Suggest me a videogame to protect my fragile ego…
December 16, 2021 8:52 PM   Subscribe

…as I near middle-age, and eventual death.

I used to have so much time for video games. I had minimal responsibilities, so could plow hours into whatever everyone was playing 10 years ago. But I’ve since gained responsibilities, and kids who have come of age to become gamers in their own right. But because of kids and adulthood, the time I had to spend on video games has transferred to my kids (as has much of my earnings, natch).

They are really excellent battle royale players. My eldest is quite adept at Apex Legends, and my youngest is more at ease at Fortnite. Because I don’t have time to plow hours into games like these, I’m an absolute noob. My eight-year-old’s gleeful laughter as I die spending time chopping wood instead of looting crates in Fortnite. Or the seemingly infinite decisions about what mods to attach in Apex in under a second that it appears I need to be able to accomplish to compete with my oldest.

I feel humiliated.

Maybe not so much for my eldest, but my youngest still sees me as infallible. And when he sees through the facade - that his father is nothing but a older man-child with just a bigger allowance, more chores and the exact same idea of what we want to be when we grow up. And when that dawns on him - I’ll have another surly preteen who calls his Millennial father a goddamn Boomer.

And then what awaits me thereafter? They grow into young men and I fret if I’ve struck the appropriate balance between being stern at appropriate times and playful at appropriate times? That they hopefully grow to be decent human beings, primarily to the credit of their mother, who isn’t a stunted husk of man-child? That they find love? That I become a grandfather? That I die? The heat death of the universe?

No. No, not today, please.

As I don’t have time to plow into battle royale games anymore, I prefer 1st person RPGs in the vein of your Fallouts, your Red Dead Redemptions, your Witchers and Skyrims and Breaths of the Wild. That when my kids see me play the game on the rare chances that both I have free time and they are not on the Xbox or Switch, they watch me playing such a game and sigh and say, “man, that looks so boring.”

And I’ll tell them about the importance of story. How good games are high art, can change humanity, can make you feel…

They rolled their eyes and left the room behind me right as I start into the speech.

But me? I’ll be playing the game like the ones above, that you’ll leave in a comment down below. It will stave off the nagging questions that plague my thoughts. Stave off the heat death of the universe, if you think about it.

And for that, I give you my thanks.
posted by po822000 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (28 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Mechwarrior 5... on the PC. It's got stompy robots to satisfy the younger generation, while we grognards can load mods like "Yet Another Mech Lab" and tweak the mech ad infinitum, thus satisfying our RPG sensibilities, while going through the campaign or career and make up our own stories as we try to stay solvent in our own Mercenary Company. :D
posted by kschang at 8:55 PM on December 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

I say fuck video games. Go straight for the next boss level, and jump straight into the full-blown midlife crisis with the red sports car and the inappropriately young girlfriend and the shame-job try-hard hair style and the trousers that show just that fraction too much ankle and almost still fit.

The faster you get cracking on this the sooner you'll understand how utterly absurd the whole enterprise is, and you'll feel so much better afterwards.
posted by flabdablet at 9:08 PM on December 16, 2021 [20 favorites]

Play Mini Metro and listen to music they hate.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 9:12 PM on December 16, 2021 [7 favorites]

The game you want is Control. It’s single player with fantastic action, fascinating and intriguing world building, and one of the best levels of all time (don’t Google “Ashtray Maze” if you haven’t played it yet). But as a bonus, it has great player assist options up to and including one hit kills and total invulnerability. So you can play through it up until the point it gets too hard for you, and then keep going anyway and still have a great time.

Also, based on the games you already mentioned, I assume you know the Bioshock series and Dragon Age series? If not, fix that tout suite.
posted by ejs at 9:38 PM on December 16, 2021 [4 favorites]

Maybe double-down on the “boring”? In which case, Sniper Elite, Ghost Warrior, anything that involves semi-realistic sniping because sniping is basically a game of chess with Not Being Dead as the prize. Alternatives include things like the Hitman series, Superhot, Dishonored, etc.

