chopper and going to wreak some havoc.  Then there’s intentionally annoying the police enough so they chase your tuchus all over the countryside.  I’d still choose The incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction or Spider-Man 2 over San Andreas in a heartbeat, but I wouldn’t necessarily sell it to a used game store, either.  It’s a back-up game.

Sandbox-style games tend to most easily lend themselves to being back-up games, which makes sense.  Sandbox games, by their very nature, allow for most gamers to find something enjoyable no matter his or her tastes.  That said, other genres can have games that make for good back-up games as well.

Take fighting games, for example.  It may be insanely difficult to beat the game, and perhaps some “arcade mode” or whatever it’s called in the individual game loses its appeal after a bit—but the characters are interesting.  Perhaps they’re from a source the gamer enjoys and are well-implemented, perhaps the game takes place in an interesting setting, or so on.  Either way, it’s a game you’ll pull out now and then.  Players can find games like that in nearly, if not, every genre.  Even Flash games can be such, really.

The main difference between “back-up games” and “default games” is approach; we use our default games like that old shirt we’re never going to get rid of.  It’s comfortable, every inch of it might be known and even memorized, but that’s part of the enjoyment.  That familiarity makes it comfortable to pull out and play.

Back-up games can be almost the opposite—because we don’t play them very often we can forget a lot of the details.  We remember what we enjoyed about them in the first place, game-play, the characters, whatever else it might be.  We can find enjoyment in those known aspects, and even if we remember that we disliked certain elements, the comparative unfamiliarity lets us experience them with a fresher perspective.

Back-up games occupy that special place on our shelves—sure, they aren’t games we necessarily revisit all that often, and because of that we may underestimate their importance.  When they’re missing, when we lose them or feel forced to sell them or whatever else, we usually notice it, more than we thought we would.

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