Great Games! (That Didn’t Get Good Until Halfway Through)

When I think back to some of gaming’s greatest beginnings, I think of “Uncharted 2“, “Batman: Arkham City“, and “Bioshock“. They’re great games that let you know from the very start that you are in for an experience like no other.

But not all games have that luxury. In fact, the only way to appreciate games with truly great beginnings, is to play games that struggled to get started. If you’re looking for some suggestions, here are some of the greatest games of all time, that took a while to really get good.

Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast

One of the top 5 Star Wars games, and one of the most underrated games period, “Jedi Outcast” was an absolutely brilliant tale that saw retired Jedi Kyle Katarn (who went through some absolute hell in the earlier game to want to give up being a friggin Jedi), wrapped up in the newest plot to take over the galaxy, and forced to go back into the Jedi life to solve it, while taking a little vengeance along the way. Sound pretty bad ass? Oh yeah, it is.

However, before you even get to use the force young padawan, you must slog through the game’s first few missions using nothing but guns, as the early moments are nothing but a first person shooter set in the Star Wars universe. This is actually a trademark of the series, since the second game, but you see the thing is that at its design worst, “Jedi Outcast” features horrible flip switching puzzles, bad jumping sections, and aimless wandering. The first half of the game exemplifies all of these flaws, and doesn’t even give you a lightsaber or force powers to help ease the pain. It’s not like it’s the worst first person shooter ever, but it’s fairly far from the best and takes some time, and patience, to get through.

But here’s the thing. Without the dullness of that first half, that moment you meet Luke Skywalker, grab your lightsaber, use the force, and hear that beautiful “Star Wars” music swell wouldn’t be near as sweet. Earning the right to that moment is what makes it, and the game in general, so incredible. Even on subsequent playthroughs though, when you know the reward, it is still difficult to force yourself through that first half.

Deus Ex

I hate to admit this, but embarrassingly I never found the words to adequately describe “Deus Ex.” Instead, I’d refer you to the mounds of accolades and awards it accumulated, and confirm with you that it was indeed a revolutionary breath of fresh air that’s influences wouldn’t be properly noticed for years to come, as even leading developers seemingly couldn’t appreciate exactly what it was.

The average gamer may have never gotten the chance to experience that though. “Deus Ex” was a first person game, but it wasn’t really a first person shooter, and trying to play the game like that, as many at the time surely did, only led to a swift demise. That’s because while you can play the game guns blazing, in that first mission you’re forced to take a more stealthy, very careful approach as you worked though what was essentially a tutorial of the game. What hurt is that it lacked many of the character enhancement options and various tactics that made “Deus Ex” so much of what it would be. Your methodical approach towards liberating the terrorist controlled statue of liberty is the game’s lowpoint, and doesn’t lend much encouragement to seeing the rest of the game through.

Even after that lengthy intro, it takes a mission or two for the game, and plot, to find its groove and for the series RPG and strategy elements to kick in properly. Once it all comes together though (which occurs around the time of a major plot twist), its inescapable brilliance is a constant onslaught to your senses. You can retrospectively laugh at gamers that didn’t stick through the beginning of “Deus Ex”, but really the game did itself no favors in immediately making itself welcome.
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Quinn Pitcock’s Struggle to Tackle His Video Game Addiction

I’ve never really thought I had a problem with video games. Well, I still can’t beat Mike Tyson in “Punch-Out,” and the only reason I’ve ever gotten past that driving level in “Mafia” is by cheating, but what I mean is that I’ve never felt like I’ve ever had trouble balancing games with the rest of my life. While gaming is one of my great passions, I’ve been fortunate enough to find other passions in life that made it impossible to think about spending all of my waking time with just one of them.

However, I do realize that video game addiction is a problem that exists. For former NFL defensive lineman Quinn Pitcock, it’s a very real problem that may keep him out of the league.

Pitcock refers to himself as an introvert who can spend 18 hours a day playing “Call of Duty.” He says that, “The only way I could get my endorphins was by playing video games.” Realizing the depths of his addiction, he has gone to such dramatic lengths as physically breaking his games to try to make up for not being able to stop playing via his own will. Yet for all of his efforts, he has so far been unable to break his crippling addiction.

More than just register as a gross personal flaw, though, this is a problem that may permanently affect Pitcock’s career. That’s because he retired from football in 2008, after a somewhat impressive rookie season with the Indianapolis Colts, and has made two different unsuccessful attempts at a comeback since. Pitcock says he immediately regretted his decision to retire originally, but instead of refocusing his efforts to get back into the game, he instead sank deeper into his drug of choice. While he does play for the Orlando Predators of the Arena Football League (and the Indianapolis Colts helped him find a psychologist to help with his addiction), he now has recently revealed that he has a legitimate worry that NFL teams will not trust him to be successful in his recovery efforts.

“They’re more comfortable with a drug addiction,” Pitcock says. “It’s unfortunate. It definitely hinders my chances.”

While that may sound like a ludicrous statement to some, the fact is that video game addiction is a mental addiction, which is considered much more problematic to break than a physical one. Let’s not forget the plight of one of the most talented football players of all time, Ricky Williams, whose addiction to marijuana was so severe that he once stated that his desire to smoke marijuana was greater than his desire to play football. Marijuana, like video games, is not a drug that is considered to be supremely addictive or inherently dangerous. Yet to the right mindset, both can be just as dangerous as any other substance.

I almost wrote this piece as a humorous article. The NFL player who’d rather play “Madden”…something like that. But the truth is that it’s hard not to feel sympathetic to Quinn Pitcock. Like I said, I’ve been lucky enough to find other passions that have kept my life from revolving around video games entirely, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t brief flirtations with having it become a problem.

To make it to the NFL, it takes an almost inhuman mix of skill and dedication. It’s obvious that on some level Quinn Pitcock still has both. However, as Voltaire said, “It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.” Hopefully, Pitcock will be able to able to find the right balance in his life for all of his passions, and live without those chains.

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