Is Binge Playing Video Games Like Binge Watching Netflix?

I graduate from college today and have been tying up loose ends for the past couple of weeks. I’ve been signing paperwork, spending time with friends I may not see again for a while, eating all the free food at every end of the year celebration I can get to, and just yesterday I bought my first car. And now I just tied up the loosest of ends: I completed the Uncharted series.

I only owned a Wii during the last console generation. I missed out on so many highly regarded games. And while I’m stocked up on the home console front this generation, there’s still a lot of games from the past 6 years that I’ll likely never get around to playing.

At last year’s E3, Sony revealed the new Uncharted with a beautiful trailer. It looked interesting, but I didn’t have much of a stake in it since I didn’t play the original trilogy. A couple of months after E3, my new roommate Alex unpacked a PS3 from a moving box and set it up in my entertainment system.

I looked at the bookshelf he got for our living room. It was full of games and movies. He showed me some of his favorites and lo and behold, he owned all three Uncharted games. He told me I should play them. Fast forward nine months and I’m finishing the busiest year I’ve had in college. Even though I created this video game website, I haven’t had time to play video games much at all. But with classes winding down and my roommate moving out in a couple of weeks I knew this would be my last chance to play through the Uncharted series.

Uncharted is what you get when Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider have a baby. It’s got the exploration, the humor, and all the action you could ever want in an adventure game. It sounds like a great formula, but the first entry in the series didn’t do it for me. In fact, it frustrated me. For starters, Uncharted isn’t the prettiest game. It’s excusable given the game’s age but the graphics don’t hold up the same way a game like Super Mario Sunshine does.The game dragged on for way too long and the combat situations seemed farfetched and unreasonable. There were countless times when I explored ancient ruins as the protagonist Nathan Drake only to find myself cornered by a horde of armed men that erupted from unexplainable entrances. Please tell me how if my character discovered these secret ruins there could be enemies waiting to ambush me…

Nonetheless I trudged on and in the end really enjoyed the game despite its shortcomings. It was the story and characters, not the gameplay, that ultimately won me over. In fact, I can recall moments from that game most vividly. So with the first game out of the way, I popped in the second the following day. I immediately noticed the reused assets from the menu text to the theme song. However, when I started the campaign on the graphical difference was night and day. No longer was Nathan Drake’s face plasticky and now his clothes had some real texture. Had I played the games when they originally came out I probably would not appreciate the leap in graphical fidelity since the games would fit the standards of the time, but when played back to back it helped me understand why these games are so loved.

By Uncharted 3, Nathan Drake looked as real as any human I’d ever seen in a video game.

Let’s cut to the chase and extract some meaning from this because it’s 5am and I have a big day ahead of me. I beat the last two games in the past week. I began writing this post immediately after concluding Uncharted 3. Each game iterated on the previous game’s ideas and threw in some new ones. In each subsequent game the stakes were higher, the set pieces were grander, and the action become more ridiculous. In one part of Uncharted 3, you single-handedly blowup a cargo plane, fly out the back hatch, land on a netted box that has a parachute strapped to it, and manage to eject said parachute to land safely on the ground.

The point is, binge playing these games has been a very positive experience for me. Much like watching a whole show on Netflix, I retained main motifs better and could see the progression not only in just the story but in the scope of each game itself. I deepened my personal relationship with every character without having to reconnect myself to them after years of waiting for the new game to come out. I grew with Nathan and in some ways grew into him.

Nathan Drake and his partner in crime Sully.

The summer months are notoriously slow for game releases, but with recent titles like Bloodborne and the very recent release of The Witcher 3, I’d recommend investing the time into play these games for hours on end. Binge playing a game is fundamentally different from binge watching television in that playing a game is a more active form of entertainment. You can’t load up Bioshock and listen to it in the background the same way you can with Friends. This simple fact is why most people today don’t get the opportunity to put their thumbs to the joystick grindstone and bang out a 100 hour game in a week. But I encourage you if you can spare it, to get that new game you want this summer (I recommend Batman: Arkham Knight), take a couple of sick days and play the crap out of it. I’m willing to bet you’ll have a much richer experience than trying to best it a couple of hours at a time.

Have any of you ever binged watch a show or played a game until your eyes bleed? Share your perspective, will ya?

Also excuse me for not taking the time to edit this as I usually would. I can hear the birds outside my window which means it’s time for bed.

Written by Marcus Garrett

Marcus created Top Shelf Gaming to celebrate the awesome things about the video game industry while challenging the areas of the video game community that could be improved. He loves playing guitar and eating tacos, but never at the same time.

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