My name is Josh, and I have a problem. They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right? Well, I have a problem when it comes to gaming, and it may or may not have something to do with my unwavering desire to collect things. At first, it was just in-game collecting, but since the launch of the first Skylanders game, my collecting habit has transcended digital collecting and transformed into an obsession to collect physical gaming pieces.
Skylanders, Skylanders Giants were the biggest enablers of my addiction, but more recently with Disney Infinity and even Pokémon Rumble U, I'm finding more and more things to collect. Thankfully, I never got into collecting statues from collector's editions or stuff like that, probably because they didn't serve any purpose at all other than collecting dust, but with these NFC seri, I am able to justify it more easily. Not that I really have to justify it at all to anyone, but it keeps me from feeling horrible about myself, riddled with buyer's remorse each time I go out and buy a new character.
My eight year old son is who I got into Skylanders for originally. I got him the first game and some characters for Christmas one year, not knowing if he would dig it or not. Well, he fell in love with it immediately, and I knew what that meant: we would be investing much more into this game than originally thought. Again, at first, it was all for him, but the more time I spent hunting down hard-to-find characters, the more I fell in love with the collecting process. It was the thrill of the hunt, the satisfaction of finding one left, and then the reward of adding it to the growing collection.
Eventually we finished off all the Skylanders in the first series, and then with Giants, we just recently did the same. Unfortunately, because of the upheaval of familial status that happened which led to me moving out, our bond over the series and the collection we amassed would change drastically. I'm not around all the time to talk to him about the ones we don't have, bring home new ones and just genuinely enjoy the games with each other. It sucks, but it's totally something I'm trying my best to adapt to.
Well, with his birthday conveniently falling so close to the release of the newest Skylanders game, Swap Force, it was only inevitable that I get the game for him. His little sister and I went out to the store early in the morning to pick up the starter pack for him, and while she wanted to pick out a new, additional character to give him for his birthday, I chose not to dive in to the investment as I normally would. For one, I don't want to be that guy who feels like sticking it to the ex by going above and beyond with gifts for the kids, because that's not my style. But also, I have a plan for collecting this series of Skylanders figures.
You see, when the PS4 is released, I think I am going to get this game for myself. According from people in the know, the PS4 version seems to be the definitive version of this game. That makes me excited, for sure. But also, I really want to play the game, enjoy the game, and collect the figures for myself, since I can't really do that with my boy like I used to. So instead of buying him all the figures and letting him keep them at his mom's house where they will go unappreciated and probably end up in a box or gone before I know it, I figure I can collect them, and if he wants to borrow them sometimes, or just play the game over here when he comes over, that would work.
I also realized that I really want all of the series 1 and 2 Skylanders as well, if I'm going to be jumping into series 3. Part of me just wants to go and start buying all the old ones, but I don't know how hard that will end up being, much less expensive. I then wonder if my boy would want to keep them over here with me at some point, either when he loses interest in the series or just because he would have more fun with them with me anyway. I'm not sure which route to go with this, but it's proof that my addiction to collecting is reaching all-time highs.
The game itself is fun, by the way. The new characters are fun, especially the swapping ones. While swapping bottoms and tops of figures with other ones seems gimmicky, it actually adds some unique strategy to the game that it's been missing in previous entries, from what I can tell from the time I spent with it. But honestly, I can't wait to see what this game looks like on the PS4. It's going to be sweet, I'm sure.
So do I really have a problem? I don't know. It's fun collecting all these things, and since they have a purpose, it makes it far more enjoyable. I like the Disney characters because, well, they are Disney characters, and Disney is just awesome. I like the Pokémon figures for nostalgia purposes, and because they are a lot cheaper. I haven't fully committed to them, though, in hopes of real Pokémon figures and a game being in the developmental pipeline. And the Skylanders figures? They are unique, original, and make me remember back to my childhood when I was always using my imagination to create crazy monsters and creatures. They are really cool characters and they seem to keep getting better, despite it being a massive cash cow.
Maybe this is just a cry for help. Maybe not. Either way, the first step is done.
September 17, 2013. A date in video game history that will live in infamy. It was one of the most anticipated dates of the year for video games, probably third behind November 15 (release of PS4) and November 22 (release of Xbox One), but far an above the most highly waited for date for an actual game, not only this year, but for the last couple of years. Sure, Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us, every single Call of Duty game and many other games have been a hot bed for discussion, pre-orders and midnight releases due to anticipation of their releases. But no day has been as significant as this date.
