Childhood, Cynicism, and the Devil May Cry Demo

I like to think that I love video games. I’ve been playing them since before I can even remember. I spent the brunt of my first thirteen years playing games at basically every chance I got. My PS2 was pretty much the best thing ever, and I’d play that thing until it broke, and then I'd buy a new one to repeat the process. I’d sit down and play Sly Cooper for hours, taking in the story and then making up my own once the original story ended. I’d do the same with Dynasty Warriors, Time Splitters, Tekken, Vice City, even Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater; all series that I came to love and treasure. I’d always play every game I got to death, exposing every single little thing that it had to offer, even going out of my way to find glitches, which I considered part of the big package (I was even part of a glitch-hunting clan in online THUG). I can truly say that I was an absolute video game fanatic through the first half of 2000’s first century.

However, the key-point is the fact that my entire first paragraph is in the past-tense. We’re nearing the end of 2012 now, and it’s painful for me to admit that my love has been faltering. GTA IV’s release marked the point that I bought my first PS3, and to be honest, I loved it. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, with graphics that blew everything else I’ve played completely out of the water and gameplay that just felt so real. I spent my first couple of days with it just driving around and taking it all in, getting comfortable with the engine and really settling nicely (by running over innocent civilians and pretty much just causing general chaos). I played the story mode and got as far as unlocking the third island, but then something weird happened. I just sort of stopped. I didn’t make any more progress past that point, and if I ever played GTA again, it would only be to play online with random people. It had dawned on me that advancing the storyline had become tiresome, a chore. I had suddenly completely stopped caring about making progress. After GTA came LittleBigPlanet, which was fun for a while, but really only served as a glorified chatroom with friends I had made online. Various other games came after that, but one game in particular really made me realize just how bad my cynicism had become, and that game was Red Dead: Redemption.

I was incredibly excited for Red Dead. From all the trailers and gameplay videos I had seen, it looked like one of the coolest things I had ever seen. I imagined how great it would be to run around with my posse, shooting dudes with sweet guns, and pre-ordered the special edition with no hesitation. I eagerly awaited its release, impatiently counting the days and having a lot of trouble containing my hype. Then it came out… I loaded it up, played it for a couple hours, and since then, I’ve never touched it again. Now this might make me seem like the most pompous, ungrateful bastard to ever live, but I can assure you, this event scared me. The gameplay was fine, the graphics were great, and the story’s presentation seemed really interesting! But I just couldn’t give a damn, and I had no idea why, and I didn't like the fact that I didn't give a damn. I didn’t like the fact that I would just blow off a game the way I did, when I spent so much of my years playing games with unquestionable love. I had realized that for every game that wasn’t a fighting game (that’s a story for another day), I just rarely bothered to play it for very long. Off the top of my head, the only games I can say I finished this generation were Bayonetta, Portal 2, Mass Effect 2, and Resident Evil 5. Resi 5 however, was admittedly the most fun I’ve had this gen, co-opping it in its entirety with a friend. Despite that, there just seemed to be something missing from all these games I was playing. I had no idea what was causing me to lose interest so fast, and it worried me to no end. I thought I had reached a point where I just didn’t like video games anymore.

Video Games as art, am I right?
Video Games as art, am I right?

But then, something weird happened. On Nov. 20 of this year, the demo of Ninja Theory’s reboot of Devil May Cry came out. I didn’t think much of it, and just absent-mindedly downloaded it while glumly playing PS: All-Stars. I installed the demo, booted it up, and got ready to be disappointed. And... I didn’t think much of it in my first run. Yeah, it was ok, it was a cool take on Devil May Cry and I found it to be alright. Today, I was bored, and had nothing to do, so I booted it up again. But this time, I tried something I’ve never tried before. I went into options, turned off the music, turned off the hints, and when the gameplay started, I advanced… slowly. I just lightly held up on the analog stick while turning the camera around, and noticed so many little details I had missed my first time through. Then the enemies spawned, and I realized I was doing what I used to do as a kid: trying to make the gameplay look as cinematic as possible, moving the camera around to get good angles while pulling off stylish combos. Everything was fitting seamlessly together, and before I knew it, I felt like my childlike glee of playing video games had returned, and I was absolutely loving it. I was doing everything I used to do, looking around for secrets, making up stupid little mini-stories in my head, and I even found a couple glitches. Then I found one of those doors that lead you to those bonus areas, in this case, the race against time thing. After beating it, I ignored the pickup, and explored. I stumbled upon a shot that actually kind of moved me. The ambient sounds of the place and the peacefulness of the waves are actually what motivated me to write this thing, and it’s been on my screen this whole time I’ve been writing it. I realized today that maybe I’ve been going through games expecting everything to be immediately obvious on the surface. What’s changed isn’t that game-creators have become lazy, it’s far from it. It was me who had become lazy with the games, and I had lost sight on what I really love about them: substance. I don’t know if the games I’ve played lately really do lack substance, or that I just never worked at finding it, but either way, the DMC demo has helped me realize that games today might be deeper than they let on, and I just haven’t been digging enough.

I’ve never written anything like this before. It felt good to get it off my chest, though, in hindsight, I realize this blog looks like some giant advertisement for the new Devil May Cry game, but whatever, I liked it; I liked it way more than I thought I would, and I definitely didn’t expect it to give me such an eye-opening experience the way it did. I think I can enjoy games more because of it. For someone who's first childhood memory is playing Parappa the Rapper, it's easy to see that video games mean a lot to me. Journey is downloading now. I’m pretty excited.

TL;DR: I loved games, then I didn’t like games, now I’m liking games again.