It feels safe to say that there are a lot of videogames that I will never play. And I feel similarly confident that a sizable number of them would present engaging or meaningful experiences, perhaps even become beloved favorites of mine, if I ever had an opportunity to immerse myself in them. But of course, time is limited and the vast majority of videogames, for all kinds of different reasons, will forever remain unknown to me.
Nevertheless, almost inadvertently, I tend to compile a mental list of videogames that I would be happy to experience someday. Inclusion on this list is often based on a somewhat cursory glance and informed by a gut feeling that has evolved over the years during which videogames have been a part of my life, a surprisingly reliable intuition regarding which videogames I would probably appreciate in some manner. Eventually — not seldom after many years — , some of the entries on this list find their way onto my screen. And in the past three months, this happened twice in relatively quick succession.
First came Okami. I had long felt drawn to its gorgeous visual presentation and its promise of an exploration of Japanese folklore and history. Both of these aspects ended up representing essential parts of my experience. But with regard to the tone in which its story was told, my time with Okami turned out quite different from what I had anticipated. The delivery was mostly humorous, at times almost flippant, and thus deliberately removed from the serene and dignified mood I had expected to find.
Okami was followed by Ni no Kuni, which I am still playing at the time of writing. This is another example of a videogame with a unique visual style that greatly appealed to me as somebody who has long adored the films by Studio Ghibli. In addition, Ni no Kuni’s status as an arguably more ‘traditional’ RPG made it particularly interesting to me right now considering how Xenoblade Chronicles 3 will certainly occupy much of my videogaming time later this summer. Just like in the case of Okami, I easily found what I had expected. And yet, once again, I felt slightly bewildered, this time by the gameplay: I had not known how central the use of Pokémon-like familiars would be to the combat system and how strongly their collection would factor into the completion process.
Expectations can be powerful and misleading. They may cause the anticipation of experiences that never existed in the first place. In such instances, disappointment or even anger seem to be common responses. But I have found that, by leaving intentional gaps, each new videogame experience gains an otherwise reduced potential to amaze as the gaps start to be filled in. At the very least, there can be genuine surprises. At best, this relatively blind approach to new videogames may result in an epiphany regarding how exactly everything comes together in a title that previously, fortunately, only existed in fragmentary form. Perhaps this is mostly a question of attitude. Yet another list — this one full of rewarding or at least curious discoveries — has continued to justify this perspective to me over the years.
Right now, I do not know which videogame I will be able to check off my mental list next or when this might happen. And still, I feel strangely optimistic that it will somehow be well worth my time.