Or ‘So many games, so little time’.
What follows are the criteria I consider before committing to a game.
Gameplay mechanics and User Interface: Are the controls responsive and substantial? (Castlevania: Symphony of the Night does this so well.) Does the UI work well? A good example is the combat in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. A poor example (from the same game) is inventory management. How far have we come from Resident Evil 1?
Style and Personality: Did the developers infuse the game with character and atmosphere, e.g., the sublime Fallout series; Vampire: The Masquerade; and to a lesser extent Fable II.
Longevity / Memorability: Will the game engage me for more than a day? If not, is the quality of the experience so strong and memomarable that the short play time is mitigated? This was very much the case with Heavy Rain.
My favourite game ever will always be Final Fantasy VII [Sony PlayStation, 1997], for which I have still to write a review/homage. Coming from strategy games and platformers on DOS, C64 and early Sega systems, these criteria have served me well in my gaming investments since childhood; though I have surely missed a lot of great games in my life because of them.
Great games are timeless, but the increasing scarcity of working physical game media and their respective hardware is an issue. Thankfully, there are means to access virtually all of time’s gaming treasures: eBay, emulation, a thriving retro community, publications like Retro Gamer, and even the original game developers are currently making gaming archaeology possible. It is a great time to be a gamer, and knowing that we are now taking steps to preserve this part of our social history resonates with me.