For it was Grand Theft Auto V day ("Five," for those not up to speed on Roman numerals), and in the video game universe, nothing else mattered. Trust me. $800 million dollars the first day proved it was a big deal.
While I had the game in my possession, technically, I didn't even have a chance to crack open the seal. And honestly, it didn't bother me at all.
While at work in the afternoon, while I was thinking about the Amazon package sitting at my front door and mentally preparing for a podcast, I got a phone call. It was my kids' mom, and she was calling me to tell me that my little girl was sick. She is almost five years old now, but no matter how old she gets, she will always be daddy's little girl. Naturally, I got worried, but not just because she was vomiting and had an extremely high temperature, but because the last time she was sick like this, she was hospitalized due to dehydration. It was then that we discovered she had hypoglycemia, which essentially makes every time she is sick a much higher alert status on the worrying scale.
Right after that phone call, I got another phone call from the ex once again, this time telling me that my youngest boy (almost eight) got his head and face smashed from a rogue kid at school who decided that jumping from the top of the play structure onto unsuspecting victims underneath was a good idea. So, because of two different child emergencies, with one not moving from the couch and the other waiting to be picked up from school and possibly taken to emergency care clinic, I had to leave work a little early and go take care of my responsibility as father.
This meant going over to the house and taking care of them, which essentially meant just staying there for the evening and making sure their conditions and symptoms didn't get worse. Having some much needed daddy time with my kids was amazing, and while I wish it wasn't under those circumstances, I'll take what I can get. Because I was over there, however, I didn't have my consoles, obviously, which meant that GTA V wasn't getting played for the day. Sometimes life throws you a curve ball like that.
I did get to play some games, however, much to the delight of my boy, who was overly excited that I could play some with him. After running down the list of Xbox 360 games they have over there, we finally decided on Skylanders Spyro's Adventure. This has always been a game we connected on, as we took a lot of pride in collecting all the figures and frequently playing co-op or the battles. It was always our game, and no matter how much he liked the game, he always preferred to play with me. Makes a dad feel good.
Anyway, we played it and had fun as we always do. It was also nice to go back and play the game that started it all, not only for the franchise, but the entire genre as well. Such humble, uncertain beginnings to the start of a revolution, Pretty awesome, if you ask me.
And in case you are wondering, both kids are doing well now and everything is back to normal, which is the most important thing to them. But for one night, the most important game in the world was the leas important thing to me, and it felt good.
Weekends with any of my kids over usually means that my gaming time is limited, for the most part. Sure, I get to play some games, but depending on what we actually do while I have them obviously determines which games I play and for how long. And yeah, I play games still that I don't write about while the kids are over here, but there are also games I play with them that I wouldn't normally play unless they were over, so I figure I might as well write about those games. Makes sense, right?
Well, one of those games is Skylanders Cloud Patrol, which I played with my daughter. When she comes over, her favorite thing to do is play on my iPad, as I have filled that thing with kid games specifically for her, in hopes of keeping her slightly entertained. One of the games I have on there, which I first had on my phone back when it was first released last year, was this game, and to be completely honest, I can't say I only put this game on the iPad for her. Truth is, I actually enjoy this game quite a bit.
Of course, that might have a lot to do with my somewhat-secret affinity for the Skylanders franchise as a whole. I freaking love Skylanders. I love the idea behind it, I really enjoy the simplicity yet still difficult nature of the games, and more than anything else, I love collecting all the figurines, despite how expensive it gets. Collecting them reaches down deep into my soul, back to my childhood with baseball cards. Collecting things is an addiction I've never learned how to kick or even handle, and while I'm no where near a hoarder, I have the tendencies to be one. Thankfully, I don't compile or keep around trash and junk. I just have a problem when there is a full series of something to collect, especially when it is difficult to obtain them all (because of limited quantities, especially).
So when Skylanders came out with this mobile game, which was based in the Skylanders universe, but its own stand alone game, I bit at it like a starving shark in an aquarium full of guppies. And I'm glad I did then, as my youngest boy (the big Skylanders fan of the children) and I had a lot of fun playing it together back then. Now, with having it on the iPad, I have the same sort of enjoyment with my daughter, albeit less skilled and more silly.
