This morning I was faced with a choice. My first option was to pick any one of the interesting games that I have in my Steam library that I have neglected up until this point. This choice would provide me with a novel experience, unique and perhaps unexpected pleasure, and plenty of content for a new article. My second option was to begin replaying something from my massive library of completed games. If you read the title of this article, you know exactly which option I chose.
On my first playthrough, I put 120 hours into Xenoblade Chronicles 2. I completed the story, did a huge number of sidequests, and filled out the affinity charts for most of the rare blades. I had experienced enough content to be tired of the game for years to come. And yet, this morning, I decided to do it all over again. For whatever reason, I had a desire to experience the game again from the beginning. This is not an unusual situation for me, I often alternate between new games and games I have played several times through. For a myriad of reasons, I choose to spend the time to replay my favorite games rather than seeking new thrills.
First and foremost, I know that these games will be enjoyable. There’s no risk of wasting my precious free time on a mediocre experience, which is especially important now that I have a full-time job. This may seem cowardly from a certain perspective, but I use games as a way to unwind. Especially after a particularly stressful week, I do not have the luxury of risking boredom or unrewarded frustration for a game that is uncertain to be good. I take my hobby seriously, but it remains a hobby nonetheless. Sometimes I have to fall back on the classics to make sure my source of relaxation remains viable.
Second, and possibly more admirably, replaying a game offers a unique perspective on its writing. Like any story, knowing the ending allows you to appreciate the foreshadowing and overall structure of the narrative much more. Having more accurate expectations for individual arcs allows you to perceive the pacing more naturally, and recognizing character arcs as paths to a destination makes some characters more likable than they may have been initially. The feeling of surprise instigated by an engaging and complex plot is certainly rewarding, but going through it again allows you to properly understand it in its entirety.
Finally, playing through the early parts of a game with intimate knowledge of its mechanics is a power trip like no other. Sequences that gave me nothing but grief on my first playthrough become trivial, simply because I know how the game is meant to be played. In Xenoblade 2’s case, knowing how to consistently execute level 3 Blade combos makes the early game a breeze. This grants a substantial feeling of legitimacy to my skills with the game, and gives some sense of purpose to my previous 120 hours with the game.
This practice may not help round out my gaming knowledge, but replaying games is immensely enjoyable. I can’t satisfy my hunger for an engrossing experience on repeated content forever, but it can be nice to revisit something that made me happy in the past. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to try to summon KOS-MOS for another hundred hours...