Most New Year Resolutions are about boring stuff like doing exercise or giving up smoking, and while those are both clearly great ideas, they're not something we're mad keen on starting right now on account of a) it being really cold outside and b) cigarettes being so damned moreish. What about gaming ones, instead? Viz:
1. I will not stay up late playing games when my girlfriend has asked me to come to bed
This guy? GENIUS. Also, note the single bed
This one's fairly easy at the moment, as we're in a release schedule drought after all the big-name brands dropped their seasonal loads on us at Christmas – so at least we won't have to contend with another attention-grabbing title such as Batman: Arkham City or Uncharted 3 for a little while yet.
But Skyrim still calls to us (a long list of unfinished quests giggles and winks coquettishly at us every time we strap on our dragonborn boots and head out into Tamriel) and, often, the prospect of descending into a fantasy world for several hours is preferable to sitting in bed for half an hour, discussing that bill you still haven't paid, and then listening to your girlfriend snore while you contend – unsuccessfully - with that massive hardback your mum got you for Christmas.
But she's lovely, no? That's why you're going out with her. Well, we hope that's why you're going out with her. So give her some attention instead of putting hour after hour into your Xbox – at least until March, anyway, when Mass Effect 3 comes out. Then she's shit out of luck.
2. I will finally get good at fighting games
This will all become terribly important to you, we're sure
Sure, you pretend you've got tactics - 'Yeah, I really like Raphael, but I find that his range is limited a bit by all those lunges – I prefer someone a bit more solid and dependable, like Mitsurugi' you say, sipping your wine as you watch someone else play Soul Calibur Whatever. But it's all a lie, isn't it? You just push all the buttons as hard as you can all the time. No-one notices because they're all just as terrible as you.
Maybe you know one or two moves with each character, and you artlessly try to pull them off over and over – which works against other people of the same skill, but the second you go up against someone who knows what they're doing or a complete fucking amateur, you're lost and promptly ringed out or ko'ed or suffering from severe boxed ears or whatever punishment your game of choice gives you for losing.
But no more! Practice – actually put the hours in, it's fun once you get past the initial staggering unbelief that this is what you're doing with your life when girls, alcohol & co exist – and learn the combos, work out how to counter, and try to fathom what the hell those glowing bars that aren't energy but somehow affect the game actually do. Next time someone casually suggests you have a quick go on Street Fighter before you head to the pub, you can hustle the shit out of them.
3. I will stop getting angry at kids who beat me online
Hey. Hey, big guy, calm down. Shh. Shh-shhh. Listen. That 14 year old – yeah, the one with American accent so penetratingly nasal you could use it drill holes in walls, that one – he doesn't have a job. He probably doesn't have any friends, either, because he spends all his time playing Call of Duty instead of going to the park/playing football/smoking fags behind the bike sheds/whatever it is kids are supposed to do. What he's got is a hella fine submachine gun, and he's apparently hiding behind every corner you foolishly try to walk around in team deathmatch.
Is he calling you a “fag?” Hey. Don't worry. He's an idiot. Odds are he'll be dead from childhood obesity soon, anyway, given the statistics. Let the homophobic little shit have his fun. Have a drink. He can't.
4. I will play more indie games
'It's HAMMER TIME,' said the blue things, and hit the kid with hammers. He was not amused
'It's called Sword and Sworcery,' says your friend – you know, the one with an ironic beard and big glasses – 'it's an iPad game, released last year. Really next-level stuff. Fantastic music.' And you nod, and smile and try to make a face that shows that you definitely agree because you've totally played the game yet, at the same time, implies that you don't want to take part in any follow-up discussion because you haven't actually played it.
It keeps happening – small studios release stuff that's supposedly excellent, like The Binding of Isaac (in which you play a small naked child fighting his way through a basement to escape from his homicidal mother) or Terraria (like Minecraft but in 2D and apparently more fun) or even Bastion (which has possibly the best videogame music ever EVER and we're kicking ourselves for not putting it in the awards last year).
