What’s better: playing on an old patch or asymmetrical outfits?

Last time, you decided that Planescape: Torment’s Litany Of Curses is better than Half-Life’s Snarks. I hadn’t that expected that snark-off to be so one-sided but Morte’s cussing taunt took 80% of the votes. You have to forgive Snarks for snapping at your finger one day, Gordon, they’re just little critters. Onwards! This week, I ask you to choose between nostalgia and new styles, ya? What’s better: playing on an old patch, or asymmetrical outfits?

Playing on an old patch

“It’s all been downhill since version 1.7.8b,” you declare. “Some YouTubers will tell you v1.8 was the moment but…” You pause to make a broad gesture with your goblet of Jolt Cola. “But that revolver nerf in 1.7.8b pushed it over the edge from the giddy high of 1.7.8 and made clear what was coming.” Your cat tilts her head and blinks at you.

There are a million reasons you might dislike patches and updates to a game. It removed your favourite map. It fixed exploits you consider welcome workarounds for economies which needed fixing, which still haven’t been fixed years later. It nerfed your favourite weapon while creating a new clear best out of another that you find distinctly less fun to use. It introduced a crash bug the developers are struggling to track down but consider too niche to roll back the update. It overprioritised feedback from a vocal minority of players who, after thousands of hours of play, thought the game was too easy. It added unpleasant manipulation pushing you towards microtransactions. It decided a widely adored movement exploit was actually a bug, not a feature. It added a load of mediocre new stuff that diluted the good parts. It replaced a voice actor you liked. It replaced the unpopular weird niche skill tree that really spoke to your heart. It added a miniboss you simply hate. It entirely changed how planets work and frankly you don’t understand it, and don’t understand why it had to change. The tone of the game shifted. It broke compability with an old save you’re stop playing. Even worse, it broke compatability with your favourite mods.

Whatever your reason for disliking a patch, and no matter how correct or petty you actually are, it’s nice when you can roll that back. Other players can keep up with the latest and so-called greatest, and fair play to them, while you’re able to play the game you want.

This is decreasingly rare in our modern age of live service games, digital distribution, and mandatory auto-updates. Few multiplayer games let you stick with an old version to play with your fellow fogies, which is exacerbated by the shift from player-run servers to official services only. I understand the reasons why but I still think it’s a shame. Even singleplayer games might force you to see that chuffing fool of a helper NPC added in v6.9.8.3. But some games still do. Some developers still offer old patches and let you update as much or as little as you please. Some, bless their hearts, take care to offer archives of old updates even on Steam. Sometimes, you can keep the game you knew and loved.

Asymmetrical outfits

At least 20% of the reason video games keep happening is because it’s fun to play dress-up. We can further break that 20% down thusly: 21% making your character kinda into yourself; 33% trying to look as ridiculous as possible; 27% trying to adopt a cool persona to look cool online; 19% playing with ideas of your offline self. Those last two lead to asymmetrical outfits.

The joy with asymmetrical outfits in games, and the problem with them in real life, is that they can easily look over-exaggerated and costume-y. This is great when you want to look cool online. What if the hem tapered to a point? What if you slung your belt wonky? What if you wore a beast skull on your left shoulder? What if your shirt arms were different colours? How about a bold print winding around your body? What if you wore a bold statement glove? A lace sash? One lace sleeve? How about a pouch or holster? A radio? A striking harness? A jaunty titled hat? A bandana around one thigh or bicep? A little knee patch? One knee pad? A technoeye? Dangling gadgets? All very cool.

While you might not want to go this hard in real life, if you are playing digital dress-up to think about new looks for yourself, this can still be good. Leaning hard into a look with an exagerrated asymmetrical outfit lets you feel out what you really like about it, and might guide your thinking in an exciting direction for a less-costumey version. Or hell, go wild in real life if you want. I’ll never not be delighted meeting people who have embraced the wildest, most video game-y version of themselves.

I do wish more games offered symmetrical outfits, mind. The conventional wisdom of “asymmetry is more interesting” has led too many character designers to get carried away with pouches and skulls and chains and cut-offs and goodness knows what else. Costume isn’t right for every game. It’s a bummer when you do want to play as just some person, be less striking, less weird. But if you saw my Destiny 2 characters…

But which is better?

Look, I know playing on an old patch is a freedom we should never forget was taken from us, but I can’t even tell you the last time I took a stand and did this, just as I cannot tell you how quite many ridiculous asymmetrical outfits I have put together in games. I abstain this round. What do you think, reader dear?

Pick your winner, vote in the poll below, and make your case in the comments to convince others. We’ll reconvene next week to see which thing stands triumphant—and continue the great contest.

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