Here’s a terrible confession; I never finished Grand Theft Auto V first time around. Something went wrong in the brain with my stupid Xbox 360, and I lost about five days’ worth of gameplay.
By my reckoning, I was about two-thirds of the way into completing the sprawling mass of main story, and I’d barely licked the surface in terms of all the side-missions, box-ticking and busy-work. Faced with that, I honestly couldn’t be bothered to play through it all again.
Don’t misunderstand me – I loved GTAV. However, I loved it despite that statement making me feel a bit uncomfortable and sad, to be honest. I do struggle with its particular brand of glamourised underbelly, misogynistic, wish-fulfillment. It’s such a cynical, depressing universe, and – call me weird if you must – I’d much rather live in a world without drug dealers, human trafficking, paparazzi, hollow celebrity and organised whatnots.
I yearn for an existence of Disneyfied possibility, where squirrels and bluebirds fly in through your kitchen window to do the washing up, make you toasties, and mop your drool.
For all that, GTAV is so well written, so well put together, that it’s virtually impossible not to enjoy it (even if you do have to shower afterwards). Now that I’ve had some distance from Savegate, I’m finally prepared to do it all over again with the next-gen re-release.
Except… I’m busy with Far Cry 4 right now.
Indeed, I’m likely to be busy with Far Cry 4 for the foreseeable future. It’s shaping up to be intimidatingly GTA-like in girth and breadth. I really need to know what the north of Kyrat looks like, and I need to hunt some tigers to make a new hat, and I’ve only just started doing up my house.
Any one of them is like having a really needy girlfriend or boyfriend, who demands every second of your day. You’re dedicating all your time to them, while your friends – tired of your endless flakiness – are getting on with their own lives. As I’m playing Far Cry 4, I’m forever wondering how things are going with GTAV, or Assassin’s Creed: Unity. Are they down the pub having fun without me? Are they talking about me? Do they hate me now? Why do they hate me? Please stop hating me. I've just been busy, that's all. You don't understand. Please don't hang up...
I’m not for a second advocating that all games should be shorter and more immediate (although, like a between-course sorbet at some fancy restaurant, I’m probably going to play Geometry Wars 3 before I embark on yet another epic). We’re living in a time when the riches are abundant. It’s a lovely problem to have, this era of untold gaming value. Long gone are the days when it was seemingly acceptable to put out a full price game with about three hours-worth of play in it.
So I'm stuck. I really want to have a crack at the next-gen GTAV, and I really want to play Assassin’s Creed: Unity, even if I suspect it’s going to be a return to disappointment. And then I’ve got Dragon Age: Inquisition on my list. AND I want to get online with Call of Duty: Advanced Wafare. AND play Hotline Miami 2, whenever they get it finished. That's a lot of games, and most of them are enormous. Even if you do account for next year's first-quarter gaming drought, I’m never getting round to all of them, not with the awfulness of real life having to factor in as well.
This is an issue of time, and that’s not the fault of the studios responsible for these games. I kind of feel I should say that maybe there's a happy medium they could find - a way of trimming back the expanse of open-world games, while still making it feel like you've gotten your money's worth. But the truth is, I love that these games go on forever. I just wish I could play them all simultaneously.
What I really want is someone to invent a machine whereby I can both have my cake, and be able to eat it (plus, it would also be useful if the machine included some sort of waste treatment/hosing system, so that I didn't have to deal with my disgusting ablutions).