How to Survive the First Quarter Video Game Drought
Every year it happens. All the good games are released in the 4th quarter, just in time for Christmas, in about October and November. Very rarely does the 1st quarter have anything worthwhile to offer. Even if there is anything, you’ll often find that January is a placeholder month for games that developers say will be out “sometime early next year”. They often get delayed, and pushed back further in to the year. After all, do you really expect them to finish a game that soon after Christmas and New Years? This is what is referred to in the industry as the 1st quarter drought. There is just a shortage of new games to play.
Old school gamers don’t really worry about all of this too much, simply because back in the day, they only had a handful – if that – of new games in a year. We’re talking even as recently as a decade or two ago. Not necessarily in the Space Invaders era of gaming, even. Back in the mid-90s when I grew up, in 1996 there was Duke Nukem 3D in January, followed by Quake in mid-96 and Diablo late that year. And that was about it as far as the gaming calendar went.
We’re used to having barely anything. We make do.
The younger generations however always whine and complain about the lack of new games to play. And it’s only in the 2nd quarter that the games start to trickle in before the flood that commences as the silly season nears, and then the whining stops for a few weeks.
So here’s a survival kit on just how to survive the gaming drought. And you don’t even need to leave your PC/console or expend any sort of creative energy for most, if not all of them. Wonderful.
Play some modifications or total conversions
Visit ModDB where virtually every mod and TC there is, is categorised. You can search for whatever game you want and see what downloads are listed. Mods range from minor customisations all the way through to total conversions, making the game barely recognisable. If you want to see how good a mod can be, check out The Dark Mod for Doom 3. Day Z is a really popular mod for Arma 2. And the best thing is, that most mods out there are completely free and available for download. You can play most, if not all of them as long as you have the original game, although some are standalone - which technically isn't a mod.
If you’re a console gamer, then this solution unfortunately isn’t available to you.
Play a freeware title
I mentioned above that some games that are up for download are standalone and free to download. This makes them freeware titles, unless they’re open source, which is free most of the time. There are freeware titles made by amateur developers and modders who want to create their own game, building it from the ground up, rather than modify an existing one. That’s one kind of freeware. UFO: Alien Invasion is a freeware title which is much like the original X-Com games. The other kind is a game that was once commercial but has since been re-released as freeware. Good examples include Tiberian Sun, Red Alert, and Grand Theft Auto. Yes, they’re old. So what? Do yourself a favour and educate yourself by playing these titles to see what all the fuss was about. You might actually have fun.
Play an indie title
Most people in truth probably wouldn’t touch an indie title. You can usually find them on Steam or a similar digital distribution service, and they generally cost less than the big players. And a lot of people probably don’t support them because they think they’re crap. But some have gone on to become immensely successful. Look at Amnesia for example, all ready being hailed as one of the scariest games of all time, with a sequel coming soon (actually it has just been delayed a second time, to Q2, 2013 as we speak).
The next time you get bored of "Medal of Duty: Call of the Battlefield", and whine that you want something new, look no further than the indie scene – because this is where fresh, new ideas are going to come from, with no publishers around that are only interested in milking an existing franchise just to turn a profit, and won’t go near a new intellectual property that might cost them a million or two.
Play some old games you all ready own, but with a twist
This topic again? You only want new games you say? There must be some games you own that would be worth a play again. You could spice it up a bit by upping the difficulty level; play the game with some mods; download map packs for the game; set some challenges like iron man mode, which is playing the full game all the way through without loading savegames or taking any breaks. If you do, it’s all the way back to the beginning for you. Maybe try a speedrun, which is seeing how fast you can get through a level. Hell, you could try playing the game with your feet instead of your hands.
Buy some old(er) games
The price would have come down on older games – that’s one reason to go and buy them. You might stumble across a game you haven’t played before that perhaps even has good reviews that’s going for the right price.
Try a different genre
You usually go for first person shooters, or maybe role playing games. So why not try a real time strategy, or a racing title? Get out of your gaming comfort zone and try something new.
Play some demos
Perhaps you’re not absolutely sure whether you want to buy an older game. There’s a few reasons why this might be. You don’t know whether they’re any good or whether they’ll work on your PC (if you’re a pc gamer). You can often download demos for free or get them off of cover DVDs that come with gaming magazines.
