How have your gaming tastes changed as you’ve changed?

When I was a teen, I loved JRPGs and anime, likely influenced from a deep obsession with Dragon Ball Z and Pokémon during my pre-teen years. I have a lot of fond memories of playing DS JRPGs in particular, like Dragon Quest IV and IX, the DS Pokémon, Final Fantasy IV.

I was also obsessed with Kingdom Hearts 2 one summer. I worked at a school as a janitor, waxing floors and cleaning. When I’d get home, I’d play KH2 and sleep. And then work. And then play KH2. I played it for about 100 hours, just grinding and grinding. Fond memories!

Which is to say, in my head, I love JRPGs. I find myself purchasing them still and telling myself I’ll play and enjoy them. But I realized I haven’t finished a JRPG in about 10 years. :smiling_face_with_tear: I also haven’t watched anime in that long. (But I do read manga from time to time and enjoy that experience a lot.)

I’ll tell myself, “wow, it’d be great to replay Kingdom Hearts 2 and recapture the Teen Janitor Summer” but what if that’s just simply not possible?

JRPGs are likely just a bit too long for me to keep my attention these days. Maybe that’ll change with time. Maybe they’ll become a sort of chill experience, just taking little bites. I’m sure I’ll keep buying and starting JRPGs.

But when I consider transformational changes in my life and my tastes changing, becoming a parent rewired my brain. I became obsessed with shmups, primarily playing them over the last 18 months. The instant action, the challenge, the progress, the lack of tedium (to me)—they’re just right for me during limited windows of time to play games. Into the Breach and Kero Blaster are two similar games that I’ve really loved since becoming a parent.

Time has become quite limited since becoming a parent, and I’ve come to value experiences that are shorter.

There’s one more aspect to loving shmups: carpal tunnel. Over 15 years of programming has destroyed my hands and fingers, and using regular controllers causes pain. For example, analog sticks give me days of minor thumb joint pain after. Some controllers are better than others, but I love using an arcade stick because the way it’s used means I’m making much larger movements with my hand, arm, and fingers, which causes significantly less hand pain.

In summary: becoming a parent has me preferring shorter, tighter gaming experiences like shmups compared to younger me loving JRPGs.

Have you noticed your tastes in gaming change over your life, and is that change caused by anything in particular?

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This is great food for thought and something I can relate with since becoming a parent as well - the main challenge I have is the amount of time to play a game in! Like yourself before that happened I enjoyed great big games, JRPGs especially that allowed me the time to get immersed into a world both for the gameplay and the lore of it because I had a longer period of time in one session to play. Nowadays I have sometimes a few minutes, at most 30 minutes a day to myself and usually by then I’m too tired to function let alone get into a deep gaming session knowing that I don’t usually accomplish anything in that time, I don’t want to spend it grinding and of course, the biggest challenge - I may not get that if someone or someones decide sleeping shows weakness and I have to help there!

After my eldest son was born I decided to make a rule with gaming: That I would not go back and play a game I have already finished before, and try once a month to finish a game. Which mostly in the three years since I’ve started has worked for me. Since then I have go through around 20 games I have wanted to play and hadn’t before and feel very pleased with the enjoyment of doing so. A lot of these are not new games, which leads to the most important part of being able to do this - emulation and handheld devices!!!

I’ve found that having a Switch and a Steamdeck to be the ultimate way to be a parent-gamer for my situation, which is two boys under six who don’t understand daddy needs some time for him. I can pick up a game, and if I can’t keep playing I don’t have to wait for a save point, a cutscene to finish or powering down - I hit a button and it freezes the exact moment I want it to, and I can go back to that second and continue, even after a few days. Or the instance of one game, two weeks!

A good example of this is mid the above sentence I had to go sort them out, so now 10 minutes later I can continue…

I’d say my tastes have changed somewhat, that I do enjoy smaller more short term rewarding games where you don’t have to play for an hour and get nowhere in the grand scheme of it, but I think the biggest change is how I play them and allows me to keep gaming at a time where time is one thing I don’t have.

