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How I learned to stop worrying and love old games

Wipe the dust off of those old boxes

Uncharted 4 Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America

There’s this old episode of Friends where Ross’ ex-wife is having a baby, and Rachel starts hitting on the gynecologist, Dr. Franzblau. They flirt for a while when the conversation takes a weird turn.

“No, it’s hard enough to get women to go out with me,” Franzblau says.

“Right, yeah,” Rachel says. “I’ve heard that about cute doctors.”

“No, no, really. I suppose it’s because I spend so much time, you know, where I do.”


“I try not to let my work affect my personal life, but it’s hard, when you … do what I do. It’s like, uh … well, for instance, what do you do?”

“I’m a waitress.”

“OK, alright. Well aren’t there times when you come home at the end of the day, and you’re just like, ‘If I see one more cup of coffee … ’?”

“Yeah,” Rachel says. “Gotcha.”

I was thinking about that episode a couple of months ago in the run-up to E3 2018. I was pretty sure that we’d see more of developer Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us: Part 2, and that got me thinking about one of my favorite games from one of my favorite developers. And then I remembered that I never finished Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.

I did that thing where I played some of the game and then just stopped for no reason that I could remember, and that seemed insane to me, given how much I love the franchise.

The more I got to thinking about it, the more I realized that, incongruous as it might’ve been, it wasn’t entirely unusual. For the past few years, ever since I became Polygon’s Guides Editor, I’ve made a bad habit of missing games.

My job is to keep up with new releases, but there’s often more work to be done than there is time to play the games we write about. A lot of the time, I hand off codes, and then I never get around to playing the game myself. Exhibit A: Uncharted 4.

I know, I know. What a rough life I lead! Me and Dr. Franzblau, with our amazing jobs. Cue the world’s saddest trombone.

Take no pity on me. I love what I do, and I’m blessed (and amazed) to be able to do it. But before E3, I realized I’d been doing it wrong. I only bring this up to say that I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d been doing myself a disservice. So I made a decision: It was time to carve out some time to play games for myself.

In May and June 2018 — two years after its release — I played through Uncharted 4 for the first time. And then I chased it with The Last of Us Remastered, a game I hadn’t played since the original’s release in 2013.

And here’s the thing: It was some of the most fun I’ve had with video games this year.

It’s only been a couple of months, but it’s been a lasting lesson. It’s OK to ignore the new hotness, I realized, and dip back in the well to play older games — or older anything, really, which has kind of defined the middle of 2018 for me.

Since E3, I’ve spent hours destroying Mars in Red Faction Guerrilla Remarstered, a prettier version of a game I loved but hadn’t played in nearly a decade. And you know what? It’s just as fun as I remembered. Ditto for Dark Souls Remastered. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been entranced with the astoundingly good Hollow Knight, which admittedly just launched on Switch but was around for a year on PC before I picked it up. Even more recently, I jumped back into No Man’s Sky, which feels almost like a new game with its big Next reboot.

My newish PS4 Pro and 4K TV give me the opportunity to dive back into upgraded games like Nioh, which I also bounced off of for no particular reason. And these games aren’t just visually polished. They’ve been patched and patched and patched again, so it feels like I’m getting the developers’ most thoughtful and bug-squashed experience.

So what if I missed something? So what if I’ve already played or watched it?

Cheers is still as funny as it was when I watched it as a kid. Hell, that episode of Friends (“The One With the Birth”) is from 1995, and it’s still funny. When I saw House M.D. on Amazon Prime Video and realized I’d never seen the last season or two, I spent a few weeks this year watching through the whole series.

Yes, I am every bit as excited as you’d expect for this year’s big new releases, and I’m going to make sure I play and watch more of them than I have before. When I look back on 2018, I suspect that my memories will be better because they were broader. And it all came down to a simple decision I could (and should) have made years ago: It’s pretty great to let the joys of the past become my present — and you can make it yours, too.

Wipe the dust off of those old boxes and put some discs into your console. (True story: Consoles still accept discs!) Grab yourself an adorable SNES Classic and play Super Metroid, for Samus’ sake. Go find that episode of House M.D. where it finally was lupus. Because yes, the future looks bright, but the past can light your way, too.

The next level of puzzles.

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