That makes total sense! Also one of the reasons I never became a professional games writer - I sort of want to play things on my own terms, which means when they are at their best, which usually means when they’re all patched up and older, and of course that’s not compatible with needing to write about things when the interest is highest in them. Even if Cyberpunk is totally playable now, there is no doubt it will be a better game in 3 months, and then an even better game in 2 years when there’s a GOTY edition, etc.
My ideal game world would be to have a games website that was the equivalent of the patientgamers reddit; not nostalgic-focused, not a Retro site, but just people writing insightful things about games when they get to them; which also has the benefit of being able to take a long view and respond to everyone else’s writing of the period. Of course such a site could never pay the bills; Hardcore Gaming 101 is probably the closest we’ll ever get to it.
So I was doing an open letter series on Spiritfarer with a friend that got paused due to a ton of tumult in my life (will probably resume in January). Here’s an excerpt from my unifnished letter:
“While I think I enjoyed Spiritfarer a bit more than you, I agree that the glowing reviews - which can pretty much all be boiled down to “everything about this game is perfect and wonderful and it has no flaws”- are not reflective of my experience with the game. I think it has a lot of lovely components, sometimes extraordinarily so, but I think they never gel holistically, and it took me a good amount of reflection to figure out why. In short: Spiritfarer’s brilliant marketing pitches it as “a cozy management game about dying,” and this is technically true, but also misleading.” My thesis is that the manamgenet parts never interact with the narrative parts in the way they do with, say, Stardew Valley, and as such you basically have a linear narrative that I wouldn’t say is bad but very much YMMV (it’s intentionally very vague, and how much you’ll enjoy it depends on how much you’re willing to fill in a lot of blanks yourself, and how insightful you find its insights), while meanwhile you’re growing a billion crops and spinning thread and other things that really have nothing to do with the central theme of accepting death and moving on. You do them because you’re compelled to by the dopamine-releasing skinner box, and it’s well designed on its own terms, but again not really connected to the world it’s set in.
To be clear, I definitely had design criticisms of The Longing as well - but they were clearly all the results of an individual making their first video game and having to make really hard decisions about preserving mystery vs. allowing the player to make informed choices. There are some places where I think the game gets it wrong, but overall it’s a treat. And the music is fantastic.