People don’t always understand how emulation with save states in games and devices which pause the gaming experience have allowed some people who can’t play the way they did before to still enjoy gaming at a different point in their lives. We’re all busy people doing whatever we do whenever we do it, but bringing in a system that freezes a game for you, so you can return is wonderful for me. Also some games really need a recap system when you don’t play a game for a while and go back to it. Control refresh, plot aspects. Policenauts did this and wow it was incredible.

Long story short - if you like big games, don’t have little people! But if you do, buy little gaming machines. Plus they can play on them too… eventually!

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A big change in my tastes that I realized I’ve made happened when discussing Elden Ring and my excitement for the DLC with a friend. He could not understand the appeal as he’s “not a masochist” and “prefers a story”. Made me realize how I used to “prefer a story” in my games for most of my adult gaming life. As a kid I think I just preferred whatever looked neat at Blockbuster. But the Sony stable of third person action games were my jam for the PS3 and most of the PS4 generation. Then I started reading books again and realized how limiting game stories can be, at least in your generic AAA game. As someone who doesn’t like TV shows, being treated to a prestige TV show esque cutscene after repetitive “clear the wave of bad guys” gameplay suddenly stopped doing it for me.

I realized I prefer a game that has good gameplay over a story. I still enjoy “story first” games like JRPGs but those are, for me, much more involved/interesting than those Sony 3rd person action games that kept me interested in gaming over the last decade.

Control was a transitional game for me in this change, it has an engaging story but does a lot of weird with it and the story felt non linear and less gameplay gated than gameplay tied in. And that gameplay I found engaging and really fun.

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I find my tastes have gotten…worse?

That is to say, I used to have a fairly rigid, specific set of criteria. Games should be focused on doing a single thing right. Games should be action-packed and fun to play. Games should be based on original IP. Games should strive for artistic cohesion rather than photorealism. I also stuck to my core genres or interest: JRPG, Fighting Game, and Platformer.

But as I get more interested in big G “Games” as a concept rather than little g “games” as a pastime, I find myself playing more and more games outside these rules. I would probably enjoy games more if I stuck to my original rules and genres. I play many games that don’t particularly excite me, out of curiosity more than out of engagement. I’m certainly less discerning now, and I don’t like gaming as much as a result.

I also find that as I expand my scope of gaming, and games as a whole expand their rate of release, I prefer shorter games, just so I can play more of them.

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My tastes have definitely narrowed. As a child, I played a wide range of games, from platformers and puzzle games to racers and shooters and plenty of things in between. As I moved into adolescence and into adulthood, though, RPGs became my central focus, because unlike many of the other genres I played, it was story—and particular characters—that took center stage in them, which I appreciated as an avid reader in my youth

This was due mostly to two things: firstly, I received a Playstation for my my birthday at 13 or 14 (which I asked for mostly because my dad had won a drawing for Castlevania: Symphony of the Night even though we didn’t have a Playstation, and I wanted to play it!). Secondly, I was getting old enough to finally understand and succeed at the SSI Gold Box D&D games (particularly Secret of the Silver Blades and Pools of Darkness)

With my new Playstation, I could finally reconnect with Final Fantasy through Final Fantasy VII (our house went from the Nintendo with the original to the Genesis, so I’m one of the few elder millennial Final Fantasy fans who don’t think Final Fantasy VI is the best one), and with my new appreciation for CRPGs, I was able to fall in love with Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II

RPGs, particularly those in the “western” tradition, also gave my subconscious transness a place to express itself, since they often featured character creation when most of the gaming world of my youth was focused on stereotypical male protagonists I struggled to connect with. I’ve developed a strong preference for character creation in games and female protagonists as a result, and it takes a good story hook to really get me into male-led games these days

Now well into adulthood and with degree in English Literature and Classical Studies, I do play non-RPGs, but when I do I most often gravitate toward those with strong narrative hooks and compelling stories. While gameplay naturally remains a factor in whether or not I enjoy a game, story—or at the very least, an immersive emotional mood and/or tone—has to be strong for me to stick with a game, while I can sometimes forgive weaker gameplay if the story captures me

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on the forum, this sometimes gets me into trouble. Most games writers aren’t really writing for literature majors who burnt out on reading in university but rather the general public, and most games (understandably) place gameplay before story, often to the detriment of the latter. This has given me lots of unpopular opinions about video games, but at this point I suppose it’s become something of my personal brand!

