Like many people, I have heard the phrase ‘in times like these’ thrown around a lot lately. Those four words could mean just about anything, but in times like these, we can all see the greater meaning—our world is changing. Where we used to go to the shops, the gym, or the movies, we are now being sent back to our rooms, a fate that gamers (myself included), have taken as an opportunity to tackle our backlogs of games.
We all have Epic Games Store accounts filled with free goodies or Steam libraries brimming with games bought during sales too good to refuse. Some of us may even have physical cartridges lined up on a shelf gathering dust as an act of visible neglect. Writing about games means that, for every game I do get to play, another three are left on the backburner, meaning I have a lot of games in need of some serious attention.
With my spare time now solely dedicated to the art of video games, I started to wonder which new game I would play first after writing this article. Before we continue, you must understand that I am a do-er. I like ticking boxes and getting things done to their fullest capacity, so my definition of finishing a game is rarely as simple as breezing through the storyline. My need to do things is further complicated by the fact that not only do I feel the need to 100% complete my games, I also feel a deeper need to complete 100% of my backlog which is why I was surprised by the fact that the only games I can imagine playing right now are ones I have already finished.
All I want to do is play through the entirety of the Dragon Age franchise or reattempt to get every collectible trophy in Ratchet and Clank 3. My inner completionist is telling me I should play The Outer Worlds or tackle Disco Elysium. My hesitation is that I do not know how they will make me feel. They might be the perfect escape from my problems but they could also be a reminder that I am living in a different country and have no clue as to when I will next get to see my family overseas. I suppose that is why I am drawn to replay old games: so that I can relive cherished gaming memories that I associate with some of my favourite people.
I want to relive the cold afternoon when my Dad drove me out to the city to buy a PlayStation 2 before Mum got home and the fun we had discovering Ratchet and Clank 3 together. I want to play Crash Bandicoot: Warped to remember the wonder in my eyes as I watched my Mum play the level “Makin’ Waves” and taught me a way to help me fall asleep (a trick I still use to this day). These memories sparked my lifelong love of video games and if I cannot be making new memories with my family now, then I want to remember the ones I already have.
Sure, I could start a new game but what if the current situation tarnishes the experience as a memory that would be best forgotten? Instead, I want to hear the epilogue of Horizon: Zero Dawn to remind me that “being smart will count for nothing if you don’t make the world better” and that I do have “enough compassion to heal the world, just a little bit.” Those sentiments ring true now more than ever and hearing them empowers me to stay confident and to be better.
In times like these, games are a comfort from the unknown; a reminder that some things are always certain. I could spend my days in lockdown clearing my backlog like a to-do list of chores for the sake of doing something to feel accomplished. Or I could spend this time being kinder to myself and just delight in the games that remind me of the joy that was and what will be again.