Rules of Play: An Introduction to Obtain Potion

A while back I came to a conscientious decision to start over with my game library. It wasn’t a decision taken lightly as any form of backlog is a scary proposition. Rather than looking at it as something daunting, I found the clean slate approach was a chance not just for new beginnings, but for creative opportunities when it comes to my writing. It’s a thinly veiled excuse to rediscover classics but also to give second chances to games that maybe I only dipped my toes into and didn’t just jump into. I have a lot of history with videogames, so it’s an interesting challenge to meld my personal feelings about them with a more critical approach.

As exhilarating a proposition as this is, I’d be a fool to just charge forward without a game plan. Being as I’m an oldest child, something of a rule follower and so organizational that perhaps I might be a little OCD, I found it necessary to follow some protocols to guide me though my peripatetic journey through videogames. Maybe that sounds a little arbitrary and to a point stupid, but most of us who enjoy digital escapism tend to get excited about systems of some nature so I’m guessing if you’re reading this it doesn’t sound as goofy.

I’m not one to shy away from help, and the Sherpa on this adventure is the Backloggery, a simple and succinct site that helps you maintain you library as well as document your progress based on loose rules that you can then ascribe your own rubric to. Upon completion of a game you can mark it as beaten or completed, solely based on whether you just see a game to its conclusion or if you plumb its depths and secrets. If you’re not sure what to play next there’s a randomizer you can set parameters for to make the selection process easier. Now that I’ve made this an essay akin to the world’s most boring Power Point presentation, let’s get to these rules I’ve established for myself:

  1. Play New Games First

Just because I’ve hit the proverbial reset button on my progress doesn’t mean I haven’t played through pretty much every game I own. I’ve been doing this since ‘88/’89, so I’ve been around the block. That being said, by new games I mean those which I have recently purchased and not necessarily new games in the truest sense of the word. I’m trying really hard to just stick to one or two games at a time depending on their commitment level, but sometimes an irresistible sale comes up and I can’t control my spending habits. In this case, those games will wait in the wings while I complete what I’m currently playing and stay ahead of anything I’ve already dabbled in. This’ll also help keep my blog somewhat current and relevant in an age where information from even yesterday seems like old news.

  1. Use the Fortune Cookie on Backloggery

My goal is to alternate playing a new game with digging into my library for something I’ve already played. The main reason is to save money; I could buy a new game after beating another, but I’d get a scornful look from the missus and really I’d like to replay all my games so I’d get nowhere if I just stuck with fresher stuff. I’ve come to realize I’ve got decades to play and write about games, so why bother being in a hurry about it? And if I ever do manage to catch up, I’ll probably be in a better financial place where dropping sixty bucks a month won’t be such a strain on the wallet.

However, there is an exception to the randomization, and that’s trying to keep continuity in my writing by making sure I play certain games in chronological order. It’ll be easier for me to reference previous games this way and it’ll help me get in the right frame of mind when it comes to talking about iteration and its effects on sequels. So if Mega Man 5 pops up in my fortune cookie, I’ll go back to the original Mega Man instead. However, I’ll use broader strokes when it comes to spin-offs and such. An example would be going ahead and playing through Mega Man X without having tooled around in any of the NES games because the similarities and differences are a little bit more distinguishable from series to series.

Is it complicated? Absolutely. Is it overly subjective? You bet! But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  1. Play Games Again and Again…and Again!

Part of the reason my library is a little loaded is because there are some games that I own multiple copies of. I’m not proud of that fact…but I’m not ashamed of it, either. There are a handful of cross buy titles that simply offered two versions for the price of one and of course there are those ambassador games for the 3DS, but I knowingly and willingly bought into the upgrade fee for Virtual Console games solely for the ability to use save states on Wii U. Sure, it’s not the puritanical way to play, but I’m more interested in seeing everything a game has to offer than to play it as originally intended. But I digress.

The thing worth noting about having multiple copies of games is that I probably want to keep going back to them for no particularly good reason so why bother being beholden to moving on? Whether it’s just playing them with different control inputs or just because it gives me the warm fuzzies I don’t see a problem with revisiting games. That’s not to say I’ll necessarily write about them every time I take the double dip, but I’ll at least acknowledge that I’m doing so via a new column I’ve got in the work. This is also the point in my rubric where I’ll go back to games with downloadable content and extra modes because I don’t normally do so and again, it’s a little silly to at not at least try them.

  1. Write About Board Games

For the most part I’ll be writing about videogames and primarily Nintendo based ones at that, but I’d really like to take a stab at good old fashioned board and card games. They are much trickier to discuss simply because they are almost always solely mechanics based, and while I don’t get to play them often, they’re often a nice way to connect with my family. Again: systems can be addicting and the best analog games no how to lead you on that loop. It won’t be a frequent thing I do, but I feel like they deserved to be talked about and nestled into this here blog.

  1. Write About Let’s Plays?!

For a while I was scouring an online source for older games and realized that, even though I’ve mostly redeemed my younger self for selling off his games to fund new ones there are those games that have just fallen into the abyss of time. Whether the developer has ceased to exist, licenses have changed hands or the ravages of collectionism mean getting a hold of something might not be fiscally possible.

One could turn to emulation, but I’d rather not subject my PC to the shady pools or buy one of those fancy all-in-one retro consoles that are steeply priced, I’ll just watch a let’s play of these lost gems and write about those! It sound weird to write that, but my hope is it’ll be something worth exploring. On that same tip, I’m also going to add regular posts all about box art and how it is an awesome but lost art anymore. I may not be able to readily play something, but they’re worth revisiting, even if in video form, and writing about if only for nostalgic purposes.

Videogames are as important a medium as film, television or writing; it’s still in its infancy and is soaring towards its potential. It sounds hyperbolic, but it’s true. I may not be creative enough to make one myself, but I appreciate them enough that I love to share my thoughts in long form essays. I’ve been in and out of various online gaming cultures for a very long time, so I’m glad that no matter where my talents land me, I’ll always have this little corner of the internet I can call my own.


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