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I think if anything my tastes have calcified lol. I’ve always preferred shorter 2d games, but my patience for longer games and 3d games has worn very, very thin. I still haven’t finished TotK for example, and I bounced off Dark Souls so hard that I haven’t touched a From game since. My main gaming interests have long been shmups, pinball, short competitive multiplayer games and roguelikes, but these days I only have patience for a game or two a year that isn’t one of those, and I’ve accepted that I am too bad at navigating a 3d space to even bother with something like Overwatch or Fortnite.

When I was a kid, I used to think it was real sad when folks hit a certain age and stop listening to new music, and to an extent I still think that, but there reaches a point in your life where you have experienced enough things to know what your taste is. It’s important to not shun things sight unseen, but I also think there’s some value in knowing what kind of things you enjoy and gravitating towards them.

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I don’t much care for games with action/violence that pretends at pseudo realism. So that would mean anything from call of duty to even a fromsoft action game. I just feel dumb pressing buttons to attack and shoot little guys on the screen, it feels pointless and unbecoming to me. I’m not squeemish I just think it’s weird thing for people my age to do

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Geez, the AAA landscape must seem pretty bleak to you.

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yeah I ain’t paying $70 for that trash

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I’m not sure there is a grand trend to my changing tastes, but there are definitely threads of change over time:

  • Racing games. Until the PS1 era, I loved racing games. Pole Position and Burning Rubber were my first experiences with the genre. Super Monaco GP and Top Gear 3000 with their campaign modes made me into a skilled racer. I also played several racers on the PS1 and PC, like the Need for Speed games and Rally Cross 2. Crazy Taxi and Cruis’n were junk food.
    Then I played a Gran Turismo. In the 20 or so hours I spent playing GT2, I threw myself into the realism of racing. Maybe it made me realize I liked the arcade mechanics better, or maybe I realized I liked racing as a game but was not going to be a car guy. After that point, I didn’t want to play GT again, and the only new racing games I got into were the Burnout titles.

  • Real Time Strategy. I got into this subgenre with Warcraft 1 and 2 and a few other titles. Then two games threw me in deep for a couple of summers: (a) my sister brought home from college a pirated copy of Age of Empires 2 (note: I’d go on to buy this game at least 5 different times including twice on Steam); (b) I played Homeworld, which I wasn’t that good at but would play the first 8 or 9 missions a lot and even tried early multiplayer. In college, I was skilled at LAN AoE2 (my strength was turtling to give teammates a chance to build up and attack). After college, I’ve never had anyone to play with and I was less interested in single player. I still haven’t touched Homeworld 2 or 3. I went instead to grand strategy or 4X strategy titles.

  • RPGs. Before the PS1 era, I played console RPGs exclusively at my best friend’s house, where he had most of the SNES classics and some not-classics. Meanwhile, I chugged along through a limited library of C64 RPGs. Then with a PS1, the first RPG I bought was Legend of Legaia, and the first I received as a gift was Lunar: Silver Star Story. From there, my tastes have only expanded. I got into shareware/indie RPGs in the late 1990s with the Exile series, Solar Winds, and Moria: The Depths of Dejenol, and also got my taste of the old Forgotten Realms titles with a couple of boxed sets.
    In this manner, I expanded my tastes, chasing not just the promise of story and worlds but also the varied kinds of gameplay and customization. Time is now a bigger constraint, but I still try to play an RPG new to me when I can.

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I think for me the biggest thing has been becoming okay with just getting a slice of a game.

I’m here right? I consider myself wanting to like niche games etc, but I often find myself not enjoying them that much. I remember being so thrilled to be able to play Linda Cube in English and just kinda not liking it that much, same with like, an LSD Dream Emulator, or say… Popolocrois Monogatari which I thought was so cute and fun and put it down after like ten hours.

I thought I was a JRPG guy, but couldn’t play raidiant historia, phantom brave, or etrian odyssey for more than like two hours. Grandia for like 15. Xenogears did NOT change my life.

