Monday, October 23, 2017 – Sunday, October 29, 2017
Days of the week in which games were played: Saturday
Total number of video games played: 2
Total video game duration: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Communities involved: N/A
Star Control 2/Ur-Quan Masters
XCOM 2: War of the Chosen
Total number of non-video games played: 1
Total non-video game duration: 30 minutes (Fluxx)
Communities involved: Colleague and his girlfriend
Number of supplemental game or game-related activities: 1
Tags: PC, XCOM, Star Control, Fluxx
An Abysmal Modicum of Gameplay
This week I hardly had any time to play games at all again. As was the case before, even when I had some free time to play, I didn’t have the motivation to do so. It had been awhile since I picked up XCOM, so I played a little bit on Saturday afternoon. I was distracted by more appealing activities in the form of getting another old game from my teenage years running.
Steam advertisements caught my eye this week with the announcement of a new game in the Star Control franchise, Star Control: Origins. They had a special pre-order price which I immediately took advantage of. I bought a package that included older Star Control games like Star Control 2: The Ur-Quan Masters. This was an amazing space RPG that came out in the 1990s, and I played with great enthusiasm. I immediately installed it, but was underwhelmed with the graphics and clunky gameplay. I was tinkering with the game settings and wanted to know about the keyboard setup, so I did a quick google search and stumbled across a fan-made HD version of the same game which I immediately downloaded and installed. WOW, this game looks great!
Original Game on Steam Screenshot
HD Remake Screenshot
I felt good about getting another piece of my past working on the PC, and decided to put it down for another time when I had more availability to play games. It was a short week. The main theme was a lack of effort on my part, I would rather just watch a movie or read a book. Again, I think it’s because I’ve been so stressed out and just need complete relaxation. One thing I’ve noticed about games as I get older is that not all of them are relaxing!!!
Czanik, Damon, et al. Ur-Quan Masters HD. Sourceforge, 2002 (Creative Commons). Microsoft Windows. Computer Software
Firaxis Games. XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. 2K Games, 2017. Microsoft Windows. Computer Software.
Toys for Bob. Star Control II: The Ur-Quan Masters. Accolade, 1992. MS-DOS. Computer Software
When I started my new job as a junior project manager, I relayed an anecdote my new boss about a game about change. In my new position, a large component of the work involves change management, and I spoke about the game in this context. The game is called Fluxx, and its a card game with the basic premise that there is only one basic rule at the outset. As cards get played, they contain new rules, new victory conditions, and dynamically evolving strategies. Fluxx is the “game with ever-changing rules.”
My boss decided to buy me this game as a gift after I had been working for a month, with the suggestion that we play it with the project team as an exercise in change management. That chance finally arrived as I was on a business trip and we had some spare time on the Wednesday of this week. To be honest, however, this game may have been a bit too much to keep track of for my boss and the colleague I was playing with. A round of Fluxx can last anywhere from 5 minutes to half an hour (according to the box). This game lasted 45 minutes, and it seemed my opponents were losing their patience with the substantial number of “new rule” cards to keep track of on the table. I enjoyed myself, even though I lost. I decided that this game should probably be reserved for groups with a more pedantic bent (for lack of a better term, nerds).
When September Ends
September was a very busy month for me. Having more free time this week than I have had since May, I binged on games, hard. This was the biggest gaming binge I’d had in about 10 months. It felt amazing to get lost in a new version of one of my favourite games. XCOM 2: War of the Chosen is mod for XCOM 2 which came out in August 2017. It keeps the original game intact while adding a new introduction, new game mechanics, and an all-new plotline with additional enemies and bosses while retaining all of the elements in the original game. All of the original story elements are intact, but this mod merely adds more on top of those already existing. When XCOM 2 first came out in February 2016, I binged hard on it at that time as well. Same with the series reboot, XCOM: Enemy Unknown, which came out in 2012.
I am quite familiar with from the XCOM franchise. The original XCOM games were released for MS-DOS in the mid-1990s. There were a handful of games released with the common theme of battling against an alien invasion force, some of which were based on land and some under the sea. I was obsessed with them back then, and am obsessed with them now. The primary gameplay mechanic remains unchanged in the modern successors, being a turn-based tactical strategy game, with some minor tweaks. As a matter of fact, the original XCOM: UFO Defence is regarded by many (including myself) as the seminal game in the turn-based tactical strategy genre. That being said, those familiar with table-top RPGs will recognize that XCOM is their digital progeny, especially where combat is concerned. Major improvements abound in every other aspect of the new incarnation of the franchise and every subsequent release.
Original XCOM Screenshot
I spent the entire weekend getting deep into War of the Chosen, while also barely scratching the surface of what the game has to offer. If I had one complaint about the game, it’s that it takes too long to complete. I have a love affair with the XCOM franchise, and I think that’s one of the main reasons why it’s one of the rare titles nowadays that captures my attention entirely; it has nostalgia while also having all the bells-and-whistles of a modern game. It’s absolutely gorgeous from a graphics perspective. It’s very easy for me to get “in the zone” with this game. I didn’t know what to call this state in my earlier writings for this course, but from now on I will use the term defined by Diane Carr as the state of “flow [, which] incorporates immersion and engagement and is experienced as ‘an intensely pleasurable, optimum state, incorporating focus, euphoria and high levels of motivation’” (qtd. in Bradford, p. 58).
In my previous blog entries, I mentioned the distinct problem of having a hard time getting into games as I progress further into adulthood. With XCOM, that problem disappears if I am given enough time to play it. I only hope I can beat it before my free time is diminished again, or I lose interest because of a long break. This is something that tends to happen a lot and seems to be the case for not completing Super Mario Galaxy, which I only played momentarily this week (before becoming consumed by XCOM). That might be another area of inquiry for future blog posts. In the meantime, next weeks’ blog post will likely be encompassed by XCOM 2: War of the Chosen as well.
Bradford, Clare. “Looking for my corpse: Video games and player positioning.” Australian Journal of Language and Literacy (2010): 54-64. Web. 11 October 2017. http://medi265.dougstetar.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Bradford_LookingForCorpse.pdf.