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Matt Wilcox

Musing

Oct 29th 2014

Getting back into video games thanks to Isometric.

Thanks to a brilliant podcast, I've picked up my first game console in years.

My last 'serious' console was a SNES. I was 13 or so years old when I got it one Christmas (I remember it clearly) and I played on that thing for years. It was awesome; I was 17 or so when I sold it, needing some money and no longer being such a fan of video games – music had taken over my interests by then.

I got a Wii a few years ago as an experiment but got bored of it within a month, even the Metroid and Mario games (favourites of my SNES era) just seemed a boring waste of time. I've played a couple of Steam games on my Mac, notably Half Life 2 and Portal. Those were excellent games. But, that's about it for the last 15yrs – four or five games I've played and enjoyed.

I now own a PS4.

Weirdly enough, not because I was thinking about 'trying gaming again'. It's entirely because over the last few months I've been actively trying to find new and different things to expose myself to – specifically, new perspectives. I've long known that people in general and automated media filtering in particular tend to construct an echo-chamber around everyone. We all have predominantly like-minded friends, and our online lives are full of "here's something we think you'll like" from automated algorithms. It's boring and bad for you; it re-affirms the stuff you think you know and asks you to question nothing. So, having downloaded the fantastic Overcast app I was in search of new and different podcasts to try. One was the Isometric Podcast, which I downloaded on a whim. It's brilliant, and I subscribed immediately.

As a non-gamer, it was still one of my favourite podcasts to see a new episode appear. The rapport of the presenters is great, and they don't assume you know all about the games they talk about. They also get into some pretty interesting, funny, tangental, and sometimes highly serious topics. What's not to love? It's also great that three of the presenters are women; one a games developer, two game journalists, and a guy called Steve who's a software engineer but otherwise just a games fan. Along with laughing out loud with the in-jokes and banter, and feeling angry and disgusted with first-hand accounts of how women are treated and viewed in the industry, I got interested in games themselves.

So now I own a PS4. And I'm really enjoying it. The typical AAA titles still seem pretty dull, but the indie games are fantastic! Dust; An Elysian Tale is a hand-drawn Metroid type game, and has kept me glued to the screen for hours with a compelling story and rewarding gameplay. Flower has you playing as a gust of wind, collecting petals and turning the world ever more green and colourful. It's fun and relaxing, a particular favourite of my girlfriends – no bad guys, no dialogue. Minecraft is Lego for the digital age, and playing operatively we've started building a house for ourselves in a nice oak forrest we're tending. We didn't fancy the fighting elements of the game so we play in 'peaceful' mode. It's great to relax with, and fun to find the different things you can make. Child of Light is a stunningly beautiful 2D game that's doing its best to be a fairy-tale. I've not got far in it yet, but as with all those games… you can feel the love and attention that's gone into them. The inspiration, the desire to do something different to the standard 3D shooter.

I'm really enjoying it. And I wouldn't be if I hadn't decided to try getting new perspectives from different people on things I'm not normally exposed to or interested in.