Beside Myself

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you’re probably aware that I’m looking forward to the release XCOM 2.

Okay, that’s a huge understatement. I’ve been going nearly crazy with anticipation, and it’s only intensifying as the date gets closer. It’s understandable, I suppose. My first real memory of getting into a digital game in a big way was Julian Gollop’s Laser Squad on the Commodore 64 back in the late 80s (yes, I’m old). Not so coincidentally, Mr. Gollop also was the creator of the original X-Com back in 1994, but I somehow missed that one when it was new. I did not, however, miss Jagged Alliance 2, Silent Storm, the UFO After[word] series, or a number of other games in the genre. Including, of course, the new XCOM released by Firaxis a few years back which, despite a Steam library that’s bloated with bundle games, I have put right around 200 hours into. XCOM: Enemy Unknown/Enemy Within is one of my favorite games of all time, and the sequel looks to be more of the same with further levels of Firaxis polish on it, so yeah, I’m really stoked about it. I have purchased the deluxe version of the game on pre-order, and I have requested vacation time around the release date (postponing a traditional post-holiday week of vacation in the process). I’ve spent a bunch of time watching lets play videos (something I virtually never do) and have scoured the website for information. I’m trying to get as much of the experience as I possibly can before I get the game for real.

I go through something similar, albeit on a much less intense level whenever a new Magic: the Gathering set comes out. Once spoiler season starts for the new set, I eagerly check to see what new cards were revealed on my lunch break at work and start thinking about what decks those would go into or what new decks they’d suggest. By the time the prerelease rolls around, I’m pretty excited. And the same is almost always true when I get to start a new RPG campaign (especially if I’m GMing and get to share the world I’ve made with my players).

There are people who will will say that the anticipation is more fun than actually getting the thing, but I’m not one of them. When the waiting period ends and I get The Thing (whatever it is), the anticipation often seems to intensify the enjoyment I get out of it, but usually the fun of digging into all of the complexities and possibilities of The Thing far outweigh the fun of imagining what it’ll be like. The stuff that really grabs me is almost always something I have to dig into and interact with in a major way – I used to feel the same way about Lego sets when I was a kid.

Oh, by the way, I’m 37, married, and have a full-time job, a car payment, and I serve on two volunteer boards. I’m in management at my job. I have responsibilities and obligations – adulthood has happened to me, with all of its freedom and all of its shackles and all of the paradoxes that those two concepts imply, and I do take it very seriously.

In a lot of ways, new games give me a way, however briefly, to reconnect with the excitement of being a child, and I think that’s extremely valuable. Adulthood can be a grinding experience, as many (if not most) of you reading this will know. When the various things from the last paragraph start stacking up, I can get some satisfaction out of doing them well or handling them efficiently, but oftentimes there’s not much in the way of joy or excitement to it. I go to work, pay my bills, and otherwise handle my obligations because it’s the right thing to do on my good days and because I know that there will be consequences if I don’t on my bad ones, but I seldom get the same giddy “I can’t wait!” feeling except for when my hobbies are involved, and that in and of itself is one of the best arguments for having them that I could think of.

As always, I’d love to hear what any of you have to say – I’d love to hear about the stuff that gets you all giddy with excitement, and (of course) if any of the rest of you are going to be playing XCOM 2, I’m certain I’ll be plenty excited to talk about that after Friday.

-Peter

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