Forget Pokémon Violet, a dusty vampire game brought me back to Switch

Despite Pokémon Violet and Tears of the Kingdom, Vampire The Masquerade Shadows of New York is what has me loving my Switch again.

A sketchy drawing of a woman with long dark hair reading a red book with a cigarette in her left hand, smoke billowing around her

It’s Christmas, a period of giving, receiving, good food, and spending excessive amounts of time with that one family member. It means no PC for me, a respite from the toxicity (and ranked loss streaks) of League of Legends – and man, I don’t remember the last time I missed someone telling me to uninstall the game. As others buried themselves in cute Instagram stories and social media, I, for the first time in a while, picked up my Switch to play Vampire The Masquerade Shadows of New York, which I’d received as a birthday gift a few months prior. And, as if by some mysterious Tremere magic, something just… clicked.

Initially, I thought it was Julia’s woeful saga of strife and angst that pulled me in. You see, I love vampire games – especially ones that are set in White Wolf’s World of Darkness. The story lured me in – just who killed Callihan? Was it that mischievous Malkavian? Or perhaps the restless Anarchs?

My journey with Julia and company certainly left an impression – in fact, the next character I created for my weekly VTM sessions was, indeed, a moody LaSombra. However, as the credits rolled and Julia and Dakota make their way to the chaos of Los Angeles (I got the good ending), I realized that, while Shadows of New York was what drew me back to the Switch, it was the fact that I could dip in and out of it that made the experience so fun.

A white-haired woman, pictured from the back, looks into a collection of glowing TV screens in a dimly lit room

I’m a competitive gamer, you see. My evenings consist of grinding ranked in League of Legends or scrounging for the best gear in World of Warcraft. I’m pretty bad at more idle-style games, partly because I’m far too competitive, and partly because I feel like I need to be doing something.

I bought the Switch for long-haul plane journeys, which I have been lucky enough to do a lot of in recent years. It always felt like it was reserved for that, so it was a little odd to find myself playing it while lying on my sofa – I don’t think they have those on planes. What I realized, however, is that it’s so easy to pick up a Switch game, then put it down and return to it in a week’s time. That, as someone who is constantly keeping ahead of shifting metas and changes, is a luxury I don’t often have.

Take League of Legends for example. We’ve just come into Season 14, which is effectively a brand-new start for the game. Mythic items are gone, the map has changed, there are now three variations of the Baron – I could go on and on. If that isn’t enough of a shakeup, Riot drops a new patch every two weeks, meaning that the already chaotic meta can absolutely turn on its head. If you don’t keep up, then to quote Coven Nami “you’ll drown.”

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The freedom of being able to pick up a game, have a nice two-hour experience, and put it down felt really, really good. I struggle to relax in the evenings – I go from running PCGamesN’s news desk, to making food, feeding my tiny hedgehog (yes, she’s called Sonic), then I’m straight into League. My life is a series of cleaning (not so) little poops and wondering which skin to play in ranked.

But actually picking up my Switch has changed that. Now, I’ll trade out some League games for Disney Dreamlight Valley, or Shadows of New York’s spiritual sister, Coteries of New York. There’s no pressure to keep up with the meta, you don’t fall behind because you missed that one raid that dropped all of the good gear, or because you didn’t do your dailies. The Switch gives you the ability to dip in and out whenever you choose to, and that in itself is quite special.

It’s left me with a slightly different outlook on things, too. While I’ve always played hyper-competitive games, those relaxing games I used to brush off have actually provided some of my best experiences of late. As someone who works in the gaming industry, and lives and breathes it every day, I sometimes forget that games are meant to be fun. Shadows of New York, and the Switch by proxy, reminded me of that.

A close-up of a woman with black hair, eyes closed, smoking a cigarette, as a man in a suit with long hair and a goatee looks on in the background

The Switch is, in itself, magical – no weird Tremere blood sorcery required. It’s the fun, more casual gaming experience I didn’t know that I was looking for, and a reminder that going 0/7/2 in LoL because you’ve been one-shotted by a roaming assassin is just a single part of gaming. It’s okay to grab my Switch, relax, and just have fun – that’s what games are for, after all. Oh, and drowning out that Christmas chatter, of course.