Play around with game making or level editing tools
So you don’t want to do any of the other things listed here and yet you’re still dying for something to do? You know you have that great idea for a game that nobody else has ever made? Why not make it yourself? There’s several commercial products out there that will help you get your feet wet. But there’s a surprising amount of free open source tools online that will let you do exactly the same. If making a game from scratch is too daunting, fiddle around with a game’s level editor and make a great level, maybe even for you and your friends to enjoy in a multiplayer deathmatch.
If that’s all too complicated, then rather opt for something less complicated, like building a house inspired by a game you like in The Sims 3, and then go about filling it with characters from that game. Maybe even have an all-star cast of characters from several games and have a celebrity big brother type situation.
Try playing a game-inspired board game or pen and paper RPG
So there’s absolutely no games you feel like playing, and you’re dead set on sitting there waiting for StarCraft: Heart of the Swarm to come out? Well, while you’re waiting, maybe try playing a board game based on a video game, or maybe a pen and paper RPG. This is what they had before video game RPGs came along, probably long before you were even born. You even get card games similar to Magic: The Gathering, and they might even be flash-based, so you needn’t look away from your computer screen.
Manage a backlog
Make a list of all the games you own and then head over to backloggery.com. Here you can sort your games in to different groups, such as games you’ve finished, games that you’ve mastered (as in done absolutely everything there is to do – think sidequests and achievements) and games you’ve yet to finish or even play. Then you can see which games you need to go back to and try to finish or even master.
Play a casual game
You’ve heard of Farmville or Angry Birds? Those games that everyone is playing on their smartphones but you dared never touch? Maybe pick one up and try it. Oh, and you can play Angry Birds on your PC, just in case you were wondering.
Play a flash game online
I honestly think that flash games as we know them today were born out of Stick Death and Joe Cartoon. Not the usual animations, but the interactive types like commanding a SWAT team in Stick Death. Since then you can even play a flash based version of Fallout 3 online – which is technically a demake.
Play a demake
What is a demake you ask? A demake is taking a game like BioShock, taking one of its levels and recreating it in Doom 2 for instance, in all its sprite filled, low-res textured, pixelated glory. Or playing Counter-Strike from a 2D top-down point of view, similar to the old GTA titles. Or how about Left 4 Dead with 8-bit graphics? It’s fun just to see how faithfully the levels have been recreated.
Play a free to play game
Camps are divided when it comes to free to play titles. Some say it’s nothing more than the start of a slippery slope that will just end up in addiction and have you spending more money than you would have otherwise. Others say that it's a welcome addition to the market, and might act as a temporary distraction, keeping you busy until the next AAA title is out.
Play a bad game
You’ve surely heard of Daikatana – one of the worst video games of all time? But have you actually played it? You take people’s word for it when you read reviews and see people climb on the bandwagon and slam the title on gaming forums. Granted, it probably is that bad, but how would you actually know? In the end, it’s your own opinion that matters. So I dare you to at least play the demo of a horrid game to see what it’s really like. Look no further than games based on movies. Then I think afterwards you’ll at least have a new found appreciation for even the most average game out there.
Visit a video game arcade
You remember those arcade cabinets that you would find at restaurants and convenience stores years ago? How about a video game arcade? Ever visited one. Personally the one that was nearest to where I live closed down years ago. You might have more luck in finding one. Then all you’ve got to do is stack up on tokens and wile away the hours.
Play a game’s singleplayer or multiplayer mode
You’ve spent the last few months competing online against other people, and somehow you’re sick of all the immaturity, death threats, DDoS attacks, and general nonsense that goes on. So why not fire up the singleplayer mode of a game instead? The AI characters in a game aren’t nearly as douchebaggy as any Xbox Live player. And they won’t try to hunt you down and kill you in real life either. Because it’s just a game.
Likewise, if you’ve played the singleplayer campaign of every game in your collection, then maybe give the multiplayer mode a shot to see what it’s like. Just don’t come crying when you discover that it’s filled with mean people who don’t like you very much.
Do you ever struggle to get through the first quarter video game drought?
© 2013 ANDR01D