I’ve played games for as long as I can remember. That’s not technically true. I do remember bits and pieces of my pre-videogame life. A young boy obsessed with He-Man and Transformers and — why am I admitting this? — Night Rider. I have vague flashes of the house I was born in. The wood paneling in the basement. The yellow siding on the exterior. But those memories are hazy at best and I struggle to separate the true memories from those rebuilt through desaturated Polaroids in dusty photo albums.
Then one Christmas near the end of the too-young-to-remember years, my grandmother gave my brother and I an Atari 2600. My life would never be the same. Of course none of this has anything to do with this particular article other than being an overly wordy way of stating that nearly my entire life is dotted with fond memories of brilliant videogames. XCOM is responsible for enough of those memories that I now can’t help but consider myself a franchise “fanboy.”
I knew that this is how games were meant to be played.
I remember the day I bought XCOM: Terror From the Deep. There was a second-hand media store next to a late-run discount movie theater housed in a crumbling mall that was well past its prime. A comic book and trading-card shop hugged the other side. The city tried to revitalize the area around the time I went to college. Today it’s little more than a razed foundation dotted with thorny overgrowth surrounded by a sea of cracked and sun-bleached asphalt.
That’s where I found it. The cover read XCOM: Terror from the Deep in crimson letters, a scale-clad arm reaching up from the dark depths below.
Something about Terror from the Deep‘s sub-aquatic setting always appealed to me more than its predecessor’s.
Then Firaxis announced development of a turn-based strategy XCOM title. I could have cried, though I didn’t. I may or may not have kissed the Game Informer cover art that month. I sat in on the PAX East show and forgot my usual, shy self by asking numerous questions of the presenter.
I’ve cursed 2K Games and their brilliantly paced trickle of information – slow but consistent – over the last year. I’ve tried to find fault with the many changes that are being brought to the series, but in the end, I can’t help but feel that they are all for the better. I’ve even publicly voiced my wish that a certain high-profile title that shares XCOM’s release date might get delayed because I’d like to review both games, but know which I have to play first.
It’s a funny thing; after years of resigning myself to the idea that XCOM was now just a cherished part of my gaming past, I’ve suddenly found myself weeks away from a brand-new XCOM title. I don’t remember the last time I was this excited for a game. Perhaps it was Ocarina of Time? The rational part of me wonders if it is even possible for a game to live up to the kind of expectations I have for Firaxis’ Enemy Unknown? But I’ve never liked my rational side, so now I try to ignore it.
I like to think that I’ll be able to remain unbiased towards the title when it comes out, though it may take a herculean effort from Ben to keep me in check. And if the game is bad? Well, at least I have years of practice drowning out my sorrows with alcohol.
Fortunately, the game is looking brilliant.
I guess I’ll see for myself come October 9 . . . just 20 days away.Posted in Op Ed by Steve R Gibson on September 19, 2012