Since joining this site and binging on the video content, podcasts and general enthusiasm for games the staff has that I remember fondly from my PS1/PS2 days, I've started reminiscing on the games that made me feel that excitement. In particular, I've been thinking about the games that I just could NOT get myself away from. I'll list a top five of my most memorable addictions, starting with the heaviest, most life-consuming.
(This post wasn't intended to be very long at all but it turned into a pretty bloated little editorial. Oops.)
1. SOCOM II
Other than Rare's classic N64 twosome, I've never had a great affinity for multiplayer shooters. Especially in the post-Halo/Modern Warfare era, I just can't bring myself to care. First person perspective, respawns, headshot and projectile "spam", and the somewhat unexpectated barrier of entry created by players who put hours into these games every single day all combine to turn me off. But for two or three glorious years, before SOCOM III showed the first chinks in Zipper's armor, there was SOCOM II. For the only time in my life I was the part of a clan, rooted in my group of middle school buddies but filled out with actual marines, stoners from California and dishwashers from Ohio. Spending time outside of school doing anything other than log onto SOCOM and play until the clock hit midnight was unthinkable. I can still run through the maps in my head like it was just yesterday, and continue to maintain that if Sony would just give me an HD remake of SOCOM II I would never need to buy another game again.
2. Mass Effect 2
Ranked second because it's the most recent. I grabbed this off PSN this past winter and it quickly became everything. I hadn't owned a single PS3 game other than the latest iteration of NBA 2K since Heavy Rain, and was beginning to resign myself to the idea that gaming was done for me. Mass Effect 2 changed all of that, I was Final Fantasy VIII-levels of obsessed with this game in the months leading to Mass Effect 3's release. I played a male vanguard game, beat it in 3 weeks, and immediately started a female Adept game. Beat it in two weeks, started a male soldier game. Beat it in 2 weeks, started a female sentinel. Only didn't finish because ME3 came out. It'd been YEARS so I was so eager to replay a game I knew all the story beats and level layouts of so immediately, and especially starting up a new save immediately after completing an old one. And then after I beat Mass Effect 3, I immediately went back and started another 2 save, forgetting the Sentinel character for another female adept. Granted, I haven't much touched that save since April, but it's out there, forever reminding me of the six months I wanted nothing but Mass Effect 2.
3. NCAA / Madden 2005
NFL 2K5 was rightly hailed as the apex of sim football in 2004, but the dirty secret among sports game enthusiasts was that EA's flagship titles weren't that far behind...more importantly, they were behind in ways that made the game slightly more fun to play. And in addition to the slightly more enjoyable gameplay, Madden allowed importing draft classes from NCAA, which meant you could follow the careers of the players from your school all the way from the day they signed a letter of intent with your school through to the day they retired from the NFL. Normally I'd only get about three seasons deep into each before I started simming like wild, but with the 2005 iterations I played every game of both seasons, including pre-season games, well into the 14th or 15th seasons of each league. That's 400+ games of offline, CPU football at 10 minute quarters (roughly an hour per game), not including all the hours put into scouting, recruiting and playoff games. It was an exceptional time sink, one made all the more amazing by how utterly unengaging every iteration of these games have been on 360/PS3 generation consoles.
4. [insert NBA 2K game here]
400+ games across two very different styles of football is one thing, but every year since 2K8 I've played at least 400 games of online basketball, even as the games have slipped a bit in quality the past two years. 2K13 will be no different. In NBA 2K9 I logged a high of nearly 800 games in just one year; when I say I haven't owned another PS3 game since Heavy Rain (unless Red Dead Redemption came after), this is a major reason why. Who has time for anything else?
5. Final Fantasy VIII
My one true gaming addiction. I know plenty of fans of the series hold this entry in relative disdain, but it was my first RPG at an age where I could really understand what was going on (I'd tried Chrono Trigger and Super Mario RPG in elementary school but couldn't really grasp it...which is sort of amazing since I beat Contra 3 and Kablooey) and I really enjoyed (still do enjoy) those characters and that world. Over a two year period I played that game to completion about 15 times, many of those games eclipsing 100 hours of total playtime with all characters a level 99. Some of them I'd keep my levels low to see how the game played when balanced to lower levels, a couple of them I collected all the GFs and most of them I got all the ultimate weapons for the characters. I'd spend playthroughs making up voices for the characters. I'd collect 100 of every magic I could hold. Of all my gaming addictions, I had to save this one for last because it's the only one I truly can't believe I let consume so much of my life, and the only one I'm sure I'll never be able to replicate again.