Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

You know the kind of games that you load into, play for like 20 minutes, and then realize it’s crap. Is it me? it Vampire Survivors. I come to this exciting little sprite-based game as a creature that has spent over 1000 hours in The Binding of Isaac on multiple platforms I own it – a kind of obsessive rigmarole that turns off in these endless power up games and uses it’s like a form of meditation. So, the moment I upgraded my first bulb of garlic and started throwing knives at the throbbing undead, I knew it had gotten to me.

I’m not kidding when I say I can’t break away.

But I’m also 30 and I live with my partner and I have responsibilities. So I can’t just sit in my pants and dip my bread in something thinner than bread and drink beer and play games all night. I have shit to do: socializing with my partner, walking the dog, meeting friends. But how the hell am I supposed to get all mine shit to do done, and also mark all 1200G of surviving vampires in a week? How can I be sure to beat the game and unlock all the characters by watching who wins this Bake Off series? I didn’t think there was a clean solution…until Xbox itself sent a push notification to my phone.

“Don’t forget, Dom,” he said (I’m paraphrasing), “that you can play anytime, anywhere! Sitting in a swamp? In line at Asda? Tolerate another joke from your softest friend? Download the Xbox Game Pass app now and play wherever you want.” Do you know what I did next? I downloaded the Xbox Game Pass app and have been playing wherever I want ever since.

I don’t think I really paid attention to who won the Bake Off; I’ve been too busy making sure Poppaea can evolve her weapon when I kill the next boss. I don’t think I really felt the influence of Diana setting the royal system on fire in The Crown; I was too focused on getting my watch lancet high enough to last a minute against a Reaper in the Bone Zone.

I’m not kidding when I say I can’t break away.

Do you know what is best? When I got back to my office to play the game when I was supposed to be working (sorry boss) it was all there: all of my upgrades, all of my characters, all of my progress… it all just magically transferred over to my Xbox. Series X. No questions asked. Then, when I wanted to play the game on the train on my way to my other partner’s house, I downloaded the game on my laptop. No additional cost. Here I am using the PC version of Vampire Survivors, the cloud version, and the Xbox version – and I haven’t paid a dime for it. Compare that to the PlayStation 4-to-PlayStation 5 pipeline (where I lost half of my save games and almost messed up my hardware) and the difference is day and night.

Vampire Survivors is just right for me. For everything I own, all as part of the Game Pass functionality. If I need a more active session, I turn on my Xbox and play on the big screen. If I want to play it halfway through Kevin McCloud at Grand Designs, I can download it on my phone and play it with one of my spare Xbox pads. If I want to do quick sessions between other activities (like writing news…) it’s ready to go on my PC.

Screenshot from the game Vampire Survivors

So simple, so effective.

This speaks to the ease of use that Microsoft has been putting at the heart of its philosophy lately. For all the company’s ad-filtered chatter about “removing barriers to play,” it was this curious little survival curiosity that really showed me that, and not any of its expensive, big-budget powerhouses.

When this cutting-edge cloud streaming technology was being demoed in the UK, I was playing Destiny 2 on it: I was working in Canary Wharf (the only place in London that supported 5G at the time) and downloading. Destiny on my phone Friday at 5:00 pm to steal Xur’s goodies. At the time, the technology wasn’t even good enough to support that. Now, 3 years later, I can’t get off my damn Pixel, all because of Vampire Survivors.

It’s safe to say that the indie gem made me realize how valuable Xbox Game Pass Cloud Gaming is now that I can fit it into my life and I won’t go back.