The game itself is simple. You tap on the screen to shoot trolls as they pop up from behind barrels and boxes. Blast all the trolls in the level to move on to the next. Get hit by their attacks or accidentally shoot a bomb, and your game is over. Throughout each run, you aim for specific challenges, either round-specific ones or cumulative ones, which give you bonus points and that sort of thing. All in all, the main goal is just to aim to beat your high score and make better runs each time you play. You can get bonuses by using Skylanders with the matching element for the day as well, which is a cool way to keep the game somewhat fresh on a regular basis. It doesn't matter which Skylander you choose to play as, since they don't have any specific attacks or traits, but you can unlock different ones in-game or by using the online codes that come with each actual Skylanders figure for the regular game. Basically, it is a neat way to merge the two together, even if it's in a small way.
My daughter likes just shooting stuff as they pop up, just as any four year old should. I worry about combos and bonuses and challenges and high scores, because well, I'm neurotic like that. If I can take anything away from playing games with her, it would be trying to learn how to just have fun with games, enjoying the journey and not worrying about the destination.
I also realized how much I am looking forward to Disney Infinity being released. Oh man...
My seven year old son approached me tonight, out of nowhere really, and said, "Dad, we need to get some more Skylanders Giants figures." We hadn't been talking about, he hadn't been playing the game - it literally just came from out of the blue. And while I thought his idea was a good one, I had to explain that we have all of them that are available to buy in stores, and that the ones we don't have just haven't been released yet.
It's a tough concept for kids to understand, why they would not release them all when the game came out, but for me, I understand. By holding out figures to release them a few at a time, in "waves," makes a lot of business sense. Your customer fanbase builds the hype and hysteria on its own, until people start fighting and throwing elbows in stores as they grab the newest figures off the shelves.
It's like Black Friday several times a year, every time a new wave is released. And that's why the franchise has made more than $500 million since the franchise began less than a year and half ago.
It's also why Disney is making their own, similar game called Disney Infinity, with well-known and recognizable characters and worlds. Even if they don't topple the kind of the mountain, there is certainly money to be made in the "video game + toys" genre.
So instead of buying any new figures tonight, we decided to play come co-op together. We both picked out a Giant and one character from each elemental class, sat down and dove into the story that he has been chipping away at. At this point, we have way too many characters to pull them all off the shelf, so this method is the least disastrous, especially with his four year old little sister looming around, wanting to snag and run off with every pink, purple or cartoonish figurine.
For being a "kids game," I'm not going to lie - it is pretty challenging. The frustration level also rises when two players of significant gaming experience play co-op, as was the case tonight. It's his game, his save file, so I let him lead me through the game, but when it came down to timing-based puzzle solving, I had to take the reigns. And that was tougher than I thought, to the point where Mom had to yell from the kitchen for me to take it easy, since it's just the game. It's not like I was getting upset at him, but rather the mechanics of the game when playing co-op. You see, when one player moves ahead in the map and the other player falls back (or worse, gets stuck in a trap or behind something), the lead player can only go so far before progress is stopped until the straggler makes up ground. When using different Skylanders of different speeds, this makes it challenging as well.
It's something the developers should look into for the next installment, if they want to continue the co-op experience being friendly and inviting for all.
We plowed through, however, and made an awesome team in the long run. I really enjoy playing with him, as his gaming soul is still so young and innocent. My 12 year old is all about Call of Duty, and his gaming habits are already conforming to the FPS online multiplayer types. Not that it's a bad thing, it's just hard for me since those games aren't my cup of tea, as I've explained before.
So anyway, I had fun tonight. It was nice to play a game that isn't super intense, without going after trophies or achievements, and being able to do it with my kids. I spent so much time playing games by myself over the years, especially as a kid, that I'm glad to have company - as long as its my kids.
One day, I'll write up an article about how Skylanders merged my gaming world and my OCD collecting habits, but not tonight. It's still January, and last time I checked, there is still a lot of time left in 2013. For now, I'm just just glad that even with this project, I am still a dad first and a gamer second ... as it should be.
XBLA = The Noyse
PSN = the_noyse
NNID = The Noyse
3DS F.C. = 3007-8109-2329
STEAM = TheNoyse
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Games played for project : 365