Am I Playing the Wrong Video Games?

I borrowed Medal of Honor from Chris a few months ago and have been playing through the single play campaign. It’s moderately enjoyable, but first-person shooters for the most part are all the same. Navigate from one end of the level to the other, generally with only one route to take, eliminating all of the enemies along the way. These enemies, as well as your squad mates, generally have zero randomness or intellect. They stay behind the same cover until they are vanquished, they come in the same pattern every time you restart the level and don’t really try to trick you up. I understand that the limitations of video game technology mean that such is life, but I can’t help but wonder if I am just buying the wrong games.

I can classify all of the games I buy into four categories:

  1. Sports Games – NCAA Football, Madden and NBA 2K for the most part
  2. Call of Duty games – I have bought the last three
  3. Intellectual Property That Appeals to Me – Ghostbusters, Star Wars: Force Unleashed, Legends of Wrestlemania, Marvel Alliance
  4. Big Name Titles at Bargain Prices1 – Most recently Mafia II

What I am looking for is a challenge of some sort. But a challenge that is not just about reaction time and eye-hand coordination. I own several of the Rock Band games, and they have challenging components, but those components are just about memorization and/or eye-hand coordination. The idea of strategy is what is lacking from many of the games above. Having to use more than just quick button presses to defeat foes is what is lacking from these games. The sports games have a mild amount of this. When playing online, calling the right offensive or defensive play in NCAA or Madden involves some strategy, but as soon as the ball is snapped it again becomes about eye-hand coordination. Call of Duty is similar. There is a bit of strategy involved, finding a good spot, knowing where people are coming from, having more patience than the other guy, but even after all of that it still comes down to who can line up their crosshairs and fire faster than the other guy.

The closest I have come so far to scratching this itch is Civiliation 5. A turn-based strategy game where you build and advance your cilviliazation, collecting resources, exploring, researching and conqueroring other civilizations. My main roadblock to playing this game more, is simply the fact that my nearly two year old MacBook Pro without a discreet graphics card not only can’t display graphics like they were meant to be seen, but also has trouble scrolling and and handling basic gameplay, especially as the game goes on and the number of things in the world increases. As a result of this fact, my assumption is that there aren’t going to be many games that will run well on my MacBook Pro. So I guess that leaves the console.

From what I have picked up from podcasts, Twitter and video game websites, there seem to be a few games (or types of games) that could fill this void. Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPGs) seem to be more about crafting your character, exploring and teamwork to succeed, but have a massive time committment associated with them and also seem to force you to rely too much on other people. Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games like Starcraft bring a chess-like experience of outwitting your opponent and thinking five steps ahead, but too much talent in Starcraft lies with clicking and working as fast as possible. Portal, and the recently released Portal 2, both seem to offer some mental stimulation. These games seem to mostly be about figuring out what the secret is to traversing the environment and making it to the end. Sadly, I have never played either, but the videos I have seem don’t get me very excited. Other role-playing games (RPGs) like Fable III, Dragon Age 2 or Fallout: New Vegas potentially offer opportunities, but again I have never played any of those or their predsesscors.

So what am I missing? What is out there that I haven’t tried or mentioned? Did I cover everything? Am I asking too much? Do I have to just stick to games I do enjoy playing and accept them for what they are?

You tell me.

  1. The only exception to this is Red Dead Redemption which justified paying full cost for []