There comes a point in every gamer’s life when the activity no longer satisfies like it used to.
I’m not exactly sure why this happens. It could just be part of getting older. Perhaps the crush of responsibilities or a growing awareness of our own mortality suffocates the simple joy of playing a game. Or maybe we develop a tolerance after years of moving digital avatars in what amounts to an expensive version of make-belief; what was once novel becomes mundane.
Whatever the reason, gaming in your 40s is an experience in diminishing returns. John Cougar Mellencamp — who apparently has been going by John Mellencamp since 1991, which I maybe would’ve known if I listened to any of his music since 1991 — famously sang about life going on long after the thrill is gone. It’s a depressing sentiment, but not too far off from my experience as a gamer. I want to be excited about gaming, but often my indulgence in pre-launch hype is as good as it gets.
I was prepared for Starfield to be more of the same, but also hopeful it would be different. After all, it was developed by Bethesda, the company behind Skyrim. The first and last time I’ve ever taken a day off work to wait for a store to open was to buy Skyrim. In total, I’ve purchased Skyrim a staggering 4 times (Xbox 360, PC, Switch, Xbox One), and I’ll probably definitely buy the Anniversary Edition at some point. It’s easily in my top 5 games of all-time. And now comes Starfield, a space opera roleplaying game reminiscent of games like No Man’s Sky and Mass Effect. Calling it Skyrim in Space is like dropping someone in carbonite — crude but effective. But it’s also not really accurate.
I’ve had the hardest time describing exactly what Starfield is like. The influences are obvious, but it doesn’t really feel like any of those other games. It’s clearly a Bethesda game, but it’s also unlike either Fallout or Skyrim. So when describing the game, I’ve resorted to talking about my experience playing, which I think is a better approach anyway. “Show, don’t tell,” and all that.