…point being, anyone who fails the setup dies rapidly. Pure twitch reflexes = dead.
posted by aramaic at 10:10 PM on December 16, 2021

Seconding Control. It is so enormously interesting, and it's not a super complex game but it is a joy to play and to look at and then to play again.

And if you like Control, you'll enjoy the hell out of Prey.
posted by kkar at 10:41 PM on December 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

Death Stranding!

It's the obvious choice. Play the game that's actually about the tedious plodding reality of adult life. It won't stave off any nagging questions about the heat death of the universe - it'll pose a whole new set of them. But, at least there are zipwires.
posted by rd45 at 3:21 AM on December 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

Hades on Switch is astoundingly good. Amazing mix of story and game mechanics.
posted by gnutron at 4:10 AM on December 17, 2021 [5 favorites]

I have several ways to answer this query. But the one that makes most sense to me, and provides the most re-assuring, affirmative response, is to tell you to give your kids' games a chance. Use some of your free time to sit and take an interest in their game. Play with them. In turn, perhaps they will want to do the same with your games. And the boundary between the two will blur. Here's one way to accelerate that process organically...

I absolutely love BOTW, and perhaps some of the other RPG type games you are interested in. But for me, story comes at a more oblique angle than I think it does for you. Yes, there is the story that the game tells us, like a movie or a book, but the most important stories I find in RPGs - especially the likes of BOTW - are the ones I create myself. The stories that do not sit inside narrative arcs, and hand-holding. The stories that happen to you, when events in the game conspire to create a moment that resonates with you. This is more about the freedom of the game engine, coupled with the way your creativity can flow within them. BOTW is amazing at this. Sneaking up on a pack of bokoblins, and stealing their meat, only to be attacked by one of the banana clan, and you use your freeze stick just in time and blow the bad guy, hilariously, off the cliff behind. THAT is what I am talking about. A story that was unscripted, but memorable and brilliant.

Games like Fortnite and Apex Legends are FULL of these moments. There is no script, because your kids are making their own script. They are creating stories as they mingle in their community with their friends, and the world they inhabit does not feel limited by the narrative written and holding your hand as a player.

If you can convey to them that the games you play also have these elements, then perhaps your vision of different kind of games can melt away, and you can all enjoy the same moments together.
posted by 0bvious at 5:00 AM on December 17, 2021 [6 favorites]

Are you old enough to remember early NES JRPgs like Dragon Quest? Or Final Fantasy?

Might be fun to loop the scale, go back to your roots a bit, whatever those may be.

Used NES's and new clones are cheap and good, as are old CRTs.

If this plan backfires and your kids get into the story and graphics; well, I'd count that as a win also :)
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:41 AM on December 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

I’m not especially into story in video games, enjoying the action or the enviromnment (e.g. in Red Dead Redemption) more than whatever story has been tacked on to justify the shooting. But, The Last of Us was great, so I mention it just because you haven’t. Looks wonderful, is fun to play, and the story was told well. The sequel is apparently good too, but I haven’t got round to it yet,
posted by fabius at 6:02 AM on December 17, 2021

Am loving this thread, and everyone's responses! Our household approach is to play, watch, and read what our kid consumes media wise. It's a great way of finding out what makes these things tick for them. Seeing our daughter approach BoTW was such an experience to behind compared to how me and my husband approached the game.

The world of Battle Royale leaves me feeling ancient as well, though we've adapted by sharing our video game past with our 8-year old with our NES/SNES collection, and present through a variety of experiences. She's a fan of BoTW, as we were, Splatoon 2, and all of the Mario games. I am a firm believer that in video games there is room for people to experience all of the things in their way! Also, they are young, and their tastes will inevitably shift.

I have wholeheartedly enjoyed within the last few years or so, as a person who can't commit a large amount of time to them.
-if you loved BoTW, the art and expanse of Sable
-the mayhem of Untitled Goose Game
-Fallout 76
-another one for Death Stranding
-Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

There are so many games to try these days that I hope you're able to find something. Good luck, and have fun!
posted by thirteenthletter at 6:04 AM on December 17, 2021

All of my friends who have played Hades and Hollow Knight for Switch have loved them. I played some of Hollow Knight and really enjoyed it so far.

