“I do want to write though. I do want to write something.”
I’m a simple man with simple words, and I say them to myself. The words don’t imply action, however, as I sit here having written them with nothing more to say. I want to write, but I don’t know what about. And we all know the best blog posts come from directionless rambling. But I’m not going to do that! Instead, I’m going to ramble with direction.
Jake’s been plucking my nostalgia strings lately with all his MMO talk, and it’s made me reminisce about a simpler time when games were played for games’ sake. They were played for fun with nothing else in mind. I wasn’t trying to hit a maximum level, I barely knew what raids were, I didn’t know the optimal specs or builds, and most importantly, I took my time. There was no rush. I was simply a member of another world playing but a small role in a grand story.
All of these sentiments are echoes of Jake’s article, “Final Fantasy XI Online: Bebond, a Thieves Tale”, and once again, I agree with him wholeheartedly. I miss playing games with this mindset instead of the “get through my backlog” approach I now so often take. I’ve narrowed it down to just a few key problems.
Problem 1: Too many games.
Jake frequently laughs at my paltry library, but Chase stares with wide eyes. It’s subjective. To each his own, but I want less games. And lately, I’ve been doing much better resisting my natural Steam sale impulses. I did recently buy Undertale and Soma for a combined $12, but I mean, come on. And I’ve already beaten one with the other soon to follow. I also bought the newest Call of Duty installment, WWII, and it’s already a purchase I’m happy with just 8 hours in.
Brief disclaimer: I only have about 30 games in my Steam library. For most, this is a joke. Many have over 100. But as I said, I want less. I like having just a few games to focus on, and in my ideal world, it’d be just one.
Problem 2: Mindset.
Too often I find myself in the mindset of “just beat it”. It’s a mindset adapted for getting through many games quickly. Why would I do this? To get through my backlog. Now, having only 30 or so games in my Steam library means my backlog is shorter than most, but I’d rather not have any games in that category. I don’t want to rush through any games or even play any games for the sake of just beating them. What does beating a game get me if I don’t enjoy the experience? I should be excited to jump into any game I play. It shouldn’t be another task to cross off on a list.
Granted, there are some games sitting in my backlog that I do genuinely want to play but haven’t yet. Stardew Valley is one I’ve been saving. Given my history with Harvest Moon and all the good things I’ve heard about Stardew, it’s a game I want to fully experience, not just beat to cross off some list. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is another game I’ve recently jumped into, and I’m truly enjoying just existing in its world. I’m taking my time with the story and sailing around the map being a pirate, listening to my boys sing. It’s an experience, and I’m living in it.
Problem 3: Cell phones. What? Hear me out.
Our culture today is reliant on cellphones to the point of obsession. You can’t go to the gym, out to eat, a concert, or even drive without seeing nearly everyone head down glowing in blue light. It’s absurd. It’s escapism. They’re making us unhappy, and I have to make a conscious effort everyday to not check for new texts every five minutes. Cell phones and the apps within them are straight-up designed to give us dopamine hits throughout the day to ensure we come back time and again, making them more and more money. It’s good business, but it’s a terrible way to live.
How does this apply to games? I live to detach myself from my phone and social media. I love to get out into nature and leave my phone behind. I love being independent and unreliant. In the same way I do this with my phone, I seek to do with my games. I seek to slow down and live in the moment, to enjoy each and every experience as it comes and not be preoccupied with that next dopamine hit. It’s a continual process, and I hope one day, it won’t be any effort at all.
Games should be fun and nothing else. If you have a game on your backlog that you’re not excited to play, take it off and forget about it. Sunk-cost. And when you do play a game, take your time. Soak in everything it has to offer and don’t worry about what waits at the end. As Jake said, “Sometimes the end is the worst part of a video game. Because that means it is over.”