The more games become my job, the less I play.

I wanted to play Uncharted 4 today and didn’t.

I might still, the day isn’t over yet, but I probably won’t. I’m recording Uncharted 4 for the channel right now. It’s my first time through, I’d probably have finished it by now, but I’m clearing an hour at a time, chapter by chapter because I’m doing it for the channel. Playing Uncharted 4 means getting out the little PVR Rocket, clearing the USB stick, turning of the PS4’s HDCP protection so I can get a picture etc. etc. etc.

I’m loving Uncharted 4. It might be my favourite entry in a series I love, but playing it for the channel is so different to just sticking it on and vegetating to Nathan Drake’s dreamy blue eyes. Commentating, making sure the footage is still recording, making sure I sound clear; it’s all work. Not very hard work, but work all the same. Playing a game I love for a few hours leaves me feeling refreshed and relaxed, recording leaves me drained.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it, and I love running the Youtube channel, but it’s strange how easily your hobby becomes your work. I try to hit three big streams or uploads per day, once that’s done, who wants to spend more time staring at a screen? Playing for fun takes place strictly between sessions of playing for serious, which is still fun, but not as fun as the other kind of fun play that I mentioned before.

It’s a good thing in a way. I set up the channel in the first place because I was spending too much money on games that were either consuming all my time so nothing really got done, or sitting on shelves unplayed. By making my hobby my work, I’ve really turned my life around, but I sort of lost my hobby in the process. I’ve had to actively pursue other hobbies. Netflix is a blessing. But youtube isn’t the sort of job that lends itself well to this kind of life. I find myself perpetually in the mindset of the self employed. If I have time to watch three episodes of A Series of Unfortunate Events, I probably had time to log in and stream a bit of Minecraft, if I can kick back and waste time brushing my teeth, surely I could be answering a few silly little YT comments.

Working with games has made me a workaholic…

Well, except for the money.

And it’s not like I can kick the hobby completely, enjoy games only in my little circle of work and learn to love Films instead. I need to be up to date, even my outdated little channel needs a new game every now and then. Even I need to be up on the conversation, Nintendo Switches and Playstation Pros.

It’s not really a complaint, I love what I do. I want to do it for the rest of my life. I’d like to say one day that entertaining people pays the rent. I sit and I think about that and really, truly, genuinely, and uniquely sit back and think ‘there’s a job I’d feel satisfied to do’ and yet the deeper down this rabbit hole I get, the less I play. I spend time with games, sure… I have the controller in my hand for no less than five hours most days, but play?

I might never play again.

Overwatch Review – PS4

Overwatch Review – PS4

Overwatch is a refreshing example of high production values and solid gameplay overcoming traditional expectations of what a big budget game should be. It features no in-game narrative, no single player worth mentioning, and aside from its large cast of characters, a relatively sparse amount of content, but it makes up for it with focus and a level of polish that makes you forget you’re playing the same selection of modes and maps over and over again. Even when you do notice, you’re having so much fun it’s not really an issue.

While fundamentally a multiplayer shooter, it borrows liberally from MOBAs, delivering an array of distinct characters that all feel unique and occasionally genre-breaking. Shooter fans will feel at home with gunslingers like McCree or Soldier 76, but might find ninja robot Genji or mad-bomber Junkrat to be a bit of an adjustment. There’s enough variety that most players will find a play style that suits them, and despite this range of approaches, balancing feels finely tuned and appropriate. Each character comes with a unique weapon, special skills, and a powerful ultimate attack, but no character has the best of everything; often you’re forced to choose between a weapon you really like and a devastating ultimate, but it always feels like a willing concession, not a compromise.

Lucio doing special attack

A big part of the fun comes not just from trying new skills, but after each death you’re treated to seeing exactly how someone downed you. It’s good for stealing strategies, as well as learning which skills you want to try next. Even after you’ve been playing a while it’s possible to see someone do something you hadn’t even thought of, sending you scurrying to the character select screen to give it a go. The game rewards this by incentivising all skills, not just kills. Handling objectives, healing damage, eve blocking damage, are all considered worthy of score at the end of the game, and as such the community at large seems less fixated on maintaining their Kill / Death ratio and actually on switching it up and having fun. There’s an experimental camaraderie to it all, and this cycle of charging ultimate attacks, forcing your enemies to change character, and changing your own in response, keeps every game a revolving door of changing tactics that can provide endless variety. Almost.

All this takes place in a series of fifteen maps that represent futuristic interpretations of real world cities, and seem ripped right out of a Pixar movie. They play a massive part in setting the scene, with little consistent details popping up over and over like hidden machinery, hover cars, and skyscrapers towering over historical buildings, hinting at a deeper lore, Blizzard has hidden away in short films and other merchandise. Each does a great job of showing off how colourful the game is, and disguising how samey the game modes can be. It’s great to zip up to the roof of a Buddhist temple and pick enemies out from below, or surprise someone from behind the British postbox, but most of the maps are basically linear zig-zag paths between two bases. Even the game modes are largely indistinguishable from one another, with heavy objective based modes that see you claiming and reclaiming control points until time runs down.

Reaper being Badass

Overwatch is the most fun I’ve had with an online shooter in years, but it’s hard to shake the feeling the content is a little thin on the ground. The character roster is huge and will take hours to play through properly, but once you’ve picked a character you can play most of the modes and maps in less than a day. The lack of single player or story don’t hurt a game that feels so well developed for multiplayer, but it does make it feel, on consoles at least, a little expensive compared to other big budget games offering the whole package. And yet, the experience is so addictive, and so well designed that it’s hard to really feel this complaints while you’re in the game, all you want to do is jump in for one more round.

8/10

Overwatch is a solid, and compelling multiplayer game that hides a sparse amount of content behind a huge roster of characters. It’s great fun and will keep you coming back for more, but after a few hours you’ll have seen everything there is, even if you’re still having a great time.