How Do They Keep Me Coming Back?

How do these worlds keep me wanting more, even after it has been so long?

It’s dusty. I’m in the middle of the desert with my rifle. Scanning the area for my mark, when I finally spot it, so I crouch. I make sure I’m fully loaded, and as I pop back up I trigger my filled Dead Eye meter, and aim for their head. Three shots for good measure, and it’s down. I meander over to the fresh kill, skin it and walk with the spoils to my next challenge. I turn and see the walking dead bearing down on me. Pop back into Dead Eye, and take down as many as I can. There’s still more, now they’re sprinting towards me. My meter is drained, I’m in the middle of reloading, and they’re on top of me. Shit, it’s about to get ugly. What game am I playing?

I’ve been grinding for hours. Pushing forward to try and tackle this boss I had an extremely hard time with the first play through, but I’m sure I’m leveled enough to take him on my own this time. Well, at least without a co-op partner and maybe just an in-game NPC summon. I traverse through the dark, diseased marsh, chopping and slashing my way towards the hill with the giant boulder throwing guys, and eventually weave my way into the lair. I reach the white wall, summon the NPC, and get after the boss. It’s easier this time around, but the tension still stands. I’m not as good at this game as others, but I know I can handle my own. The thought of losing my souls, again, stirs in my head as I take a giant hit to my health bar, then land in a pile of conveniently spewed lava on the ground draining me further. I pop a flask, and get to above mid way and we start to whittle away. Now what?

Switch to my rocket launcher, and target the jet flying overhead. He pops his flairs, but I’m still reloading and ready to line him up again. Before he gets out of range, I tag his tail with the homing missile and his fighter is gone, and I feel the rewarding sensation of the kill. I sprint towards the helicopter where my buddy is waiting and we take off ready to inflict as much damage as we can. We spot some foot soldiers, and we both unload the tanks. Rocket pod after machine gun hit, we take down 4. But my tracker is going off, and we’ve been targeted by a tank on the ground. Someone shoots an RPG that glides past our nose, no harm done. But the tank finally is locked, and sends a rocket. I pop my flairs, and scathe off any possible damage. Another is fired. My co-pilot bails and I’m left to fend for myself. I’m hit hard, not going to be able to keep it steady. I finally give, and leap from the soon to be pile of debris. We both live to fight another day. Surely you can guess this one?

If you don’t know any of those games, I’d have to say I’m a little disappointed. They are, Red Dead Redemption, Dark Souls, and Battlefield 3. Three of my personal favorite games of this console generation, and some of the climbing into my top 10 and beyond. So with all of the great games out right now, why do I have to fulfill this urge of coming back to the deserts of John Marston’s world, time and time again? Why do I feel it necessary to punish myself in Dark Souls, amassing a few hundred thousand souls in my new game plus, only to die pulling a rookie mistake? And why do I keep finding myself in fighter jets, chasing down AC-130s and tanks? Because something about these games keep me coming back.

There’s certain things everyone needs in a game. Whether it’s that quick fix game that you play for a couple weeks and trade it in, or the game you gush over for 15 or so years. At times, there are ones I love so much, I actually will re-purchase them. Case in point Arkham City, and soon to probably be Saints Row: The third. I find myself becoming nostalgic. Remembering the hours I spent laughing at the sheer ridiculousness involved in every facet of Saints Row, or how awesome it honestly felt to really be Batman. I think that’s a big reason as well. A lot of these games give us the illusion that we are super heroes fighting the good fight, soldiers storming the city, or knights in a fantasy world trying to conquer the ancient evil.

For me, Red Dead Redemption is perfection. A wild west style Grand Theft Auto, with a story about a character whom I was familiar with, addicting game play, smooth controls, amazing visuals, a soundtrack to make you feel like you had to watch for snakes as you walked, and it’s a game I personally melted over. I felt like a Wild West cowboy. I felt like John Marston, like every time I pulled the trigger of my Winchester, I was really doing the damage. Every time I step away from it, I want more. A week, a month, even longer. The flawless game, to me, that is Red Dead Redemption, will go down as one of the greatest masterpieces in gaming history, hands down.

In the case of Dark Souls, I think it was the challenge. The painful realization that I won’t be breezing through this one, was a tough one to swallow. I died a hundred times in the Undead Burg. I actually traded this one in as well. But a couple weeks after, I was thinking about what I could have done differently, how I should’ve approached the situation better, or maybe if I had a little more patience, I could conquer that area. So I went back, bought the game, again, and spent countless hours working through the amazing game. It took me so long, but I honestly didn’t mind. Every boss kill was rewarding, especially the ones I had done on my own. Seeing the souls rack up, and then disappear in my incompetence, was so god damn frustrating… Yet so much fun. I’ve never approached a game like it before, and until Dark Souls II is released, I probably won’t stop playing the first.

Battlefield 3, is far from a perfect game, yet every few weeks, I’m back in the fray with my assault rifle and my med pack helping soldiers in need. While I play Call of Duty more often, there’s something about Battlefield that makes me want to strap C4 to a jeep and drive straight into a tank, and press that little button. Maybe it’s the vehicle combat, or the countless number of guns and attachments. Whenever I'm playing with friends, it's always a good time, or a laugh fest. Realistic gun physics, especially when sniping, make every kill feel like it's your own. Like you really do own your opponents dog tags.

I know why I keep coming back. It's because I find myself enjoying these games more than anything else. I find myself thinking about them from time to time when I'm not playing, wondering where I need to go next to find that next piece of the buried treasure, what the best weapon/armor/enchantments combinations are for doing the most damage, and what's the most effect way to destroy enemy vehicles. These games make me think. It's not just these either, I could list a good top 50 of my favorites of all time; Final Fantasy 7, GTA IV, MGS series, SOCOM 2, Resident Evil series, Saints Row: The Third, Batman Arkham City, Borderlands, this list can go on and on. When I feel like I'm not accomplishing anything in that game, until there's nothing left to accomplish, something to challenge me. A game that I can't stop thinking about while working. These games do that for me.

These are just a couple of min. So what about for you? What games make you wonder while you sleep? Haunt you about the shot you should’ve taken quicker? Make you think about how you could’ve silently taken out that target instead of gone all Lethal Weapon?

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