So What Ever Happened To…
Remember when everyone was playing Stardew Valley? I sure do, and I was right there with them. Everyone was talking about it, and we were all having a blast re-living our various Animal Crossing day dreams. There were more of my friends playing that game than are currently playing No Man’s Sky (47 to 33) but I’m hearing a LOT more about No Man’s Sky these days.
Are any of my friends still playing? I’m not really sure. I do know I only have 2/40 achievements unlocked, though a number of them didn’t release until I had been playing for a while.
So what happened?
Well, nothing in specific. It just happens to be the way playing video games goes. We all get drawn towards a game for a little while, play it a whole lot, burn out, and move on. In fact October should be a popular month for this with the latest Civilization game releasing (I’m so excited, but it will be another one of those games I have to wait to purchase, especially since I’m due in October).
I have lots of games like this in my steam library. Some games we revisit and play over and over again, they grab a hold of us and never let go and we’re constantly wandering back (Skyrim, I’m looking at you). Games like Civilization, Cities: Skylines, Banished, Tropico, and even ‘simple’ games like Cook Serve Delicious and Triple Town manage to get me to play them over and over. Other games, not so much. Of course there’s also the issue of taking a look at my library and then spending the next few hours trying to decide what would be good to play, or what I’m in the mood for.
What about everyone else? How do games catch your attention, and if you have a large game library, how do you decide exactly what it is you want to play?
Hmm. I think it’s time and nothing more than time. Well, time and age, which brings the realization that time is running out. Children eagerly watch the same movie a hundred times. As a child I would re-read favorite comics until they fell apart. In adolescence and through my twenties re-reading and re-watching was as important – perhaps more important – to me than discovering new things. I firmly believed, and still do, that it’s only through repetition and comparison that experience can be understood.
But as time goes on it becomes apparent, painfully so, that there’s a trade-off. Depth of understanding comes at the expense of breadth of experience. You can play EverQuest for seventeen years and become godlike in your understanding of the lore and the mechanics but your opportunity to contextualize against the genre that EQ was so instrumental in creating will be reduced accordingly.
At some point you realize you either need to make a choice or you find you have made a choice – breadth versus depth, variety versus intensity. Many of us try to fudge that choice but there are so many games (and books, and movies, and…)
I’ve grown relatively comfortable with this over the last few years. I figure that we play different video games to get some kind of -experience- we’re looking for out of them, be it experiencing its unique world or aesthetic, or the social experience of cooperating or competing with others or simply playing a popular thing in unison while it’s a fad, or some kind of internal feeling of adrenaline or excitement or calm or relaxation or whatever.
To paraphrase an analogy I heard: A bee’s purpose isn’t to fall in love with one flower and stay there for the rest of its life or until it’s completely stripped of nectar/pollen or has turned into a fruit. A bee stops at a flower long enough to get what it wants out of it, and then visits other flowers and/or goes home to do other things.
I do wish I had more time and attention (doesn’t everyone?) for games that I like, but well, things get prioritized. I play a couple things out of daily habit, hopefully chosen well beforehand to get me the experiences I want.
And I try, though am not perfect, at listening for the little internal twinges of restlessness that suggest that a sudden need for a type of experience is not being met, and mentally search through my massive games library for a game that would satisfy the urge for a while. I’m not as good at actually taking steps to do it, because it’s sometimes a hassle to install the game I feel like playing right then. But if it’s a real need, it will eventually grow to the point of can’t-be-ignored-go-play-X-game-right-now.