Habitual gaming and the psychology of disruption

Fancy title huh? I used a thesaurus.

I spent most of October playing Glitch like a fiend. I logged in before work and during lunch (the beauty of browser-based gaming) and I’d spend altogether too much time in the evenings exploring and enjoying that weird, wacky world. I never wrote about Glitch because I was spending every free minute playing.

Then a freak snowstorm hit the Northeast and we lost power for about 40 hours. I’ve hardly played Glitch since.

Why? I’m writing this post to try to figure this out.

First of all, this isn’t a post about Glitch; Glitch is just the latest victim of game interruption syndrome. If you look at my long history of MMOs and even some single player games, I’ve stopped playing virtually every one (every one that was decent anyway) when something happened to interrupt my habit of play.

This time it was the power going out. Another time it could be a weekend of travel. It could be crunch time at work that doesn’t allow time for gaming, or a bad illness that keeps me bedridden for a few days. It could even be another game.

But my pattern is this:

I get a new game and get immersed in it. It becomes an Important Activity to me. I imagine what I’ll be doing in that game in 6 months. What life will be like at cap. This is My Game now! So happy!

Then I can’t play for a few days. Other things demand my attention and the game kind of recedes into the back of my mind. When I finally can play again, it no longer seems all that important to do so. It isn’t that I hate the game all of a sudden. Quite the contrary. I’ll have every intention of playing every night, but somehow never get around to actually logging in.

Why? I still don’t know. Is this just my ADD firing off? Or are games somehow a little like a drug I get addicted to, and after a few days of ‘withdrawal’ from not playing, I lose the craving?

I’m not talking about interruptions so long I forget how to play, or anything like that. I don’t think it is game mechanic related, or having to do with forgetting what I was working on. These interruptions are much briefer than that.

I don’t feel totally crazy because Chris from LevelCapped was without power for a lot longer than I was and I remember him saying (on Google+, presumably from his office where they had power!) that he didn’t really miss playing. That sounded similar, at least, to what goes on with me.

Or maybe I’m wrong and I really am totally crazy. 🙂

5 thoughts on “Habitual gaming and the psychology of disruption

  1. To not become boring with time, games need to get harder and require more knowledge the more the player has played. Games need to be “easy to learn, hard to master”.

    When you make a break you suddenly forgot some of your accumulated knowledge. Theoretically you should start again at zero, or at least do a tutorial. But since you don’t want to lose your old character and since there is no tutorial at this level, you just stop having fun.

    At least that is one reason.

  2. I’m in CT and we lost power for 5 days. Crazy storm eh?

    As far as the disruption goes, I totally understand. I’m the same way. Once I stop playing a game briefly, for whatever reason; I find it hard to go back. In the case of an mmo, if I do go back I end up re-rolling and starting fresh. Taking a, “break” from any story driven game usually ends up with me never finishing it. I’m not sure if this makes me a normal gamer or rare, but it does speak to the importance it places on devs to create that hook within a game. Something incredibly addictive to ensure those, “breaks” don’t happen often.

  3. Interest wanders, it happens. I do the same thing fairly regularly with console games. With rare exceptions (Arkham Asylum) once I put down a game and play something else I never come back to finish it. The Mass Effect games, Read Dead, and Arkham City are all games I played solidly for however many days and then beat.

  4. A tangential thought that I’ve had rolling around in my head for a while. I drop books then come back to finish them far easier than games. Maybe if games let me skim through the last bits of the story to get myself up to speed, I’d find it easier to jump back in.

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