With a history that stretches back to ringing in arcade video game reviews to a radio station as a nipper in the '80s, to writing about this incredible industry six days a week, it's fair to say I've seen a lot come and go.
It's rare these days (maybe as little as three times a year) that a publisher yields a game that generates true excitement in this cynical, older gamer. Over the years, I've developed an almost obsessive compulsive routine when one of the games I have genuinely been anticipating since its first announcement finally releases. It goes a little like this.
Still of the Night
With game in hand, the procedure begins. First up, the house needs to be empty. When I say empty, I mean ‘empty’; wife, baby, dog – all gone for the night. While this is only necessary for the first 24 hours, the planning to move out an entire family takes an inordinate amount of preparation. These days, my better half leaps at the opportunity to get away from “another boring game that looks and plays exactly like the last one you brought home”, so in tandem, the temporary relocation operation is far easier.
All modes of communication from the outside world – aside from the direct family who have been allocated a unique ring tone for easy identification – are ignored. On this particular night of the year, I am incommunicado.
With the house cleared and unwanted communication disregarded, essential preparation can begin in earnest. Take away food has to be ordered and is consumed quickly. Drinks, ranging from beer to sparkling water, are stocked in the fridge and treats are distributed to their relevant vessels. Next, the blinds are pulled down to simulate darkness, and the meaty entertainment system is fired up; the gratifying digital hum that fills the room is crucial to the process. A quick toilet break, comfortable clothing adorned, and then we're almost ready for the final countdown.
Now the time has come for the ceremonial removal of the shrink wrap. This is an important part of the ritual – it signifies that all the reading, writing, excitement, anticipation and planning surrounding the game are finally at an end. But this is no indiscriminate act of fury; the wrap needs to be methodically removed, including all traces of sticky tape. The case is clicked open and a moment is taken to appreciate the smell of newness sealed within. With that, the disc is inserted, any updates initiated, controller – charged to maximum the evening before – taken in hand, and a comfortable position adopted on the couch. And thus begins an idyllic gaming marathon.
The day-to-day distractions of the preceding week no longer influence the game-playing experience. I've had the time to absorb the core of the game; to slip into the groove; to embrace and instate the developer's vision. With one, long, uninterrupted session, I have distinguished the game's personality; its DNA. I understand it. From then on I can pick up and play wherever, and whenever the chance arises; interruptions and all.
So, do you have any pre-game rituals that you abide by?