Final Fantasy XIV has just a ton of feelings and big questions in it in addition to being a fun MMO, but it's not for either system that you mentioned (switch and Xbox). Also the login servers are pretty stressed right now since they just released a new expansion.
posted by esker at 6:08 AM on December 17, 2021

Horizon Zero Dawn is available on PC now and fits the BOTW/Fallout style very nicely.
posted by mrgoldenbrown at 7:20 AM on December 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

Yes, Horizon Zero Dawn is a near perfect fit for the kinds of games you (and I) seem to love. It's one of the few recent open world games I have 100%ed because I found the story and lore so compelling.

That said, I face almost the exact same challenges as you, though it sounds like I'm a little further down the path: mid-50s gamer dad of teenage gamer boys.

Something that worked for me with one of them (the one who is not too cool to game with his ancient, wizened dad) was to skip Battle Royale/PVP, and instead play games where it was the two of us against the environment, at various levels of challenge. For "extremely challenging constant hail of bullets" we like Risk of Rain 2. For more chill, explore, discover, build stuff, occasionally kill things, we like Satisfactory. He's often much better than me, but not so much that we can't have great time playing together.

And if all else fails I can still hold my own at Halo multiplayer, and the single player campaign is open world and pretty great, so maybe introduce them to that and you can group up?
posted by The Bellman at 7:42 AM on December 17, 2021 [3 favorites]

If you and they are (or were) into card collecting games (your Magic: The Gatherings, your Pokemons, your Hearthstones) at all, you might intrigue them with a playthrough of Inscryption. I won't say too much about it, because the less you know going in the better, but it's a roguelike deck builder, where you are rewarded for trying and failing, and there is a fascinating story that develops in some rather unexpected ways as you go.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:51 AM on December 17, 2021

I'm a big fan of Borderlands. Character construction can be pretty deep and the setting is fun.
posted by SPrintF at 9:38 AM on December 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

i didn't grow up playing video games (i started getting into them in college) so i have horrendous aim. as a result, i tend to stick with puzzle, strategy, or turn-based games and avoid games heavy on twitch reflexes. most don't end up being first-person rpgs, but are often heavy on story and have beautiful visuals and soundtracks. that being said, here are some games i've enjoyed:

- okami
- xcom
- sunless sea
- mini metro
- any supergiant game (transistor is my favorite but i also loved pyre and hades)
- katamari damacy
- griftlands (and some other klei entertainment games like invisible, inc.)
- any zachtronics game (but only if you like programming-style puzzles; opus magnum is the easies imo but i also love his shenzhen solitaire minigame!)
- crypt of the necrodancer
- papers, please
- return of the obra dinn
- sokobond
- orwell
- oxenfree
- afterparty
posted by =^.^= at 9:45 AM on December 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

My main jam right now is the turn-based tactical brawling game Fights In Tight Spaces, where you are a sharp-dressed secret agent tasked with taking apart one roomful of assorted mooks, lackeys, and henchmen at a time. It has an easy-to-grasp card-based action scheme (you play your fighting moves from a randomly dealt hand) and a very clean silhouetted art style inspired by Saul Bass.
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:09 AM on December 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

Your monologue makes me think that you should hunker down and play Disco Elysium. Your kids will want nothing to do with it, naturally.
posted by naju at 11:09 AM on December 17, 2021 [4 favorites]

I bought the Master Chief Collection off Steam to relive my glory days of the Halos on xBox and xBox360 back in the day. My boys (who are awesome at Fortnite and Apex) ended up playing through the Collection and they asked me to get them through a couple sections they were stuck on. Brought tears to my old gamer eye. Anyway, try the MCC.
posted by LoveHam at 4:59 PM on December 17, 2021

Immortal Fenyx Rising - similar to BOTW

I haven't played it myself but I keep hearing great things about Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy

Older games but as the kids say still top tier :
-God of War

-No Mans Sky -The comeback kid of video games.

