“Do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK.” — Don Draper
I’m generally not a big New Year’s Resolution kind of guy, but as it turns out I ended up making one for 2014 without even trying. It happened as I found myself revisiting some of my favorite titles from last year. I did a full replay of BioShock Infinite, played choice sections of DmC and Tomb Raider, and went back to the world of Metro: Last Light for a quick sojourn. By the time New Year’s rolled around, I felt completely exhausted by their relentless violence and nihilism. Beyond that, after spending the better part of the last decade playing game after game featuring stylized or hyper-realistic violence as its central interaction, I’m honestly feeling a little bit done in right about now.
It goes beyond violence as well; much has been made over the past year or so about emotions in video games. Specifically, developers like David Cage have ruminated on how new technology can allow for games to capture and convey a wide range of human emotions. The problem is that for most games, whether they be mainstream or indie, ’emotion’ is code for the gamut of negative feelings alone. No doubt there are some amazing games that tread this ground, but honestly I’m sick and tired of gritty reboots, dark explorations of human nature, and indietears. I need a vacation from all of this, and my new 3DS is the ticket.
Confession time: Even though I’ve been playing video games for about 35 years, I’ve never actually owned a handheld system before. I’ve lived overseas on a couple of occasions, so I tended to be a PC gamer. In between that, I had an N64, a PS2, and a Wii. I enjoyed a ton of great titles with them, but returned to the PC in 2007 and haven’t looked back thanks to Steam, GOG, and the ever-increasing preponderance of excellent ports of console games. Sure, I’ve missed some of the console exclusives that have come down the pike, especially on PS3, but not enough to drop a bunch of money on a system.
I’ve always been interested in handhelds, for sure; I really wanted a GameBoy when those glorious bricks were first released, but I couldn’t convince my folks to buy me one. When I had the inkling as an adult to get one, I didn’t have the money. Once I did have the money, it never seemed high on my list of priorities. Anyway, after seeing Super Mario 3D World in action at the end of 2013, not to mention hearing immediate proclamations from friends of mine that they want to buy a Wii U just so they can play it, I decided that maybe now was the time. I received a ton of gift cards this Christmas, and I decided to pool them together buy my very first handheld console: a 3DS XL.
I turned it on, got set up, and began to play Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. Within 15 minutes of starting, I felt something I haven’t felt in years; pure gaming joy. It felt as if clouds were parting and re-energizing me, and it’s exactly the shot in the arm I needed as a video game fan. Beyond this game, I’m beginning to scour through all the games I’ve missed on this system and it’s becoming quickly apparent that I’ll be very busy in the foreseeable future.
I’m feeling a little overwhelmed to be honest. There are so many games that I’ve missed out on, I don’t even know where to begin. Hell, I’m even considering playing through all the Zelda games, and that’s something I’ve never really thought about until now. I think instead of constantly staring at my Steam backlog and forcing myself to slog through yet another dour and depressing game, my time will be better spent feeling young at heart and maybe even sharing my love of gaming with my daughter.
In spite of this new leaf (oh Christ, I guess I need to get Animal Crossing as well…), I’m not quite ready to eschew the more adult-themed games coming this year. Of course, I’m still looking forward to a PC port of GTA V, mostly because what I’ve heard about it is that Rockstar has gone back to a less realistic/more fun model for its driving. I could take or leave the story, but as long as it’s fun to actually play, then I’m interested. For the remainder of this long cold winter however, I’m resolved to playing the heck out of my 3DS, reliving some of that pure Nintendo joy, and letting the sunshine in.