2023 will be the year I... Our gaming ambitions for the year ahead
What are yours?
This is it - 2023 is the time to try something new! So instead of peering mysteriously into a crystal ball and pretending to divine some trends for the year ahead, we thought we'd make things more personal. We thought we'd share our personal gaming ambitions for the year ahead.
What does that mean? Well, gaming ambitions are a lot like New Year's Resolutions, but they're about games rather than going to the gym. So it's you deciding, for instance, that 2023 is the year you're going to get into virtual reality, like Ian - and with PlayStation VR 2 out soon, now is a good time.
Or, maybe you want to get into speedrunning because you've always thought it looks cool, which it does. Or, maybe you're ready to get serious about competitive Pokémon. Or maybe you want to make that game you've always been talking about. Who knows? These ambitions can be anything; dream big.
The ambitions below are ours, then, but we'd love to hear yours in the comments. Oh and Happy New Year! Here's to brighter days.
2023 will be the year I learn to play a new genre
Late in 2022, a friend - a friend of the site, actually, it was Dr Omar - asked me: "When was the last time you learned something?" He didn't mean, when was the last time you learned a fact? He meant, when was the last time you learned to actually do something new?
I didn't have an answer. So for 2023, I'm going to learn a new genre of game - something I've never played before, which means something I've never played for fun or had to play for work. I wonder if it means it's time to get properly into those sports stats sims like Football Manager that people like Taps love so much. Or maybe it's time to put aside the fear and properly learn how to play one of those vast Total War games - I hear Shogun is still fantastic.
Actually - even as I type all this, the answer is clear. 2023 should be the year I learn how to play Dwarf Fortress. Wish me luck.
2023 will be the year I run a role-playing game
I'm always surprised by how many video game designers have backgrounds in tabletop role-playing games - and then I'm surprised that I'm surprised, because it's not really that surprising at all. The crossovers are many and obvious. But to me, before now, game-mastering has always seemed like a dark art, this ability to conjure a magical adventure for the people around you to play. I would look at the person doing it as if they were performing a miracle before me. But now that I'm better acquainted with tabletop RPGs, I can see more of the method behind it.
I'm not suggesting I can suddenly be a wonderful game master, because obviously there's an art to it and it takes a long time to master, but I feel confident enough I can at least try. And part of the reason why - why I want to do it - is to feel what it's like on the other side. I've been on the receiving end of games for as long as I can remember. How much am I not seeing? How much have I been taking for granted?
Plus, writing it down here makes it a bit harder to back out later; I've said it now, haven't I? If you have any advice, please let me know!
2023 will be the year I try to actually finish a single-player campaign
In terms of work woes, not being able to finish a game is hardly the worst problem in the world. I mean, in previous jobs, I've had to clear rotting meat out of freezers (I threw up), palletise freshly shrink wrapped travel brochures with bare hands (ouch, burny) and deliver hundreds of free newspapers during a raging blizzard (not fun, cold toes), so really, I shouldn't complain. But I'm going to anyway because I'm a terrible person.
You see, with my job, I have to constantly swap between games, dipping in and out of new titles as and when they're released in order to keep up with the video game release cycle. And while it's admittedly nice to be able to try out many more games than the average player, this has left me with a video game library that's full of games with half-finished single-player campaigns I'll probably never go back to.
Recent examples of this would be The Callisto Protocol and High on Life. I streamed the first few hours of both of these games over on our YouTube channel and then, overwhelmed with Christmas content production, I just left them with their protagonists frozen in time and unable to complete the quests they were made for. And I know that if I do go back to them one day, I'll have forgotten all the controls and what the hell I was meant to be doing, and then I'll swiftly and shamefully delete them to make room for something else.
There are literally hundreds of games like this across my multiple video game libraries and I often feel guilty about never seeing them through, so this year, I'm going to try my best to actually finish what I start. In all honesty, I probably won't have time to revisit any of the older games that I've skipped over, but hopefully in 2023, I will be able to see more than at least one new release through to the end.
2023 will be the year I finally play Final Fantasy 14
I first got the itch to start Final Fantasy 14 more than a year ago now, so I installed the Steam version, ready to give the famous free trial a go. My plans were ruined when the launcher unkindly mucked up somewhere in Valve's pipes, making that platform and email address null and void for my Final Fantasy MMO needs. My laptop's charging port also happened to stop working at the exact same time as my launcher woes. I'm not saying Yoshi P owes me a new laptop, but a year's subscription would be nice.