-Spiderman - I think PS4 only
-Metal gear solid v
-Uncharted 4
-Yakuza series

if you like a little survival in your open world

Valhiem (pc only)
Subnautica and its DLC

and another vote for Death Stranding
and not out yet and needs the hard to get PS5 but the upcoming Horizon Zero west looks absolutely amazing
posted by ljesse at 7:31 PM on December 17, 2021

Ghost of Tsushima won game of the year last year. Play it. It’s amazing.

It Takes Two won game of the year this year. Play it with your kids. It’s amazing.

The end.
posted by jasondigitized at 6:07 AM on December 18, 2021

Already a lot of great games recommended - I'll add extra emphasis to looking into the game Hitman 3 (see Polygon article here: "Hitman 3 is absurd and hilarious, like trying to return a dead parrot"). Maybe your kids will still think it's boring but at least you can be an assassin and get a lot of laughs out of it along the way.
posted by nightrecordings at 6:20 AM on December 18, 2021

A LOT of this hits really close to home for me though my kid is still only 3.

The two games I play the most these days are Rocket League and PUBG. RL is nice because it's easy to pick up and play for 10 minutes or a couple of hours, I can have some music on and sit back with a controller. I'm never going to be as good as the higher ranked players but the game's ranking system means I usually play against people about my same skill level.

PUBG is battle royale but it has fewer moving parts than something like Fortnight and is more grounded in reality so there is a bit less game-specific stuff to pick up. It works well for me because I don't view it as a game so much as it's a story generator. I almost never win so I don't really try. I just decide how I feel like playing the round and then just do stuff and stuff happens that makes for enjoyable gaming. I often play squads as a solo player so most of the round is full of 4-person teams but I'm alone. My goal isn't to win (though I have won some rounds this way) but just to prevent at least one other player from winning.

It's even more fun in a full squad with friends.

Years ago I had the same realization that I don't have the time for gaming that I used to. I also like to play a lot of online games with and against other humans. I had played several games for long periods in a guild/faction/clan/etc that eventually broke apart because of drama and/or people drifting away from the game. I was looking for a new game to play but didn't want to go through all of that again. So I approached the problem from another angle and instead of focussing on what *game* I wanted to play I looked for *people* that I wanted to game with.

I then remembered that good ol' Metafilter has a loosely affiliated gaming group, the MeFightClub. The forums are active but for finding people to play games with and just generally hanging out, the discord server (Invite link: is where more of the action is. I joined up and started chatting and it's been awesome. Folks play lots of different stuff and it's always fun no matter what I'm playing. And if a new game comes out that others in the group are planning on playing then I'll play that too.

Please join the discord and introduce yourself and start getting to know people, jump on a voice channel and play something with someone or just chat! If nothing else it's just a good place to chat about video games and I think it's about as close to an ideal group of gamers as you're likely to find. That goes for anyone else that might be reading this too! If the discord invite link is expired I can DM you a fresh one.
posted by VTX at 8:17 AM on December 18, 2021

Seconding Disco Elysium and also recommending Soma
posted by so fucking future at 9:29 AM on December 18, 2021

Seconding Sniper Elite. Nothing has made me feel more like a competent high achiever than this game. Nothing makes my kids groan harder than when I fire up Crawling Around In The Woods And Watching Things For Half An Hour Before I Fire The First Shot Simulator (CAITWAWTFHAHBIFTHSS).
posted by some little punk in a rocket at 7:19 PM on December 18, 2021

Two things:

Firstly, you are a Grown Ass Adult[tm] and as such are far too mature to be satisfied by today's kiddie twitch games. Sure, you may enjoy them (in the same way that you might enjoy Marvel movies or Transformers cartoons) but they do not provide the same intellectual satisfaction that you would find in a good novel or one of the better prestige TV series'. But frankly, any game your kids can beat you in are almost certainly beneath you.

Secondly, (and I say this as someone who unironically calls Fallout: New Vegas the best game ever), I've gotten a lot of enjoyment out of 1) Factorio and 2) the Firaxis XCom games. The latter I played on ultra-super-easy mode for years (because I suck at strategy games) and still had a great time.
posted by suetanvil at 7:10 AM on December 20, 2021

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