But they're difficult, aren't they? They deal with difficult subjects, and you can't buy them in a shop with some money from your pocket like proper games. You have to download them, and there's no friendly moustachioed Captain Price to guide you through the levels (which are confusing and barely ever explode enough).
But it's important to fight the urge to just spend hours levelling up in Battlefield, because that doesn't really get you anywhere. Resolutions are about improving yourself, and for that to happen, you're going to have to step outside of your comfort zone. Unfortunately. Might give that one about the naked kid a miss, though, all the same.
5. I will stop believing the hype
Don't believe the lies that spill forth from these chubby lips
We still get caught up the in the hype surrounding big game launches, because we're insatiable dogs lapping up each and every morsel of information thrown our way. Sometimes, we can resist the urge – we don't much care about the upcoming reboot of Syndicate, if we're honest, despite the drip-feeding of fancy graphics and techno-trenchcoats – but we were damned close to awarding the still-pretty-excellent Deus Ex: Human Revolution our game of the year award before we'd even played it. Luckily, we saw sense.
When Modern Warfare has lavish parties with distinguished guests, bigger than a fancy Hollywood movie, it's hard not to get caught up and rush to the shops with your hard-earned cash waved frantically in hand. But let's try and get some perspective, eh? No matter how many explosions and set pieces a game's got, it's not gonna change your life.1
6. I will stop playing games when they reduce me to incoherent rage
GAME I PAID MONEY FOR YOU WHY YOU DO THIS TO ME
This one time, back in the days before we wrote for FHM.com, we started playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on the PS2. We'd been playing for about a week or so, plugging away at the plot when we hit San Fierro and got a bit bored, so we decided that we'd jump into the airport and steal a plane, despite that being illegal. After all, they put a jump right next to it, and a massive road clearly designed to let you build up sufficient speed.
And yet! And yet. No. We couldn't go fast enough. For a full hour and a half, we stole police cars and pelted down the road only to sail straight off into the ocean, again and again. Just beating this one challenge – this one challenge we had set ourselves, mind, no-one was forcing us to do this – had become everything to us. But we couldn't.
We swore. We stamped our feet a bit. Our girlfriend looked concerned, and we assured her that we were FINE, really, everything's FINE. Then ten minutes later we threw the controller on the ground in a fit of pique, and accidentally hit her leg, and suddenly everything was EVEN MORE NOT COOL and we had to buy flowers and apologise profusely.
The moral of the story? Well, don't throw things at your girlfriend's legs. But that should hopefully be obvious, so instead, the moral is: Don't play games until they make you angry. That's ridiculous. If you're swearing under your breath not only when you die, but for the entirety of the time you spend playing the game until you die again, you should probably think about stopping.2
7. I will stop pretending old games are better than new ones
'Step away from the oversized toilet,' said Bond, 'and no-one gets hurt.' It was a lie. Everyone was about to get hurt
'Goldeneye!' You proclaim loudly to anyone who'll listen (a portion of humanity which is becoming increasingly smaller these days), 'Goldeneye was a fine game. In fact, Goldeneye is still one of the best games around, with none of your perks or killstreaks or fancy team deathmatch modes.' A noble statement, certainly, but also a load of old bollocks. If you ever feel like saying this about anything, just play the game again before you open your mouth.3
If you play it now, Goldeneye looks like a sandwich that's been left in someone's back pocket for a week. It controls like pushing a shopping trolley uphill, and the trolley is full of bricks that occasionally jump out and hit you in the face. The multiplayer, which once felt so balanced and nuanced, is – well – let's stop the analogies, they're about to beach UN Regulations. The multiplayer is just bad when compared to modern titles.
Even modern classics like Shadow of the Colossus just don't handle as well as they once did, and we're considering putting an official ban on anyone playing anything on their old PS1 until it stops looking “fuck ugly” and progresses to “retro”. We've got about four years until that's true, we reckon.
1. Well, unless it's Skyrim. That changed our lives in that we don't have one anymore really HELP US
2. Well, unless you're playing Dark Souls. We think it's supposed to do that to you because it clearly fucking hates you
3. Well, unless you're talking about The Ocarina of Time. Or Tetris. Or Sonic 2. Then open your mouth as much as you like