This has been an issue with me for a long time now, it seems. I’m happy I sat to read this article by Rich McCormick because it echos everything I’ve felt about recently released games and my curse of wanting to enjoy them so much.
The Verge’s article, Giant time-sucking video games are bad for you and bad for gaming, is hitting the nail on the head. It seems like there are nothing but these massive, open world experiences on the market lately. Fallout, The Division, The Witcher 3, MGS V, Destiny, heck, even Stardew Valley… Don’t get me wrong, these are great, amazing experiences you can get lost in and forget about everything else for months at a time. And that sounds alluring but… see, that’s the bad part for me. There are SOOOO many options out there for us as gamers today. So many different worlds, universes, fantasies, experiences to spend our money and time on. But we get so caught up in these massive games that we don’t want to do anything else. The fantasy may be lived, but the universe goes unsaved, the world, unexplored. I say it like I’m against it, but I’m guilty of this pleasure. And even though I’m enjoying myself when I get caught up in a big title, I can’t help but feel like I’m putting all my time eggs in the same basket. My favorite quote from the article made me want to physically applaud my laptop screen.
“…I’m convinced that Metal Gear Solid V is fantastic, but every time I see my barely played copy, I avert my eyes and sigh — the huge expanse of game laying before me feels more like overdue homework than fun.”Rich McCormick
It’s the damn truth. Only my copy isn’t barely played, it’s never been opened. Yes, I know. You’re not being forced to play these time sink games on a daily basis. Well, Destiny kind of made you do it with the promise of new weapons and such with daily events. But still, you can always just play when you want and then jump into something else at a moments notice. But you won’t be getting the full experience, will you? You won’t be able to level up your character like that, especially if you want to keep up with your friends. You won’t be able to see The Witcher till the end. Or expand your farm in Stardew Valley. You HAVE to keep at it if you want to stay current or feel satisfied. It’s just the way this ever expanding hobby of ours has evolved.
I played and completed both [Unravel and Firewatch] in about 5 or 6 sittings, and they were seriously the most impressive and mentally stimulating gaming experiences I’ve enjoyed in a long, long time.And dozens and dozens and dozens of hours later when you’re finally satisfied or you just give up, you’re left with what? Probably satisfaction. Probably sadness. But most of the time, you’re left with a backlog of other amazing games that you couldn’t play because you were too busy with saving the galaxy, or NYC, or your parsnip crop. Games that your friends already put to their rutter or games that already have a Game of the Year version announced or out.
Look, it’s no secret. I’m not the type to spend dozens of hours a week grinding on a game. I can’t keep up with half you freaks who reach double digit levels in games that just came out the day before. My gaming time is precious and games like Firewatch and Unravel really really left a mark on me. Not because they took 50+ hours to complete, but because they only took 4 hours to complete. They satisfied my desire for a good story. For a good experience. There was no living, breathing open world or a novel’s worth of side quests that needed completing. It was just straight forward, no nonsense gaming.
I’m a husband and a father before I’m a gamer. Maybe that’s the answer to all of this. If my wife wants to watch a show, that’s what we’re doing after the kids go to bed. If my kids want to play their 96th hour of Lego Marvel Super Heroes (totes legit time, I just noticed it today), that’s what the PS4 is going to be used for. Whenever I have time, I’ll sit and enjoy whatever game I’m playing for an hour or two and it’ll leave me wanting more till the next session. Maybe the next day. Maybe a few days later. And so on and so forth till I’m done with the game. Games like Destiny and The Witcher 3, which I could get completely immersed into and downright addicted to, are great and amazing experiences, but they make me feel like I’m missing out on other games. I stopped playing The Witcher after 6 or 7 hours, not because I was bored (I wasn’t), but because Unravel and Firewatch came out. And I’m glad I did. Because I played and completed both of those in about 5 or 6 sittings, and they were seriously the most impressive and mentally stimulating gaming experiences I’ve enjoyed in a long, long time. They made me appreciate the smaller, bite-sized games that I had always shunned in my past. Games that I didn’t think were worth investing the time into, but now I look forward to them.
My point is this: I know games like Fallout and The Witcher 3 don’t come out every year. They’re meant to be enjoyed and I get that. Just because I can’t manage my game time doesn’t mean they shouldn’t exist. I have my moments where I crave to get lost in such games. And when those instances strike I have no problem preparing my time and mind for such an endeavor. But it gets overwhelming sometimes with so many of them out there on the market. Especially so many that I want to play. It also doesn’t help that I’m a one-game kinda of guy. Meaning it’s incredibly difficult for me to play more than one game at a time. I need to see something through before beginning another adventure.
But we get so caught up in these massive games that we don’t want to do anything else. The fantasy may be lived, but the universe goes unsaved, the world, unexplored.Multi-quest, open world games are great showcases for what a game could do today, and I know there are people out there who can only buy one or two games a year. And titles that give you 100+ hours of content and fun is a blessing to them. That thought is amazing to consider and I’m happy for those gamers because I would love to enjoy a digital world like that. But as far as I go, these massive worlds that developers have been throwing at us are doing more harm than good for me. Yeah, they’re amazing. They give us numerous opportunities to have great times with friends or great stories to tell about the things you’ve experienced. But at the end of the day, getting sucked into a game and having to spend months of your gaming time in order to complete it to your satisfaction just isn’t for me. It’s not in my lifestyle to do it. They feel overwhelming and I go from being excited and wanting to play it, to feeling reluctant to start them.
Like the quote above from the article, just seeing the case on my shelf sets off this inner conflict where I really want to play these games, but at the same time, the thought of the commitment needed to complete it is too much to bear. If I had more time to play, this wouldn’t be such a struggle. But with my limited time, it’s hard to dive head first into these worlds.
Yes, for some games I do it anyway. My purchase of The Division is a prime example. Sometimes the urge and excitement of something new is too much to pass up. But in the back of my mind, I know what I’d rather have. Though these looting shooters like The Division and Destiny are a different beast compared to the likes of The Witcher or Fallout. You play the former till you feel you’re done, while the latter have a definitive ending where you can feel satisfied putting it down. Overall, it’s an issue that I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who struggles with it. The burden of too many games to play and too little time is definitely a first world problem, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an issue.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see how much of NYC I can save in the next hour and a half.
I began writing this as a forum post and I was excited to hear feedback on the topic. It became so beefy, I decided to put it on the blog as well.
If you’d like to get in on the conversation, be sure to sign up for the forums and check out the thread for this topic!