Time, adversity and too many choices

This morning I was reading Dusty Monk’s latest post over at Of Course I’ll Play It. It’s a great read about Guild Wars in particular and difficulty in games in general. Dusty just finished the Nightfall campaign after a lot of struggling, research and experimentation. So how’d that feel? To quote him: …when you do at last get through that last mission, you are filled with an incredible sense of accomplishment.

It got me to thinking about difficulty in games and overcoming adversity to get those tough wins. I have vague memories of such conquests from back in Ye Olden Times but really nothing that recent. So that set me off to naval gazing about my gaming habits again.

To be blunt, when I run into a really difficult point in a game these days, I just move to another game. I wish that weren’t the case but it is. Is it because I’ve become a gaming wimp? Do I just suck more than I used to? A little bit, particularly when it comes to twitchy games. My reflexes and eyesight aren’t as keen as they once were.

But the bigger issue is that I HAVE TOO MANY CHOICES! Whenever I’m playing a game about 85% of my concentration is on the game I’m playing and the other 15% is thinking about what I’m going to play next, since my “Pile Of Shame” (games I’ve purchased but not really played much) is always growing. So whenever I hit a point in a current game that stops forward progress it makes me feel like it’s going to be even longer before I get to the next game.

Now obviously this is a First World Problem. Gaming is my main hobby and I’m financially comfortable enough that I can buy pretty much any game I really want. I’m not complaining about that. But it does create a situation much different from the days when a good game would come out once a month or even less often. Back then I had fewer distractions and so I was more willing to stick with a single game.

So well I really enjoyed reading about Dusty’s extensive research (both hands-on and archival) that finally brought him to the end of his journey, I have to be honest with myself and admit that I’m never, ever going to finish a Guild Wars campaign if it means hours of research figuring out how to do it. In the same way I’ve accepted that I’m never going to play EVE Online meaningfully since it, too, is a game that requires a lot of research and playtime in order to play the game well. Wurm Online, same thing.

I love that these games exist but I have to accept that I just don’t have the ability to focus on one game for that long any more.

And yet at the same time I rant and rave about it when an IP gets a long-awaited sequel or reboot and it’s been made easier.

Because I am apparently a crazy person.

Side Note: My old PS3 died a week or two ago. Tried to fix it but no dice. So I ordered a new “Slim” model. Rather than copying the data from my old PS3 over, I just copied off my save games. On the new PS3 I’ve installed just 4 games. Assassin’s Creed 1, Little Big Planet 2, Dungeon Hunter: Alliance and Need For Speed Shift 2. My plan is not to install anything else until I’ve finished one of these 4, just as a way to try to keep myself focused. My old PS3 had 95 PS3 games and a bunch of Minis and PS1 classics installed on it. It was overwhelming!

4 thoughts on “Time, adversity and too many choices

  1. Amen, of course. I still have to get to Crusader Kings II. And I’ve been eyeing Quantum Conundrum… Le sigh.

    I’m comfortable with quitting stuff. Whether I get 1 hour, 2 hours, or 200 hours of enjoyment from a game, it’s still 1 hour, 2 hours, or 200 hours more enjoyment that I had before I quit. Besides, we don’t have anything to prove at this point.

    What DOES get me personally, though, is that I rarely ever (read: never) get that feeling that I DID stick with something. I can’t blame any game; they’re neutral, and provide what they provide. Whether it’s the Ooh Shiny Factor or my inability to focus and just stick with it, I don’t know. I would lean towards the later because of the former. With the option to just jump ship, it IS too damn easy to just drop it when it’s too frustrating/no longer interesting, and go to another game.

  2. So first – I’m extraordinarily pleased if one of my posts provoke thoughtful discourse of any sort – because in the end, that’s truly what I hope to accomplish. To get people to think critically not necessarily about themselves – though that’s awesome too – but about games. Specifically about game development.

    Because, in truth, you’re not crazy at all. Well maybe a little bit but not about this particular thing anyway. You’re actually in the majority. Hell I’m the same way. I mean – I’ve had Nightfall for six years — and I’m only just now completing it for the first time, even after numerous attempts. And I love Guild Wars! But it’s a dilemma that developers constantly face. How to make games challenging, and rewarding – but yet not so frustrating that people just move on.

    I personally don’t mind that Guild Wars got hard. But the thing is, what I do mind is when developers don’t warn you that it’s going to be hard, and they don’t give you the information you need to solve the problem – they just let you figure it out through failure. It’s an extraordinarily comment tenement – especially when it comes to MMO encounter design – and it’s time has past.

    I like challenge. I like making choices. What I hate – are having to make uneducated choices.

  3. As a long time gamer myself I empathise with a lot of what you say here. In many ways this is a golden age of gaming with tonnes of excellent games around at low prices and yet I get less satisfaction from gaming today than I obtained a dozen years ago when I played a handful of different games a year.

    I know for definite that my most memorable gaming experiences stem from deep and time consuming games that take time to learn but in a world of so much choice it is very hard not to get distracted by the next shiny game to come along on sale.

    Deep games still exist. Scopique already mentioned Crusader Kings II and I bought that myself with the deliberate intention of spending the time to really immerse myself in a game. Unfortunately I have only managed a couple of turns so far and I have already gotten distracted by about five other games.

    On the positive side I have long grown out of “unplayed game guilt”. There are too many games and too little time to play them all so be happy with what you do play and forget the rest. I have games on my shelf from 2003 still in shrink wrap. I may install them some day or I may not.

  4. I remember playing Zelda and Mario in my 20s where I’d play not just to get to the end of the game and beat the boss, but to complete the game. Every heart piece, every star, every secret level, I wouldn’t rest until I’d found everything and completed the game.

    The game that broke me of my OCD was Donkey Kong Country, because (IMO) some of those K-O-N-Gs were impossible to get without sacrificing Diddy or Donkey Kong. I kid you not, I remember more than a few areas where the only way to get some of the letters was to drop one character off a ledge and grab the letter as you fell to your death, then continue playing the level with the second character who you assumed control of with the first character’s demise.

    I’m currently playing Mario Galaxy 2 and Mario Bros (Wii edition) and while I am attempting to clear every level, in Mario Bros. I’m passing over some of the more treacherous coins, and if I finish a level with 1 or 2 of the 3 coins (or none) I’m okay with that. I recently finished Epic Mickey, and while I didn’t find every secret in every level I’m okay with that, too.

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