When I was fifteen, I was hooked on Microprose’s F-19 Stealth Fighter, I played it nearly every day, spending hours flying low and slow around Libya, the Persian Gulf and Central Europe. One day, for some reason, I got up way before school started, so I thought I’d have time for a mission. I loaded up a campaign mission and took off. Totally losing track of time, I was about three-quarters of the way to my target before I realized I had to leave for school.
So I paused the game and turned off my monitor.
I spent all day thinking about the mission, and as soon as I got home from school, I dove back into my chair and continued as if no time had passed. Homework could wait. The fate of NATO was in my hands, dangit.
How Times Change
I’m not sure if I have more or less time these days. I think it’s less, to be honest, because while I had school and homework back in the day, those were really my only responsibilities. I therefore spent hours in the virtual worlds computer games allowed, losing myself in games like Starflight, Stealth Fighter, Megafortress and many more.
Now, though? There are so many wonderful games, but I have only these random windows of time to play them. I didn’t have to balance spending time with other people when I was a kid, but now I like balancing my time between my time to myself and time with my wife, because she’s awesome. Therefore, I get weird windows of time such as when she’s teaching violin lessons or has some work to do at home. I’m also lucky to find some time before she gets home from work every day, given chores, streams and freelance work.
Now, please don’t think I’m complaining. I am so, so not. My life, as it is, is pretty damned great. What I want to talk about, however, is how this has changed my gaming habits.
No Save? No Buy
There’s a naval game called Cold Waters that looks RIGHT UP MY GOD DAMNED ALLEY. Seriously, I loved Microprose’s Red Storm Rising, and this is hailed as a modern equivalent, so how could I not want it?
Then I found out it has no mid-mission saving ability.
Apparently missions in the game can take up to an hour or longer. I mean, this is fine if you have that kind of time, and a lot of people do, but I don’t. I have twenty minutes here, thirty minutes there, ten minutes there and so on. So the fact that I’d have to, like F-19, pause a game and leave it so until I could get back to it, in 2019 seems anachronistic.
I mean I get not wanting players to save scum and what not, but come on. It’s a busy world and we’re busy adults and we don’t all have time to dedicate to a mission all in one sitting. It seems so misanthropic to not add the ability to, at the very least, “Save and Exit” as many games do. I get it where the game sessions are on the shorter side, or if it’s primarily an online game, but come on, if you have a single-player only game, let me save whenever I god damned well please.
A Breath of Fresh Aircraft
This is one of the reasons I fell out with flight sims for so long. Even loving sims like Wings over Flanders Fields, I didn’t have time to devote to even one mission due to all the flying out and back again, much of the time.
Then I found Strike Fighters 2.
Now, I don’t know if a lot of other sims do this, but this one puts you right in the air right near where you’re doing what you gotta do, whether it’s bomb some tanks or take out some aircraft. This leads you to getting right into the action. Well already I’m on board, but it gets better.
Once you’re told your mission is accomplished, you can hit escape, and the game will act like you flew back and landed successfully, thereby successfully completing the mission. This leads to many missions being, at most, five to fifteen minutes.
IT. IS. SO. FREAKING. GREAT.
Seriously, I can load up SF2, do a couple of campaign missions and pop out, feeling like I accomplished something and having a fun time to boot. I am so happy this game exists because it clearly values my limited time. Even if I have a decent amount of time to game in a day — for myself, mind you, not for SGJ — it’s usually not in one large block. That’s why SF2 is such a revelation to me, because before this, I only thought quick games like roguelikes and such respected my time so thoroughly.
The Future is Looking Bright
When I learned that, for example, in Rebel Galaxy Outlaw, you can save at almost any time by quitting to the main menu, and that the game saves at every jump and landing, I was thrilled. Here’s a game that knows I might have to bail at any time, and might not be able to make it all the way to a station.
I’m also noticing more games have more liberal checkpoints now, or allow you to save and exit more often, or do auto-saves quite often as well. This is a VERY good thing, as many of us will likely get more sporadic with our gaming time as we age and gain responsibilities.
So what about you guys? Do you guys still have hours of time to kill for games, or are you more limited with your time now? What are some games you feel values your time well? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the forums. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you for another discussion topic next week!