Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Sidebar: You Can’t Go Home Again

This week I’m on vacation in the States. The prospect of just over a week of without work had me trying to plan out something I could do with my time here. After some rumination, I came to settle on the idea of going back to one of my favourite games of last year – Eidos Montréal’s Deus Ex: Human Revolution. As a usual-resident in the United Kingdom, this game was obliged to stay put when I returned back to the small islands late last year. An opportunity to rekindle what we had together seemed one that I would be unwise to ignore.

Can't look Deus Ex in the eye, but...
Unfortunately, the romance ends here. I wish I could say that it was perfect, that we stayed up all night talking, that I still caught Deus Ex looking at me the same way that she did during summer, but the truth is that something has changed, and I’m not sure who’s at fault. I still fundamentally think that the story and the atmosphere combine to render Deus Ex one of the best environs of this year, but second time around, I simply do not feel much compelled to play through it.

‘One and done’

For almost as long as I can remember, I have been rarely able to return to something after I’ve completed it – whether game or book or movie – and it has taken a very special experience for me to wish to go through it again. Out of the wide variety of Xbox 360 games in my possession, it has been most clear of all. Among perhaps some thirty or so titles, the ones that I have refinished since original completion are: well, come to think of it, I think there are none. Could it be that in actuality I’m a ‘one and done’ breed of player? I started Mass Effect 2 again, almost straight over, in order to line up a story with my playthrough of the first in the series, but still I am yet to manage to get through it again. Each time I load it up, I see where I am, I recall what is coming up, and that is almost enough for me. Perhaps for all my lauding of my love for it, it is in fact a little more superficial and emotional than I might care to admit.

...I would play Wonderboy III right now,
if I had the means?!
What is most bizarre about this discovery is that on previous systems, I can at least manage to think of a few titles that I relished reloading and replaying. Two of my fondest titles for this pastime used to be Goldeneye and Perfect Dark on the Nintendo 64. Before that, there was Wonderboy III: The Dragon’s Trap on the Sega Master System, not to mention countless forays into Sonic the Hedgehog titles. What exactly is it about the current generation that fails to draw me back in?

I can easily attest to being fond of retro gaming. I have a formidable collection of the systems of my youth and classic titles strewn across my attic that infrequently come down to live amongst us maybe once a year. Of these events, I least often return to the PlayStation 2, and I think this is key – Could it be that an experience must be exiled for a particular period of time before it can return to me, now equipped with a requisite rose-tinted lens?

In 1940, Thomas Wolfe famously told us that there is no going back – You Can’t Go Home Again. In life I believe that much of this tried-and-tested philosophy still holds true. However, in gaming, I’d wager that while we can always go home again, but perhaps just be sure to stay away for about a generation or so.

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