2020 lockdown gaming

The main reason why my other EOY lists are shorter than previous years is because I've started playing computer games again. That makes perfect sense in a lockdown year where you had to find ways to occupy yourself at home. It makes less sense when you have a baby to look after, although I've found that the stresses of that (alongside some other things that have made this year pretty tough on my family) were aleviated somewhat by gaming, which has the amazing ability to take your brain elsewhere entirely.

I haven't played a computer game since going to university more than 10 years ago, so I'm neither a very experienced nor a very proficient gamer. But that hasn't stopped me from trying to think a little bit about how games achieve their effects, and writing about that here. I've been helped in this by listening to the Watch Out For Fireballs podcast, which talks through and takes apart different games on a weekly basis. That show, as well as the network in general, has been another source of entertainment and distraction during this difficult year – and it has supplied me with prompts and a vocabularly for evaluating the games I'm playing. The hosts are great company, and it's been fun to listen and play alongside them.

I've been drawn to CRPGs mostly, which are gentle on the reflexes and tend to have a greater emphasis on story and character. That's the stuff I really latch onto, over and above satisfying and rewarding gameplay. It helps that I've been playing the Citizen Kanes and Casablancas of the medium – a good way to avoid disappointment as well as educate yourself on what games can achieve at their best. I've done my best to articulate those achievements in the summaries of my playthroughs below:

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