Listen. I know I should be playing my games backlog. I know it. I can see this factoid, observe it from all angles, analyse it for deeper sub-truths and witness its place in the greater constellation of decisions that I should be making. Every day that I don’t fire up and play one of my older games is both a blessing and a curse. I’ve mostly come to terms with it, but this doesn’t solve the underlying problem. My backlog is only getting bigger.
So yes, I know I should be playing them. I even want to, in a general sense. I want to play all of them, simultaneously, right now. This is of course almost impossible, not to mention highly impractical. But there are just too many. I can’t choose. All of them are awesome. Some of them are awesome because I’ve played them before, so I should put them to the back of the pile, right? Sounds logical. I should certainly slow down my purchases and only get essential new releases that I know I will play right away.
But I don’t. I just don’t. What’s changed?
Well MMOs for a start. FFXIV continues to absorb most of my time, like some sort of awesome sponge. I’m having fun, but it’s the sort of fun that requires constant upkeep. But even that’s bullshit, because I know for a fact that I can not play for up to four days a week and still maintain the same sort of character progress as I am right now. I could be using those other four days for other games.
Then there’s the issue of the re-release. The re-master. The whole “hey, you remember that game you loved? Well here it is again, except better” conundrum. Part of me knows that I shouldn’t put a priority on playing this sort of game, because there are other, new experiences that I’m missing out on. I don’t often listen to that part of me, because it’s usually submerged somewhere around knee-level, while I’m full to the eyeballs with nostalgia. I don’t even need rose-tinted glasses, because all of the kinks have been ironed out.
But now we come to the crux of the problem: most of the games that I love (and a good deal of those which have seen re-releases) are RPGs. The older generation of these games require a massive time investment, which means that I could only realistically play one at a time. New or old, this is a big ask, especially when that pile is constantly staring at me. Even while I sleep.
Long-time readers of my ramblings will probably note that I talk about this issue quite a bit, but always from different angles. First of all, I spoke about being spoilt for choice: there’s so many awesome games to choose from nowadays. Time was that I could spend ages looking around a game store and not find a single thing I want to play. Now, I can barely go online without seeing something I want to purchase. Next, I moved on to how my backlog issue could be seen in a positive light – during dry spells (such as right now, when there are few new releases that are any good), my backlog would sustain me. A steady flow of games to keep me going, while the stream of gaming is buffering.
I even touched on a couple of tools that help monitor your backlog. The first one was previously called LambentStew, but has recently been renamed Gamalyzer. I hate that it uses a Z instead of an S, but I will live with it. The other was Backloggery, which I have ironically still to get around to filling in properly.
But whether or not it’s beneficial to me or not is neither here nor there. For this article, I’m trying to find out why the way I play games has changed so drastically over time. The reasons above are part of the answer, but could there be something else?
The possibility that I’m “outgrowing” games has crossed my mind on occasion, but it’s never more than a fleeting thought. It’s not even that I have less time to play them, since I tend to keep more or less the same hours as I did when I was in school (give or take 10 hours a week). More accurate, perhaps, is the notion that my way of thinking has matured.
I was always very mature for my age when I was younger. By age 13, I had the mindset of an older teenager and by 16 I was more or less a young adult. My behaviour and attitudes haven’t changed much since I was around 18, which I have just realised was over ten bloody years ago. Sure, I’ve learned new things and grown as a person since then, but the core “Chris” has been fairly static since my early maturation. I’m not saying this to portray myself as some prodigy who was above my peers or anything like that: I simply achieved “adulthood” quicker than the average teen.
The disadvantage, I believe, is somewhere inside that fact. People say that you’re meant to spend your 20’s being stupid and making mistakes, having adventures and whatnot. Despite this being entirely unappealing to me as an introvert, I feel like I’ve moved past needing or wanting that sort of thing. I’m quite content with how things are and have no burning desire to get things done right this second. I have goals and aspirations like anyone, but there’s no rush. This is at odds with my desire for playing games, which is almost the exact antithesis of this lifestyle.
Right, here’s where the psychological mumbo-jumbo really kicks in. Abandon article if you want to avoid this sort of musing.
My belief is that my drive to play games all the time is allowing my life to continue at a normal pace, or vice versa. I dread to think what my life might be like without the focus of games to whet my appetite. Perhaps there would be benefits to being so driven and demanding of myself in other aspects of my existence, but I don’t think I could handle a life where I was never satisfied with what I had.
The great author Frank Herbert often espoused that a “clear, safe course… leads ever down into stagnation”. He was talking about prescience, folding space and other sci-fi jargon, but was addressing a larger theme. I agree in broad terms, but I would also say that an equally accurate truth is that changing for change’s sake is not a good enough reason. To be happy with how life is right now and not want it to change is nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s also important to always be working towards making things better.
As I’ve grown and become more self-reliant, my goals and aspirations have become less lofty and more sensible. I’m not going to become a games developer and work for a big company. I’m not about to become a famous writer – either in journalism or fiction. But I am going to pursue happiness, which for me, involves working with computers and helping people, with a side of writing things every now and then. Maybe in the future, I’ll do that on a larger scale or more professionally – to that end, I’ll keep working on improving my skills. Meanwhile, the overly ambitious part of my mind can be kept in check via a constant barrage of games.
The part of me that is never satisfied, therefore, is safely constrained within a ceaseless barrier of games. I can focus on being happy with my life and working at my own pace, without the burning desire to advance my career or lifestyle at any cost. The only downside is that I’ll never truly be satisfied with my gaming situation. I’ll never be able to sit back and say “There – I’ve played ALL the games I ever want to.”
But honestly, I can live with that.
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A twenty-something gamer from the North-East of Scotland. By day, I’m a Computer Technician at a local IT recycling charity, where I fix and build PCs. Outside of that, most of my time is spent either sleeping or gaming, which I try accomplish in equal amounts.