The long, dark silence between stars is as nothing to July, the month the games industry starts its summer nap. Welcome to The Drought, Here are our survival tips.
Heat haze hangs over the streets, or possibly frost rimes your windows, but in either case, it’s that time of year when, for whatever reason, the mainstream games industry goes quiet. Developers are still hard at work, of course, preparing the holiday and early new year glut, but right now we’re in what’s commonly referred to as a “release drought”.
Just because there’s no reason to skip merrily down to your local bricks-and-mortar doesn’t mean you have to stop gaming, though: here are our own personal tactics for finding games to play during the quiet months.
Go through your Steam and Humble Bundle back catalogues
Be honest – how many of those über-cheap games have you actually played for longer than a few minutes? Yes, that’s what I thought.
You have the time now, but we understand that doesn’t always work out. You stare at your library and you feel listless, uninspired. Probably all these games are great but it’s just not what you want to play now.
This fatigue can be combated. Make up a rule and stick to it. Go in alphabetical order, or order of least played, or any other system, and set a time – you must give the game at least an hour of your time. If at the end of that period you’re still not in the mood, uninstall it and move onto the next. But there’s a pretty solid chance you’ll be absorbed and enjoying yourself by then. You’re welcome.
Chase after achievements
Achievement hounds do what they do for a lot of reasons – bragging rights, unquestioned compulsion, a desire to see everything a game has to offer or to get their money’s worth. Your reason is simpler: you’re bored and need a reason to revisit games you’ve already tried.
Hunting for achievements can reinvigorate your interest in gaming because it forces you to approach a game in a new way – instead of just tackling your objectives and advancing the plot, you’re trying to nail a particular goal. Say you need to use a specific ability a certain number of times; doing so will likely teach you how best that ability works, and what tactical advantages it lends, and may end up altering your whole approach.
There’s a great deal of satisfaction to be had in grabbing a complete or near-complete set of achievements, not the least of which is comparing your performance to your friends. Challenge a buddy to match your accomplishments. Speaking of buddies…
Organise a regular multiplayer session
Gaming with a regular group of friends is one of the most rewarding aspects of the hobby. While clans and guilds can be a bit of a chore – not everyone has time for three raids a week – a more casual arrangement with a few buds can be brilliant.
Maybe you and your best mate could play through a few campaigns in co-op mode, which is often an entirely different experience to playing alone or with drop-in randoms. Maybe you could get a few friends together one night a week to work as a team in your favourite shooter. Maybe you want to work your way through an MMO together, going apart in your own time to grind, gather, craft and do faction quests then returning to explore and raid in tandem.
It’s a little bit more effort, but if you can convince your friends to occupy the same physical space – ie, your living room – then dig out your old split-screen games and multi-taps, crack a few brews, don’t stint on the snacks, and enjoy a cheap night of entertainment.
Try something different
In the words of the Monty Python crew, “and now for something completely different”. So there are no shooters releasing this month, and shooters are your bag. Maybe it’s time to lash out on something else? What if you’re some kind of Civilization savant, and you’ve never given yourself the time and space to find out?
Too often we let ourselves be hemmed in by specific genres or aesthetics, and it means we miss out on challenging, absorbing games. I’m not saying you have to go from FIFA and Call of Duty to Barbie’s Dream Home or whatever, but what about trying cartoony puzzle adventure Valiant Hearts: The Great War, or colourful but satisfyingly violent action RPG Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, or the over-the-top outrageous versus fighter JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure All Star Battle, or the grimly difficult simulation Papers, Please?
One of the best things about branching out from the latest triple-A releases is that you can often get something cool and different for not very much money. Ask for recommendations on social networking and forums – heck, ask in the comments thread here – and take a chance on something you would never otherwise try. Those people banging on about how good a game is aren’t doing it for their health; they found something to love, and you might, too.
Check in with 2014 so far
I know it’s hard to feel satisfied with what you’ve got now when October seems to be chock-full of things you’re dying to pick up, but if you absolutely must have a new triple-A experience this month, try expanding your definition of “new” to include “2014 to date”. After the gorgeing that is the holiday season, we get a second bout of strong new releases in the new year, and a lot of these can fly under the radar because we’re not in the consumer mood.
Putting aside re-releases and ports, this year’s triple-A releases include The Lego Movie Videogame, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13, Thief, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Dark Souls 2, Titanfall, Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes, InFamous: Second Son, The Elder Scrolls Online, Trials Fusion, 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle, Drakengard 3, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Murdered: Soul Suspect and Tomodachi Life.
I refuse to believe you have played and finished everything on that list.
Give up and lie in a bathtub full of ice/boiling water
If nothing on this list appeals to you, it’s very likely your suffering from Chronic Gaming Fatigue. After two console launches in late 2013, the incredible blowout that was E3 2014, and the exhausting process of filling in your end-of-year shopping list, we can’t really blame you. You are hereby granted permission to hide from extremes of weather and play Candy Crush Saga on your phone. We won’t tell.
Give us your recommendations for games to play while we wait out the drought, and share your top tips for making the most of your existing collections!