The Elder Scrolls (whichever one is out) - When I feel like getting away for a bit, I tend to turn to Elder Scrolls. Tamriel is brimming with adventure and is a great way to spend a few hours, sometimes just walking around. Whether it’s trying out some new Skyrim mods now available for the Xbox One or trying my best to combat restartitis, these games are fairly consistent with their rewards.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen - I spent many a long hour as a pre-teen (I refuse to say tween) with some dice, some graph paper, and a D&D Player’s Handbook. I have always been looking for that same sense of story and escapism in a fantasy game, and to me this game comes the closest. While it may be too linear for some, I love the story. It’s a mature tale of tangible determinism and humanity’s outward strikes against. The archetypal characters and plot points, straight out of a Carl Jung’s Man and His Symbols, could be simplistic but instead have a strange unique depth as characters who seem wearily aware of their own archetypes and carry it as a burden. This is in keeping with the theme of true determinism and humanity’s fight for some kind of compatibility with such a linear fate. Just under the surface of each character seems to be the full knowledge that they are just a character in a story. While I know I may be reading much into it, the incredible writing of the primary villain, the dragon Gregori, makes me think I’m on the right track. To top it off, the game is incredibly fun to play.
Star Wars: The Knights of the Old Republic - A game whose systems were taken directly from the 3rd Edition of D&D, KOTOR seems to walk the lines between action and story/role-play with so much ease that you would be lured into a sense that such design is simple. As a result, I spent much time disappointed by many different games that followed, all promising similar things. This game gives the full Star Wars experience in a way that hadn’t been seen before and honestly hasn’t been seen since. I really can’t stand any other Star Wars game. I felt for these characters, I wanted to find out more about the planets and cities, I was challenged and pleasingly frustrated by the action, and I felt I had ample opportunities to play whatever role I wanted. It’s still the hallmark achievement in role-playing video games.
Elite: Dangerous - As a child, I pulled everything out of my closet and used some crayons and markers to make the inside of it look as closely like a spaceship cockpit as possible. The fantasy was that I was a lone ship captain flying around a massive galaxy in a small dimly lit spaceship doing anything from mundane trading to dodging dangerous pirates. Needless to say, Elite fills a very special nostalgic role for me.
Red Dead Redemption - I think John Marston is one of the greatest video game protagonists to ever be designed. A former outlaw forced to re-enter a world he had left, Marston remains as vigilant as possible in his quest to be a “good man.” His reconciliation of the past he can’t deny and future he wants for his son is palpable and gives pause to any parent. However, the consequence of his connections and the effect that is eventually had on his son is what makes the game one of the great American tragedies. This game, played straight through as a story, has the feel of good classic literature.