If there's one consensus among those who write about video games, it's that most of the top games of 2008 were characterized by their open ended nature. Fallout 3, Far Cry 2, Fable 2, GTA IV, LittleBigPlanet. These games want you to believe you can do anything and/or go anywhere. I often find these type of open ended experiences overwhelming. With so many options of what to do next, I often freeze up and find myself unable to continue at a solid pace. Sometimes, I don't even feel like starting up such a large, open world game. This causes me to spend way too much time thinking about what game to play, or what I should do next in that game, than actually playing a game.
I've recently been playing a lot of Civilization Revolution, which while open in terms of having numerous civilizations to play as and choices to make, provides a relatively short, clear game experience. More relevant is that I've also been reading a lot about and delving into Civ IV, which is an absolutely huge game. You can tweak the map settings, difficulty, starting civilization, and opponents any way you like. Games span hundreds of turns, maybe 20 hours of real-world time. There's always something new to see behind the flashing prompt, which reads "Press Enter to End Turn." Getting a handle on Civ IV, and playing it enough to feel semi-competent, is a tall order for many gamers.
That being said, it almost felt like a relief returning to Persona 3 last night after many months away from Gekkoukan High School and the random dungeon Tartarus. I know I've complained previously about how slow and plodding Persona 3 can be at times. And I think that complaint still stands. But after all the Civ IV decision-making I've been doing the last few weeks, the relative simplicity of Persona 3 was a joy to behold. What personas to fuse, what characters to spend time with after school to increase social links, and just keeping track of my daily schedule seemed simple in comparison. Plus, I had last saved just one week before the next major boss, so I quickly found myself facing an exciting, story-based segment. Since this was near the end of the game (finally), I witnessed several intriguing revelations.
I always like to have a couple of gaming options at my fingertips at any given time. I'm not always ready for the time commitment to a massive Civ IV session. Nor do I always want to slog through several more days of Persona 3. Even though spreading my gaming time amongst several games slows down my overall progress, the options help keep my sanity and enjoyment intact.
Plus, sometimes I just want to play through a few quick levels of New Super Mario Bros. You can't beat playing a game with such a classic, quick design. I love playing video games. I just don't want it to feel like a chore.