Syp at Bio Break consistently lets his readers know that moderation and variety are the spices of his gaming life. Recently, I’ve come to the same conclusion regarding my own gaming habits.
Except that I don’t think the variety I’m looking for is purposeful; I think I’m just being fickle and indecisive and probably a little cantankerous. The moderation I’m experiencing in gaming lately does not come from a sense of making sure I have as wide and wonderful an experience as possible, but it comes from a sense of boredom with almost everything I touch. I can’t stick with one game for very long because, generally, I was never incredibly interested in the first place.
I remember when I was young and video gaming was fighting for its place as a legitimate hobby that every weekend I could take a trip to the video store, pick up any game I had either never seen before or only read about in a magazine, and have a wonderful, fulfilling weekend of gaming. I could play live in a Final Fantasy game for 20+ hours a weekend, or I could play some garbage like Ballz on the SNES and have just as good a time. It didn’t matter to me because I just loved games.
I remember when Super Mario 64 came out, and I got a Nintendo 64 for Christmas. My best friend came to my house on Christmas Eve just so we could play Mario 64 all night long. It turns out, he had a N64 waiting on him the next morning. The game was new enough, innovative enough, and fun enough to make us ogle in wonder at it on even our most family-based holiday.
I haven’t felt that way about a game in a long, long time. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some really, really good times with MMOs over the past eleven years. I love the genre, and I can’t wait to see where developers take it in the future. However, even as much as I love it, nothing in the genre really amazes me anymore. I look forward to Champions Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic, but not like I looked forward to Star Wars Galaxies or even new Ultima Online expansions. I expect more of the same from both anticipated titles simply because the genre has given me little to look forward to over the past few years (thank you, World of Warcraft, for causing such a plateau).
And it’s not even just MMOs. It’s been years since I was able to sit down and finish a single-player console game. And that breaks my heart. It’s almost like I’m too jaded by years of playing anything and everything under the sun to see the wonder in games these days. The last single-player game I finished was Bioshock on a rental when it first came out. The game was so different from what I had become accustomed to that I eagerly await the sequel this fall. Unfortunately, I am afraid it, too, will fall into the doldrums of “been there, done that.”
Have games actually gotten worse over the years? I marvel sometimes about the saturation of sequels on the market. Very few games are original properties these days, and I think that might have a great deal to do with why I have a hard time finding myself lost in them. Because I was already lost in them long ago. I can only spend so much time in any given game or book or movie (except Star Wars) before I want to move on, and within those series with all the sequels, how many offer any true innovation after the initial few? Most sequels and franchises stop bringing much new to the table in lieu of solidified profit margins because developers know that gamers will buy X game, so why alter it to Y?
So where did the wonder go? Is it me? Has my personality changed so much over the years that I can no longer enjoy what made me love gaming in the first place? I think that’s it to an extent, for the same reason I can’t just sit down and just read a book or watch a movie anymore. I am trained and educated to the point where I cannot shut off the analytic side of my brain, even when I’m looking for a relaxing good time. I now understand what makes the games I really love tick, so I look for that and eschew the rest.
I think that’s a big part of my problem, and I need to get past it. I look for things I think I need and love, but it turns out that my tastes might have changed from that, which is why I feel unfulfilled and keep jumping ship each time a rough spot hits a game. I have such high standards based on what I think I enjoy that I lose sight of the bigger picture. I can’t enjoy a game on its own merits because of artificial standards like “this isn’t as fun as Mario 64 was when I was 13.” It’s an absurd way to approach a hobby.
I want to do better. I want to love what I do for fun again. I don’t want to be bitter and jaded and cantankerous.
I keep eyeing my DS as it sits on my desk with Chrono Trigger and a couple of unfinished Castlevania games beside it while I write this. I keep thinking of Bioshock 2. I plan on buying Mario Kart Wii so my fiancée and I can take it on our honeymoon (she’s not a gamer, but she sure does love some Mario Kart). I want to focus my attention on what I actually like in games instead of what I wish games were. I want to regress, I think, to where I can enjoy a game for what it is rather than what I think it should be.