Confession time, gents and ladies. Playing Batman: Arkham City makes me feel like a kid again, and I don’t really care who knows it. As of right now, it’s my game of the year. I’ll tell you why in a moment.
But first, there’s something you may have already guessed about me, but I thought I should confess that as well: sometimes I can be a bit of a cynic. I always try to look at the brighter side of things, but in this day and age, the overwhelming cynical voice of the Internet can be a bit of a bog that all of us get stuck in. Especially when it comes to gaming.
Whether it’s some element of design, DLC releases, betas, demos, pricing, downloads, character dialogue, specific words, themes or even the number of sequels, gamers tend to have a lot of negative things to say about a past time that they profess to love dearly. Often times, the voices in which gamers cry “foul” in great unison are at odds with the mania and unabashed joy that they claim to experience together when they play.
I imagine some of this has to do with the overall tone of our culture and generation. We’re cautious, we’re jaded and we demand more for our money. But it also has to do with the games. As games have gotten bigger and better, it’s hard for titles, no matter how big their budget or new their concepts, to eclipse that “been there, done that” impression that swarms over us like thick fog. Part of this is that gaming has grown more cookie cutter in nature. Everything has its mold, and that’s just what we expect. But a lot of it has to do with just how good game design is, and the way the bar gets consistently raised each generation.
We are much harder to thrill than we used to be. And games aren’t quite as thrilling. So when a game comes along that knocks you out of your seat, pushes you from the normal zombie-like monotonous cycle of playing and enjoying a new title, it’s like getting a jolt of adrenaline straight into your heart.
That’s what Arkham City has done for me in the last few days.
It’s really hard to pinpoint what it is about the game, but it just puts a huge smile on my face when I play. Whether I’m zipping around Arkham City with the Gotham skyline in the background, sneaking up on thugs, duking it out with iconic villains or just enjoying the game’s top-notch presentation, I am grinning like an idiot with wild abandon. While most of the time during games I’m analyzing element x, or dissecting game design aspect y, my mind during Arkham City is pretty much just saying “wheeeeeeee!”
It’s embarrassing, but I love it. I miss this feeling. I don’t want this to be a “let’s crap on modern games” feature, but rather, I want to celebrate the games that thrill us and surprise us. The games that make us remember why we love gaming so much that we take off work, avoid social contact, stay up for all hours of the night and obsess for months on end.
Already this year I’ve had several moments that have done that for me. Co-op puzzle solving in Portal 2. Horde and Beast mode in Gears of War 3. Stealth gameplay in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Interrogations in L.A. Noire. Co-op anything in Little Big Planet 2. Let’s face it, 2011 has had plenty of thrills for gamers.
So what about you guys? What is the last game you played that totally thrilled you and made you celebrate video games all over again? What are some of your favorite moments in games so far this year? Go!