Why it can be great to take a break from a console

You may or may not be aware that I write for the excellent Switch Player Magazine so it should therefore not come as a surprise that I have played my fair share of Switch games and subsequently written a considerable amount of words about said games.

However, this does, of course, bring the issue of turning my experience with the Switch into something that borders on becoming a job (well technically it is a job). Not that I’m complaining, it’s wonderful to be able to write for one of the few physical videogame magazines out there (which is now even fewer) but there are times where you have to make yourself play on the system when there might be other things you want/need to do.

It also means that other games I have on the system that I would also like to play have to be put on the backburner for a while. I know, this sounds like a classic “first world problem”, but videogames are a substantial part of my life (even more so now that I am paid to lecture about them).

Over the summer I devoted a lot of my time towards researching and writing a paper on authenticity (and to lesser extent nostalgia) and its function in historical videogames (specifically Assassin’s Creed Syndicate). After the summer it was then confirmed that the lecturer position was going ahead so I then had plenty of lesson prepping to do. As a result, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to dedicate the amount of time that is necessary to properly review a game, so I had to forgo reviewing for most of September, and so my Switch remained turned off and stored in the carrying case for that time.

Once the prep was done and lecturing in full swing I was able to return to my Switch. But before I received the next review code I finally activated the free 7-day trial for Nintendo’s Online Service. Yes, that’s how much out of the loop I was, I had only just updated the firmware to the big 6.0! Despite bringing the Online Service to life, the update doesn’t do that much; the cloud saves are probably my favourite feature (because I am paranoid about my save data were something to ever happen to my Switch).

Regardless of the extras, I was really enjoying just using the Switch again, somehow the hybrid nature of the Switch still continues to amaze me. Whilst I don’t take my Switch out and about much, I am constantly switching (pun intended) between docked and tabletop mode; along with handheld mode as well. The NES library that comes with membership of the Online Service is fine, I know people are disappointed with it (and I’m not going to criticise them for having that view), but I don’t have a NES Mini (although I do have a few NES games on my 3DS that I got through the ambassador programme) and I don’t have much fondness (or much in the way of nostalgia) for the system and its games. However, I do think it is neat to just be able to load up a random NES game that is available and try it out for a bit. I am awful at NES games, but I really appreciate now having access to them.

Returning to the Switch properly has also seen me revisit some of the games that are in my backlog of shame. One of which is Golf Story, a game I thoroughly enjoyed when it came out – a surprise as the real sport of golf is something I find tedious to watch and play (aside from the occasional session at a driving range) – particularly the humour that is expertly integrated into the experience. Weirdly it’s one of the few games that I have somehow improved at after returning to it?

The other game I returned to (prior to writing this entry) is LA Noire, quite a different game to Golf Story and one that I did finish on the 360 a few years ago. (Fun fact, the default 360 version does not include quite a few cases, partly because of space limitations, so it is astonishing that the Switch version contains all but the new VR cases) It’s surprisingly a game that lends itself to relatively short bursts of play. Spread out a case into two play sessions, then come back a bit later, kind of like a TV show. It might be a port, and the Xbox One and PS4 versions will certainly look better, and possibly run a little better, but it is a solid port of what was once a fairly intensive 360 game, and of course, can play it on a small screen.

There is one last Switch game I want to mention, one I recently reviewed for Switch Player, and that is Wandersong. This is a game that I almost certainly would overlook, I initially thought the visual style was a little off, and the song mechanic appeared gimmicky – plus whilst I enjoy the occasional rhythm game, I’m often quite bad at them. Thankfully, Wandersong prooved all those concerns wrong and instead provided me with a wonderful game that will stay with me for some time. It might be available on PC, but it really shines on the Switch (and once again has sold better on Nintendo’s system) even though it doesn’t actually utilise any specific unique features of the system.

That’s the great thing about being able to review games, is that every now and then you will come across a game that you wouldn’t have played otherwise. It’s one that will help me seek out other games but will also help me when I interact with students and inform them of the other type of videogame experiences that exist out there, not everything has to be a procedural Metroidvania.

My whole work schedule – PhD, research group, lecturing, reviewing, etc – is about to ramp up a little bit again now that the calm after the recent deadlines I’ve been working to have passed. But coming back to the Switch properly has been a joy and I look forward to coming home and spending that precious time in the evening with the system. My over consoles will be overlooked for a bit, but the great thing is I imagine I might have a similar experience when I properly return to those systems. The console generation has ultimately resulted in three surprisingly different consoles, the choice is there. The world might continue to be a terrible place (and the videogames industry has its moments) but videogames definitely help. After all, it’s why I spend so much of my time writing and thinking about them.

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