What matters most when you game? I imagine we each have a different answer, and that answer may change with time. After many years of playing military shooters, I finally realized this month that I’ve had enough. I’ll certainly go on steering around my little guy as he bobs behind an iron site in a brownish-grayish world, but I won’t miss the genre if it vanishes. If someone told me, “I'll take every Call of Duty game past and future away from you, and give you a single Nilla Wafer in return,” my response would be, “Holy crap! I love Nilla Wafers! What a deal!”
I spent a blessedly brief amount of time with Modern Warfare 3 before both Skyrim and the Xbox version of Batman: Arkham City (available for PC, too) landed on my desk, after which everything became a gray haze of pointless running about and shooting.
Skyrim isn’t a vast step beyond Oblivion or Fallout 3. Most of the same pieces are still there, but the world is so flawlessly created, perfectly realized, utterly beautiful, and endlessly fascinating that it feels like an entirely new experience. After spending 30 hours in the game, I still don’t want to leave.
It does things only games can do. No TV miniseries, not even something like Game of Thrones, could possibly achieve this level of epic adventure and storytelling, this kind of intricate interweaving of people and factions and motivations. In a different way, Arkham City accomplishes something similar: the amazing creation of a place you just want to live in for a while.
These are not worlds to run through; they are places in which to linger. That’s the key difference that makes a game worthwhile. Like a favorite place or a good book, it’s something you want to make last. To me, now, that’s what matters most.