During the past three weeks I have sat down to put some serious time into StarCraft II; Wings of Liberty and I began to get nostalgic. It has been more than 12 years since Blizzard’s release of the original and my gaming habits can only be referred to as “organic” since that date. Several PCs, 3 PlayStations, a PS2, an N64, a Dreamcast, 2 XBOXs, countless (I think 4 actually) 360's and 3 PS3s later and this new PC game makes me sit back and reflect on my choices in gaming and my motives.
The game reminds me of a time when I devoted all of my hard earned cash and stubborn opinions to PC gaming. I always had consoles but when it came to “serious gaming” back in 1998 the PC was always my first and only choice. Like many gamers of my generation I spent countless hours researching, upgrading and “tweaking” my PC (or PCs) in order to run the latest and greatest titles at optimal settings. I would get together with like-minded individuals for long weekends hauling my rig to one place or another for something we used to call a LAN Party (a beast quickly moving from the endangered to extinct species list).
There were few titles that stood the test of time as StarCraft did. We played through the Command and Conquer iterations and the Red Alert spin-offs. We spent our hours in Battlefield 1942 through 2142. We wore out several peripherals on racing and flight simulation games; but we always came back to SC. Every LAN party we put together from April 1998 on included at least one solid round of the old stand-by. The years went by, friends grew apart and my love and need for PC gaming was replaced by quick and satisfying experiences on the current (and to some degree) last generation consoles.
The moment I read about Blizzard’s intent to release a sequel to their overwhelmingly popular Starcraft franchise I knew I would be buying it. I also knew that it would be a long wait (and already had been). What I did not know is how much this game would pull me in. I should have seen it coming really, after all, Blizzard has been lacing their products with the video-game equivalent of nicotine for many years now. World of Warcraft, Warcraft III, StarCraft even Diablo I and II are all responsible for devouring hours upon hours of gamers’ leisure time and then some. I am willing to bet that most PC gamers will spend more time playing these titles than they will waiting at red lights in their lifetime. Never the less I was still taken by surprise.
To be completely honest with you I have been something of a PC gaming “poser” in the last few years. I have downloaded games, digitally (is there any other way to download them?). I have purchased some boxed copies of hot titles and replayed a few classics but I found myself returning to my current console of choice again and again. It was just easier to slide a disc into the PS3 or 360 and sit back on the couch with a beer and the surround sound turned up. The PC had lost a little bit of the magic for me. I told myself it was because of the beautiful HD screen in my game room, or the Z-5500 surround sound hooked up optically to my PS3, but in reality I could attach all those goodies to my PC’s easily enough.
The cold hard reality was that I have become an achievement junkie, a trophy whore. I did not want to “waste” my gaming hours on the PC simply for the satisfaction of seeing the next cut-scene or completing an epic RPG story line anymore. I had my taste of the sweet and not-so-innocent BING! of a PS3 trophy or the dulcet chime of the 360 achievement and I was hooked immediately. What happened to me? I am obsessed with chasing down my friends’ trophy count and constantly comparing achievements. That “extra” little competitive additive has become the whole ball of wax for me.
Then, leave it to Blizzard. Yeah, I know, many PC games have an achievement system, some are even tied into the whole MS Gamer-tag achievement system. Those games are generally also available on consoles, and I am lazy. SCII:WoL has a robust leveling and achievement system comparable to what the current consoles offer and it is NOT available for play on the PS3 or 360. You have brought me back to the PC Blizzard, you got some smart people working there. The question now is who else? What other publisher (or maybe another Blizzard title) is going to keep me here? Will I tire of this achievement chase and return to my PS3 trophy hunt or will publishers catch on and keep me chasing on the PC? Only time will tell…