A few months after my tech troubles, I begrudgingly decided to just start FF14 on my ageing PS4 instead. I spent an hour making my character, another waiting for my brother to tell me what server he was on (turns out it didn't really matter), and 30 minutes actually playing the game. Then... I never went back. I dusted off my PS4 controller with the intent to continue a few times, but was always met with system updates or low controller battery prompts from my poor, neglected PS4. That aside, my extended absence in Hydaelyn is mostly due to me being a sucker for getting obsessed with live service games, Fortnite, Fall Guys, and Genshin Impact being the biggest offenders.
With Final Fantasy 16, and other major new releases on the horizon (how dare Zelda, Starfield, and Diablo 4 release near a new Final Fantasy), I really want to experience the MMO's story before getting lost in the newer entry. More importantly, my Final Fantasy-obsessed brother can stop making fun of me for all my failed starts at playing the game.
2023 will be the year I get up to date with Final Fantasy 14
In all honesty, this has been an ongoing gaming resolution for me for the past few years, my own personal never-ending saga. I'd never played an MMO before but the Final Fantasy name was enough to draw me in to this one, as well as plenty of friends banging on about that memed free trial and offering help through the toughest of duties.
But instead of ploughing through, I just stayed perpetually subscribed to a service I don't use all that much. It's not that I haven't played Final Fantasy 14, I just haven't played it enough. I'm yet to experience the supposed thrills of Shadowbringers; the epic Endwalker saga is tantalising yet distant; and I'm intrigued by the Island Sanctuary farming sim mode.
And there's no better time to catch up. Yes, there's that free trial for brand new players and a wealth of enticing stuff to get through, but June is set to bring even more Yoshi P-flavoured Final Fantasy in the shape of Final Fantasy 16, a game I just know will take over and push its MMO sibling on to the backburner once again. Can I get up to date in the next six months? Now there's a challenge.
2023 will be the year I try to solve Cain's Jawbone
Cain's Jawbone is a literary puzzle created by Edward Powys Mathers in 1930, which takes the form of a murder mystery who's 100-pages are arranged out of order. Your task is to figure out the correct flow of the story, along with the names of the murderers and their victims. It's also notorious for being incredibly difficult, with only three people on record for having solved it successfully, and I'm going to give it a go.
How could I not? I've always enjoyed ARGs or games like Oneshot, which challenge you to look beyond the boundary of the game itself. I can't help but find the challenge Cain's Jawbone offers, with its focus on narrative and word play, intriguing. Plus, it combines three of my favourite things - books, puzzles and murder.
Sure, there's a chance I'm going to end up creating a proper red-thread-conspiracy-board, but, who knows, maybe I'll actually solve it.
2023 will be the year my ambitions become that bit more ambitious
I am going to let you all in on a little secret: I am a creature of habit. I know what I like and that dictates a lot of my choices in life, be it games, food, films, books and anything else. I was very much born to be mild in that sense.
But perhaps it is time to break free of this comfortable place I have made for myself and, instead, try and challenge myself in new ways. So, this year, I will be more ambitious with my video game ambitions (I reserve the right to default to my usual films and shows, however - let's not get carried away).
New genres - why not? A different class - sure! Fully embrace my inner Céline Dion when on voice chat and bellow "it's all coming back to me now!" when I remember how to reload my weapon - OK, for the sake of everyone playing with me, maybe not, but you get the idea.
2023 will be the year I indulge my arcade passion
Just before Christmas, I accompanied a good friend to check out his latest acquisition which was waiting for him in Stoke Newington's Loading Bar: an Astro City arcade cabinet, restored to minty freshness and with a fully loaded Sega Naomi nestled within its bowels. Seeing his wide-eyed wonder when faced with what's surely the ultimate piece of Sega hardware was a truly magical thing. I remembered that same dumbstruck look from when I took delivery of my own cabinet some 10 years ago now, and if my example isn't quite so fresh, it still fills my heart with joy every time I see it in its corner of the living room.
It's not exactly gone unloved in the years since - some of the best nights I've had have involved a small group of friends, a large handful of beers, and some heated games of Baku Baku Animal or Last Blade 2 - but I never use it as much as I'd like to. Partly it's the desire to keep on top of new releases, and partly it's the obligation to pile any spare hours I have into something I'm covering for the site, but this year I want to properly indulge myself and invest a bit more time and money into it all. I've got my eyes on a MISTer, or maybe even a Naomi unit of my own - or perhaps I should just put some more hours into the small hoard of boards I have already, and with a bit of patience and skill I might even finally roll credits on the Gradius 2 board that's the crown jewel of my collection.
