Life, The Universe, And Gaming: The Gaming Grind
Or: When Playing A Game Becomes A Delightful Chore.
Have you ever sat down to play a game that you really wanted to play, having looked forward to trying it out for months, and then, maybe a half hour into a decidedly fun session, thought: “Well, I could be playing something else.”
- You’ll Be Able To Play (Expensive) PS2 Games On Your PS4 Now | 2 months ago
- Jessica Jones Disempowers Its Male Characters And The Effect Is Refreshing | 2 months ago
- Hell Is 30 000 Deathclaws Tearing Through Boston And It’s Glorious | 2 months ago
- Sony Santa Monica Is Teasing Something Truly Strange | 2 months ago
This is the strange phenomenon which has occurred to me of late.
Allow me to explain some thought process, first: Some time next year, the next generation of consoles will be releasing here. I’ve long decided to pick the Xbox One over the PlayStation 4 and should the worst occur, I will live with that decision, but in the meantime I’ve realised that there are games on my Xbox 360 which I need to play and get out of the way. In the best case scenario where I end up moving to an Xbox One early on in its introduction locally, I’m not going to be able to carry any of those games with me to the new console; thus, I want to play everything that I’ve not yet played, or finished, on my Xbox 360, before then.
I might have a year to do this. I might have less. All I know is that I’ve got limited time and in the coming months, there are going to be new games added to the list of games that I’ve already got awaiting me. Unfortunately, unlike the games I’ve got installed on PC, I cannot simply keep them forever. Okay I could, but, well you get the point, don’t you? Moving to a new console means a shift of focus away from the current one. That, for me, is detrimental to the amount of time I can afford that console thereafter.
So with that in mind, allow me to explain my current situation: I recently got around to completing a few of the games in my backlog, which left me just a few more games to play. These remaining games include Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Max Payne 3, Red Dead Redemption, Dark Souls and Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, the latter three of which I had already started and got to a point where I stopped, usually because I had to review something else, and then I never went back. Now I do plan to get around to each and every one of these games, but the recently acquired Max Payne 3 aside, what’s the one thing that all of the rest have in common?
And therein lies the reason, I think, that it’s these games that are still in my ‘to-play’ list, rather than recently completed games the likes of Dead Space 3 and GRiD 2: They’re just too time-consuming.
I say that, of course, having grown up spending hundreds of hours on annual FIFA and Need For Speed releases. I say that, having played Half-Life 2 going into double digits. I say that, having spent further hundreds of hours lost in the worlds of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Fallout 3 and Freelancer. I say that, with some three thousand collective hours of DotA under my belt — and that’s not even counting the times I played it at university.
I finally got around to starting up Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a game that I was initially very much uninterested in, having played the original Deus Ex and discovering that this was a Square Enix reboot, but with black and orange hues everywhere. At the time, I still hadn’t forgiven Square Enix for fucking up the Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts series (the latter simply by opting for billions of remakes rather than a proper sequel) and I didn’t realise how much of effort they were putting into western franchises, but eventually I came around. I suppose it helped that practically the entire gaming media received it well.
A few years later, some of the visuals and character animations are downright atrocious (even for a game from 2011, I must say) and the racist stereotyping is incredible, and yet I can feel that grip of an RPG that wants to tell me a story and keep me challenged. I feel that intrigue that only comes with a well-crafted sci-fi fantasy of sorts. I really do. But heavens, I cannot play the game for very long without wanting to gouge out my own eyes and install optical augmentations along the lines of The Pyro from Team Fortress 2.
It feels entertaining and yet monotonous at times and I know that it’s just me, I know that it’s not the game’s fault at all. These longer games. Part of me just doesn’t have the time for them any more, owing to a much busier lifestyle than when I was in school and had only to worry about why people didn’t think I was as cool as other kids. Another part of me desires a sense of purpose. It got to a point where I was playing Deus Ex and enjoying myself, and yet thinking: “I could just play Max Payne 3 to completion and come back to this.”
Have I become a victim of instant gratification?
It all feels like such a grind, now. And I don’t mean grind as in that painstakingly laborious act of acquiring levels and items in online games for hours on end, but rather, work. It feels like work. Too much time spent doing something for too little reward. Part of this is definitely because of my fervent desire to play ALL the things. I think that if I was able to simply skip a game or two and be able to live with not having played everything, then I’d be okay with playing the odd hundred-hour experience.
And yet, I never seemed to have that issue when I played games the likes of Dragon Age, Mass Effect or Skyrim. With those games I just played them and played them and kept playing them until such time as I was done with them. And then I moved onto other things.
Is it a lack of purpose, then? I mean, in Deus Ex: Human Revolution I am trying to get to the bottom of events that occurred during the beginning of the game. But while doing that, I’ve also got these random side quests popping up and, well, it doesn’t seem to drive me forward as much as knowing that the reapers are coming, or that I must rise to power and come to the aid of Kirkwall when it needs me most. But then, how do I explain Skyrim? Did anyone even care about Alduin?
It’s come to the point where I can’t even look at a Pokémon game without grimacing a little, as if in pain, at the thought of starting again and building up a team and battling gym heroes and… seriously WTF, I loved the Pokémon games. With all my heart.
Has this sort of thing ever happened to you? Where longer games without a constant drive resulted in you wanting to go off and play other things instead, even though you were enjoying the games themselves. I can see the appeal in these games. I feel a sense of entertainment when I play them. Hell, in some cases the sole purpose of my purchasing those games was because I knew it would allow me to get lost in a fantasy world for hours on end. And yet, I can’t bring myself to do it any more. You might use the word ‘immersion’ but let’s rather not. It’s simply not gripping my attention centres, the way these kinds of games used to.