As a designer, I put a lot of pressure on myself to play games. I want to be in on the real-time conversations centered around new releases (like Death Stranding). I want to be well-versed in recent high-impact games that are shaping the industry through popularity and/or innovations (like Fortnite). And I want to be familiar with as many classics and genre-defining games as I can through our medium’s evolution (like Myst).
But there are just too many important games out there. It’s not realistic for me to play them all, let alone complete or master them. With limited time/money/energy, I need to carefully prioritize to get the highest ROI.
Knowing this, and adjusting for the missteps in the 2010s (aka my twenties), here are my Gaming Goals for 2020.
Goal #1: Play Lots of Games
This might sound silly or obvious, but it’s really about trusting the process.
I’ve already put systems in place to vet and prioritize what games I should be playing sooner, as well as what games I hope to play on release. So if I just push myself to keep going, these methods will force me to play a bunch of games that meet my personal criteria of important. I have also come to terms with not finishing every game; I just need to play enough of it to “get it” (subjective), and then I can choose to move on.
According to my logs I played about 37 new games in 2018 and 38 new games in 2019. With a little extra dedication I think I can hit 50 new games in 2020. This is nearly 1 game per week on average, though in practice I expect it to happen in spurts.
Goal #2: Step Outside My Comfort Zone
This goal is about variety of play experience. Left to my own unconscious devices, I’ll just crawl back into my shell. This means playing games in the genres and by the developers I already enjoy.
It’s a particularly hard goal because the goal post keeps moving. For example at the end of 2019, playing a tactics game (Into the Breach) fit this goal, since I’ve historically struggled to get into tactics game. But now that I’ve done multiple runs of the game and love it, I have to weigh the value of diving deeper against moving to new experiences.
A new genre I’d like to try in 2020 is the Auto Battler. Some genres I’d like to revisit are first person shooters and open world RPGs.
Goal #3: Immerse Myself in a Big World
In my twenties, I spent a lot of time trying to figure my life and career out. Which I did! But to do so I actively avoided open-world games because of their huge time-commitment, with very few exceptions (such as Breath of the Wild).
While I was able to find immersive experiences in smaller games, there is something uniquely special about a massive world full of life and character and things to do. So in 2020 I’d like to climb into 1-2 massive worlds. This will help bring me up-to-date with modern advances in world design, and give me the kind of immersive experiences that only gaming can offer.
Existing candidates that intrigue me are Horizon: Zero Dawn and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and 2020 release candidates are Cyberpunk 2077 and Gods & Monsters.
Goal #4: Deep Dive into a Multiplayer Game
It’s one thing to play a multiplayer game. It’s another thing attempt play it competitively. I still remember obsessing over every detail in Super Smash Bros. Melee like it was yesterday. I put in over 1000 hours, practiced advanced techniques, participated in forum discussions, and watched tournament matches on YouTube. So in 2020 I’d like to pick a competitive multiplayer game and dedicate some time to improving.
This not about some external goal like placing at a tournament. It’s about that feeling of pushing yourself to your limit; of being so comfortable with technique that you are operating on a higher level of strategy. That feeling when you’re in the zone and connecting with your opponent… there’s nothing like it.
Top candidates are Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Rocket League.
The Meta Game
Developing a strategy for how to approach playing games is game-like in and of itself. But winning this meta game is only worth it if it does not detract from other parts of my life, including my personal game development goals. And once you are playing a game out of obligation, it begins to feel like work.
I think success here will require a delicate balancing act, but I also think it’s okay to fall short of some of these metrics. In any case, I imagine I will come out of 2020 a more experienced gamer, and by extension a stronger designer.