2023 will be the year I finally 100 percent complete Horizon Zero Dawn and Forbidden West
As someone who very openly admits that the Horizon games are my favourite games, it may come as a surprise that I'm yet to 100 percent complete either of them. Admittedly, I ran through both stories quite quickly, but it's hard not to when you're completely invested in the fate of the characters involved. That being said, it's much harder for me to stick to any game to get it to 100 percent completion, unless it's Jak and Daxter.
If you know the Horizon games, then you're probably well aware that there's a lot to explore outside of the main story and the many collectibles made easy for you to find, but it's the scale of everything that's a bit daunting.
Granted, I did get close to 100 percent completion on Zero Dawn before my attention span gave out, but the same can't be said for Forbidden West. I do enjoy riding around on a Bristleback and battling any ferocious Slitherfangs that dare to cross my path, but I feel that I need to become more invested in everything these games have to offer.
This will apply to the Forbidden West Burning Shores DLC too - I've already committed myself to playing this, one way or another. As it's due out in April, I should have plenty of time to immerse myself in - and 100 percent complete - both games once and for all.
2023 will be the year I finally head back into the lab
A new Street Fighter is coming out - you might have heard? It's the sixth one. It's Street Fighter 6.
I'm old enough to have played every Street Fighter game upon release. Yes, even the first one, although my memory of it is hazy. And that's the problem, isn't it? Memories fade, people grow, free time becomes less disposable. I've got to pick my battles now, take into account learning, or, in Street Fighter's case, relearning.
The last fighting game I labbed - fighting game parlance for spending a serious amount of time in training mode, working out things like frame data, practising combos and developing strategy - was Street Fighter 4 nearly 14 years ago. It was a great time! I got my Guile and, towards the end of that game's life, Abel, to a decent level, I thought. I held my own online. Whenever I saw the game out and about, I was confident enough to give anyone a match. I'd win more than I'd lose.
With each subsequent launch of a fighting game I was interested in (Street Fighter 5, Mortal Kombat 11 and, more recently, Guilty Gear Strive), I had less time to spend in the lab. I got married, had a couple of kids. Long weekends spent repeatedly crossing up training dummies, fuelled by little more than diet coke and tins of spaghetti hoops, gave way to long weekends spent in my garden, creating erupting volcanoes while my kids watched on from a safe distance.
To be clear, I love what my free time has become, but... I miss the lab. I have a craving for it. And my fleeting love affair with the recent Street Fighter 6 beta has ignited something within me, a desire to head back into the lab for this game. Dear reader, Street Fighter 6 feels amazing, and I have high hopes for its release. Guile is calling me, once again, like a sonic boom shooting towards my south coast home from across the pond.
"Messi is still good enough to have won the World Cup. Perhaps this year I'll finally win Evo?"
I am resolved to it: I will head back into the lab. But how to do it? I will not sit in front of my telly while my children destroy the house around me (for that is surely what would happen). When my wife and I sit down on the sofa after putting the kids to bed, we're exhausted, and, honestly, it can be difficult to muster the energy to play any kind of video game, let alone one that demands intense bouts of concentration.
I have a plan: I will not play harder, but smarter. I will lean on the fighting game community more than I have ever done before. I will watch clips, match analyses, combo videos and video guides, and pick and choose my battles. I believe, even after all these years, that my fighting game foundations are rock solid. I need to build upon them in targeted ways. What's a reliable combo that is versatile, can be used in a large number of situations and does a decent amount of damage, but doesn't require Daigo-level execution or reactions? Nail that and move on.
What are the key mechanics I need to learn to counter? Street Fighter 6 has caused something of a kerfuffle within the fighting game community over its new Drive Impact, which on the face of it looks like an overpowered, armour-protected, forward-moving attack that will knock the stuffing out of those who aren't ready for it. I will be ready for it.
Yes, I don't have the time or energy to lab Street Fighter 6 in the way I labbed Street Fighter 4, but I do have the time to lab it smart. This is the Lionel Messi approach to fighting games. The greatest footballer the world has ever seen has had to change the way he plays the game as he aged. Lacking the capacity for those iconic, half-pitch length dribbles you see in every goal highlight video on YouTube, Messi now strolls around the pitch, affecting the game in meaningful ways when the time is right for him. I'm sure he's long since given up driving himself into the ground during training, but I'm also sure he still thinks deeply about each upcoming game and practises the fundamentals so he's ready to strike on his own terms.
Messi is still good enough to have won the World Cup. Perhaps this year I'll finally win Evo? The lab awaits...