I don’t know that I have some necessary set of criteria for beating a game, the most recent games I remember beating are Gradius, Void Stranger, Uncharted 4, TOTK, Unicorn Overlord and Crow Country. I’m currently 3/4 through a replay of LTTP and will likely beat it.

I suppose my thesis here is usually when I complete a game it’s something I think is a masterpiece or something I can beat in two hours - everything else I just kinda play for two hours. Emulation has kind of brain poisoned me for this too, sometimes I wonder if I have too much choice.

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when i first saw a videogame, all videogames were the same to me and they were all magic.

then, when i got a genesis, my conception of videogmames was entirely the horizon of whatever games i could actually get my hands on.

then, when i found videogame magazines, my horizon broadened to include what i imagined a game must be from screenshots.

but then, when i concluded gamefan was the best magazine, i concieved of myself as a HARDCORE GAMER. this had two sides to it: on the one hand it gave me a dumbass, shitty attitude, like those guys who think they’re so good at listening to music, if you know what i mean, but for videogames (i’m sure i’m the only one on here that had that awkward phase…); on the other hand, it gave me a willingness (even eagerness) to gnaw through bone so i could suck the marrow.

then i went through a phase of refining and abstracting my idea of what makes a good game, and rejecting anything that didn’t fit through that narrow hole. flat heroes would’ve been just about my ideal game.

then, because of life, i stopped being a weird shut-in with weird shut-in tendencies, and my tastes expanded to include the games my friends and family liked. for instance, i got into animal crossing, which i had rejected philosophically when i was more of a jackass, because my daughter liked it.

i used to want a big fat beef burger blunt bowl of cereal of a game that i could lose myself in, now i don’t want something that demands much time, because i don’t have it.

i used to value a game for how it fit my ideal, now i am at least as interested in games that don’t fit.

i used to think videogames should be narrowed and refined, and now i think the possibilities of the medium are hardly explored at all.

and i used to be wowed by the technical sophistication of games, and i used to dream of what could be done in the future, but now i’m almost turned off by impressive tech, and i dream of what videogames would be without video at all.

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My tastes have broadened a lot as I’ve grown older, though the way I interface with games is a lot different. I’m much more likely to just visit a game as a tourist, follow a guide or use save states, and feel content to put it down.

I don’t think I’ve left that many formats behind, but RTS is definitely one of them. I think once you play a grand strategy game, it’s hard to go back to an RTS (or even a 4X personally). RTSes feel more arcadey and the procedural generation can make your strategies feel repetitive. I also don’t love the mechanical actions of clicking around everywhere all the time, and prefer the elegance of pausing and plotting out a lot of things at once. Grand Strategy games are also more compelling to me because of the asymmetric nature and being based around one meticulously crafted scenario that can be approached an infinite amount of ways. Also having a distaste toward League of Legends/DOTA, and seeing its grip on RTS players makes me wary of ever jumping back in. It make me very disenchanted, and I can only see it in terms of being a skinnerbox. I don’t know that there is a sense of accomplishment to be gained from competitive strategy games, but I think companies know how to string you along!

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I had been using 4X and Grand Strategy interchangeably until I read this post, which led me to conduct some research. Thank you.

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As I’ve grown older, had kids, etc. I’ve realised time is very limited. So I’m more sensitive to games that I’m not enjoying. I’m happy to bounce off them and move to another game. Next!

This has had the benefit of my taste and radar for great games becoming very fine tuned. Which is nice.

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Growing up, I had no idea what the good video games were. We couldn’t afford magazine subscriptions and the internet either didn’t exist or only just started existing. We definitely couldn’t afford that. So because there was nobody to tell me what the good games were, I just sorta played what I had and what I rented. Mostly rented. Games that stand out in my memory from this era: Joe and Mac, Super Ninja Boy, Mortal Kombat, and Mega Man X. Mortal Kombat I knew because of my stepdad, and Mega Man X I knew from a neighbor kid having it. The other two I just had. I saw Mega Man X before I ever saw Mega Man, by the way. It was so weird going back and seeing that little squat blue guy as Mega Man.

