This is something that I only have a few thoughts on, but it’s been brought about by a couple of things. One is a voicemail I left on Jason’s Mental Doodles podcast, the other a meme-like admonishment that I’ve been hearing in the ludodecahedron and the brainy gamer podcast/blog.
First off, I left a voicemail about the way we consume games currently in the media, enthusiast press, and in my own life. There’s always a new, better, bigger game out there to try. The publishers want us addicted to the spice flow, so to speak, so that they can sell us and our friends and the rental companies lots and lots of videogames.
Secondly, Michael Abbot continually mentions his “chew your food” metaphor for consuming games. It’s a reminder to slow down, enjoy the game, stop rushing through in the quest to “beat” it.
So, yeah, the Holidays of 2008 were a flood of new game releases. The games on my radar were all equally deserving of my purchase: from Gears of War 2 to Far Cry 2 to Fallout 3, each game is a big triple-A title. I don’t have a spare $180 each time this happens, though, and I had just bought Halo 3 to play with my buddies online, who had already moved on to Gears 2 when i finally got the game. Ugh.
So, I got to be part of the conversation about a game I truly enjoyed, but I didn’t get to be a part of the conversation about other games. This is not a huge loss, and doesn’t make my family starve or anything. It’s just a sad, upper middle class privileged whine, I suppose.
But see, that’s just the thing. As I attain more and more disposable income, I dispose more and more of it on things like videogames. I now have the good fortune of a PSP, a DS, a Wii, an iPhone, and an XBox 360. That’s quite a bit. I’m starting to feel like a childhood friend of mine who always had way more toys than I did: a bit overwhelmed and jaded.
When we have too many things, as my childhood friend did, each individual thing becomes less valuable to us. That’s my thought. The more of any one thing I have, be it comic books, or novels, or CDs, or MP3s — the less each individual piece becomes to me. And I experience that sadly. I recall the very first few SF novels I read as a young adult. Each one is still precious to me. I can recall their titles, authors, etc. Not so the ones I read now, as a general rule. As I read more and more books like this, the individual ones blur and aggregate in my mind.
The more games I have to play, the less I play any of them. This feels like a corollary to the above. Right now, I have a game collection that would be called paltry by any serious gamer, but geeze, there’s only so many hours in the day. I spend many of them not with a videogame. Most of the free time I do have needs to be split across other things, including TV, movies, books, music, knitting, and lazing about. I am able to horn in some gaming time with my kids, especially with the more active games like Rockband and WiiSports/WiiFit.
But when I look at my whole gaming collection, I realize that I still have too many of them to reasonably play. Starting with the handhelds, I’m playing the following:
So, that’s eight games that I’m actively involved in playing. I maybe get 5 hours per week or so to just play games. You do the math.
Here’s a list of the games I’ve TRIED to play in the past year or so and have not finished:
- (all of the above games)
- Assassin’s Creed
- Halo 3
- Eternal Sonata (what?! I like music!)
- Final Fantasy 4
- Chrono Trigger
- Wii Music
Here are the games I’ve actually finished:
- Gears of War 2
- Mass Effect
Kinda says something, doesn’t it. About myself, obviously, but I’m willing to bet that I’m not alone in this. I think it says more about our culture, our relative wealth, and the promotional machine.
It’s only recently that I’ve been turned on to older games, through sites like Good Old Games and The Vintage Game Club. I’m really enjoying the gameplay and the conversations. A small part of me still thinks, “but the new games are passing me by!” Most of me, however, is perfectly fine to focus my energies and time on games that resonate with ME, rather than with the enthusiast or professional games press.
So, I guess I’m just saying, take your time. I’m giving myself permission to do the same. I’m enjoying the hell out of watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer seasons 1 and 2 on the internet. It’s older, and I may not keep up with current shows I’d like to because of it, but that’s ok. It’s my choice and the choice is a good one.
It’s also ok to turn off the screens, pick up a book, go outside for a ski, rock our socks off in a real live band, or sit on the couch with a knitting project. In fact, it’s imperative to find that balance. It’s my choice and the choice is a good one.