Easy does it
When games look back

Off the path

Path A funny thing happened on my way to the latest AAA game. I wandered off the path.

I'm sitting here with two games on the table next to me, both still in their shrink-wrap: Batman: Arkham Asylum and Uncharted 2. Batman has been out for two months; Uncharted 2 appeared a week ago. I've played neither, and here's the funny thing: it doesn't bother me.

Don't get me wrong. I'm genuinely excited about both of these games. The original Uncharted is one of my favorite games of this generation, and I can't wait to play its sequel. (Well, actually I guess I can.)  And so many of my friends and students have raved about Batman that I feel compelled to play it and see what all the fuss is about.

So every day I wake up and think "today I will finally play Batman," fully intending to wrestle with that shrink-wrap and go toe-to-toe with the Joker. And every day, I change my mind. I play Rock Band instead. Or Demon's Souls. Or A Boy and His Blob. Or just a wee bit more Machinarium. And okay, I'll admit it, I still load up Flower now and then and still love it as much as ever.

Today I committed myself to play Uncharted 2. Absolutely. No question about it. I arrived home, remembered the new LostWinds game came out yesterday, downloaded it and...yeah, no Uncharted tonight.

I think my drive to play games when they're released comes from a desire to be part of the big conversation. My Twitter feed suggests that nearly every game writer and designer I know is playing Uncharted 2 at the moment, and it's fun to feel part of such a collective. I also enjoy writing here about games like Little King's Story before most people have played them. It makes me feel useful, and I guess it's obvious that I enjoy beating the drum for games that don't receive the attention they deserve.

But lately I've begun to realize it's not really important for me to be first on the scene. Legions of other writers have previewed, sneak-peaked, and reviewed Batman: AA and Uncharted 2 - heck, we're already seeing post-mortems on these games - and I don't fancy myself a key figure in that wave. I'm sure I'll have something to say about Uncharted 2 because that game is right up my alley, but it probably won't look much like a review.

So I suppose this meandering fit of self-reflection is to say that I'm learning why I write about games. Being part of a never-ending conversation about the 'game of the moment' is fun, and I enjoy mixing it up with the insatiable roving crowd. But ultimately, it's not very satisfying. We eat a game up in a few days, then we spit it out and order up the next entree.

The other day I found myself micro-reviewing Brutal Legend on Twitter, issuing 140-character soundbytes that purported to encapsulate a 10-hour game dozens of people spent years making. It all happened before I realized what I was doing, and I soon regretted it. Sometimes the people who seem to care most about games are the very ones to most brashly commodify them. In this case, we were ankle-deep in instant analysis on the day of the game's release, before most people even had a chance to play it. I've decided not to do that anymore.

No doubt about it. I'll play Uncharted 2 tomorrow.