I had an NES as a very young child, but I only remember playing Ice Hockey. Childhood trauma wiped out most of my NES memories.

By my early teen years, we got the internet and I started going to sites where people knew what the good video games were. This was a sort of “catching up” period in my gaming taste. I played all the big ones. Metroids, Zeldas, Final Fantasies, on and on. This was also the period of time when I discovered emulation, which helped with my catching up.

In my early twenties, I started college and decided I would give up games, at least for a while. So I did. This also marks the period when I would stop buying home consoles, going forward I either wouldn’t have room or wouldn’t have the money. And eventually I stopped wanting them. I loved handhelds and continue to love handhelds, though.

By my mid-twenties, I was back in and fully a Normal Taste Haver, by which I mean I enjoyed Nintendo games, some AAA games, and some indie games. This is when I started getting into the weirder side of games that people were making. I discovered Twine games and freeindiegam.es and those exploded my taste and my idea of what a game could be.

By the time I was thirty, I wasn’t paying as much attention to current indie game stuff. Freeindiegam.es had ceased activity and I just kind of lost track of what people were doing. I still don’t really keep up very closely with that stuff anymore. This is when I would stop paying attention to AAA forever and started finding myself more interested in the history of games and exploring old stuff.

And that’s about where I am today. I play mostly old games, and mostly to construct my own personal timeline of video game history and influence. I’ve known about emulation for a long time, so I was playing old stuff already, but now I tend to do it with a (I’d like to hope) sharper critical mind and with my good time hat on. I found it was a more valuable exercise to try to understand what made something good rather than look for the things that make it bad.

I will never have children and I’m not even especially busy most of the time, so I never went through the Big RPG Change where I start wanting short, bite-sized entertainment experiences. In fact, all the clamoring for short games amongst old people (read: people my age) has made me want to be contrary and look for games that are absurdly (but interestingly!) long. Haven’t found very many though. Kinda just two. Still looking out though!

And that’s an incomplete version of my life’s story with video games.

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I’ve also never had this experience and can’t imagine that I will, so you’re not the only one. I still place a lot of value on the longer experiences, because I have a lot of time I need to fill day-to-day, but I do need there to be a certain baseline quality to the length for it to be satisfying (looking at you, recent Assassin’s Creed games…)

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As someone around your age, I don’t specifically look for short games, I played Yakuza 2 remastered recently and did 45+ hours of game play. What made it doable was pausing the game instantly and being able to go back to it so I could enjoy it in bits sized chunks. However the best aspect was that I could play for 10 minutes and feel I accomplished something - which some of the older bigger games don’t allow. I think now I just enjoy games, big or small that give you the ability to move forward in a game in a shorter period of time.

What games did you find that are absurdly long? The interesting part has me interested and also if I’ve played one lately and am totally wrong!

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What matters to me now much more than it used to is getting to the point. If a game takes an hour, or god forbid two hours, to get to the good stuff I am going to complain loudly to anyone who can hear me. I can make time for games, but I shouldn’t have to.

I still like to play a lot of different things across genres, and things like game length don’t really factor into my decisions, but I have a really strong negative reaction these days when it feels like a game won’t let me just play it. I used to be a HUGE fan of the AAA storytelling thing that Naughty Dog pioneered, but now if a game is acting like that towards me nine times out of ten I’m going to try to find something else to do. A recent example was Stray. I love cats and I play video games, so why not, but the amount of robot dialogue and tasks in that game was making me insane. I bought the stupid cat game so I could walk around as a stupid cat and do cat things, not solve the mystery of a ruined civilization.

edit: to be clear I’m not saying Stray attempted to be a Naughty Dog game, but it did attempt to be Emotionally Resonant or whatever. Still can’t do a better job of that than books or movies

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Void Stranger and The Longing were the two I was thinking of. I think Void Stranger demands a lot of time (~60 hours) from the player in order to reinforce some of its themes. I know 60 hours is on the normal side of long in video games, but it feels strenuous because of all the repetition. The Longing was intentionally made to last 400 days, which is a different kind of long.

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