#132: House hunting

On an increasingly desperate search for a new game to call a home.

A little while ago, while talking to a prospective client about some consulting work, I was asked which genres or kinds of game I considered my particular areas of expertise. I wasn’t sure how to answer. Like most game journalists, I got into the business as a specialist, but left it a generalist. At the beginning, you need to stand out by doing something few other people can — for me it was writing about fighting games — but by the end, particularly if you’re editing a magazine like I was, you need to be able to do a bit of everything.

Instead, I told them, it might be more useful for me to talk about my obsessions: the games I carved time out of my schedule to play, sacrificing sleep or a social life to make room for. I think they said a lot more about my tastes, my knowledge and my specialties than any genre label. Dark Souls (as shorthand for FromSoft games, really), Street Fighter IV, Destiny, Puzzle & Dragons, Slay The Spire: these were the games I played when I probably should have been doing something else. The games that have shaped and informed so much of what I know, or think I know, about game design, and how I approach my work as both a writer and a consultant1

The chap that asked the question seemed very impressed by the answer, but looking back I regret framing those games as ‘obsessions’. That sounds negative in hindsight, unhealthy even. Really what I was trying to say is that these games were, at various points in my career, a sort of home: familiar, relaxing places I could return to in times of stress or of need, to catch up with friends or blow off some steam alone. They were places of routine and of ritual: the daily and weekly resets, the Tuesday raid appointments, the eight-player Friday night SFIV lobbies. They were not just things I played but that I watched and researched, read, learned, talked and thought about while I was away from them.

You will note the use of the past tense there, and that is the point of today’s edition. Of the above games, the only one I still play frequently is Slay The Spire, though that’s increasingly more out of habit and procrastination (it’s installed on my work PC) than anything else. I am currently, in a gaming context, homeless. There is nothing to which I turn instinctively when I sit down of an evening and pick up a controller. There is no game that, when playing something for work, I wish I could be playing instead. The YouTube algorithm has all but stopped serving me videos about games! Which is quite nice actually, but still. It’s an odd sensation, one I am not used to, and am not sure I like. It is particularly important when you write about games for a living to have something you can slip into when a project is done and dusted, shifting from work mode back into pure play, a subtle recalibration of thought processes and expectations.

The irony of this is that there are more potential homes out there than ever before; these days developers of all shapes and sizes design their games to be played every day, forever. But I learned long ago that liking one game does not mean you will like another game inspired by it. A game having a Destinyish loot system, a Soulslike structure or a Spire-esque deck-building component — and hey, there really are a lot of all those things around these days — does not draw me towards it. If anything it pushes me away. I have already played the best version of these ideas, or at least, my favourite implementation of them. I am highly unlikely to be won over by a facsimile.

There’s a paradox of choice at play here, too. To really wring every last drop out of this analogy, the videogame housing market is flooded with supply, making it harder than ever for me to find my forever home. We’re swamped with freebies and subscription games. With no real agenda, I spend my rare free evenings flitting endlessly around what’s new: browsing the recently added section of Game Pass, checking out that month’s PS Plus giveaways, or fiddling disconsolately around with whatever my phone pings me to say has just hit Apple Arcade. Nothing sticks, but of course I continue the search — floating through open sea with neither rudder nor anchor, visiting every island I come across for only as long as it takes me to realise I don’t want to stay there forever. That, unsurprisingly, is a pretty high bar for most games to clear. And it means that I bounce off just about everything, because I’m not just looking for something to while away a few evenings. I am looking for something more permanent than that, and am casting aside no end of perfectly worthy games in the process.

Weird feeling, this. Any suggestions on how to drag myself out of the funk would be most welcome. Street Fighter 6 isn’t out until next year, and I’m not sure I can wait that long.


  • King Paddy gets in touch about Friday’s thing on Street Fighter 6. “Whatever this was — in the old days I guess you might call it a ‘preview’ — more please! This Hit Points thing is coming together well.” Thank you, kind sir. I’m in two minds about doing more gamey, critic-y stuff in a newsletter that is notionally more focused on the industry, though as today’s edition proves that’s not exactly a hard-and-fast rule. Perhaps stuff like this could be a nice little occasional treat for paid subscribers? Hmm. Thoughts welcome.
  • “I've been playing Street Fighter since SFII,” offers Mizoguchi in the lovely Hit Points Discord, “so I wouldn't normally think I'd be interested in the simplified control scheme, but it's got my attention. For whatever reason I've never been able to reliably do charge moves (Guile, Chun-Li, Bison etc) so I've usually stuck with the quarter-circle characters (Ryu, etc). This still gives you plenty to work with on a roster, but it does feel like you're missing out. If the simplified controls give me a chance to play around with some new characters, that sounds like fun. Also, my girlfriend likes playing Tekken with me, but I've never been able to get her into Street Fighter as she finds the move inputs a bit impenetrable. If the new control scheme works as a way for us to be able to play against each other and her not feel completely lost, then this sounds pretty great.”


  • Diablo Immortal made over $24 million in its first two weeks, apparently. In possibly related news, a streamer finally got one of Immortal’s five-star Legendary Gems over the weekend after spending over $15,000 trying to get one to drop. “Fuck you, fucking Blizzard,” he said to camera as he uninstalled the game. Blimey.
  • The Artist Formerly Known As Facebook has unveiled a raft of concept VR headsets as part of clammy replicant prototype Mark Zuckerberg’s unstoppable drive towards the Metaverse. In fairness to Zuckerberg there’s a lot of honesty about the challenges his company is facing in this VentureBeat piece, and some thoughtful discussion on how said challenges are being met — but a lot of head-in-clouds stuff too. “We’re in the middle of a big step forward towards realism,” he parps. “I don’t think it’s going to be that long until we can create scenes with basically perfect fidelity.” Hmm.
  • Supermassive’s The Quarry and Squanch Games’ High On Life were originally planned for Stadia, it says here, but were cut loose when Google decided to drastically scale down its plans for its cloud-powered streaming service.
  • Cheat-maker Elite Boss Tech has agreed to pay Bungie $13.5m in damages arising from the former’s design and sale of Destiny 2 cheat software, and so avoid the case going to court.
  • Andrew Wilson made just $19.9m last year, the poor tyke, amounting to barely half of his earnings in the previous year. And here’s me complaining about not having any games to play. Stuff like this really puts things in perspective.

There you go. With a busy week of many deadlines, Hit Points will be taking Wednesday off. Have an excellent few days in the meantime, and I will catch you all on Friday.

  1. I might as well mention here that, if you’re a developer who’d like a critical eye run over your project by someone who has somehow reviewed over 300 games during his career, reply to this email and let’s talk. Hit Points pals get reduced rates.