There comes a point in every gent’s life when he must stop, take stock and assess his priorities. Ask himself where he’s headed, and whether or not the pursuits to which he is engaged are productive ventures or futile dead-ends, as frivolous as a Texan lawsuit. I had one such moment this week when I was forced to question my weak will and near bottomless capacity for self-indulgence, ah but I’m getting ahead of myself.
There was a time in my life when I used to complete a fair number of games. A time when finances were a little scarcer, there were fewer commitments vying for my time, and thus I was a thriftier gamer, completing many a title. But with means comes temptation, and with temptation the unerring inclination to submit, until I find myself in a situation where I am currently playing Mass Effect 2, Alan Wake, Skies of Arcadia, Twin Snakes, Peace Walker, Resident Evil (Remake) and the other night I started Chrono Cross again because I felt like a change. In short I have never had less free time, while by the same token I have never had more games on the go at any one time (and this is not even counting all the entirely worthy games that I have abandoned this year).
In my defence circumstances did conspire to deliver a veritable gaming bounty into my lap, all at the one time. You see I stumbled upon the opportunity to pick up a Wii cheaply earlier in the year, and then a scant few weeks later I received my refurbished 360 back from the Microsoft reanimation centre after a lengthy dormancy, needless to say that quite a backlog of titles had pent up between both consoles. But in the same breath, I cannot in good conscience blame my circumstances on circumstance alone. I have been heading down this path for a long while now, I just can’t just seem to sit myself down and force myself to plough my way through a title from beginning to end like the Oliver Motoks of this world.
I start each and every game with only the best of intentions, yet am defeated time and again by the weakest aspects of my nature. Sometimes it is the release of a shiny new game that I just have to play, more often though I just play something for a while and then feel like playing something different. It isn’t that the games have ceased to be fun or rewarding, it’s just that I’ll get it into my head that I want to play a very particular type of game. If I’m playing an RPG then I’ll often crave the heady excitement of an action game, if I’m playing an action title then I’ll often crave the more intellectually stimulating and methodical gameplay of an RPG, and if I’m playing the indecisive, bastardised chimera that is the action RPG, then I could probably have a bob each way.
Thus I found myself in the position the other night, staring at length at the small obelisk of my now playing pile, weighing up their relative merits and responding with a very real mental fatigue at the thought of playing any of them. I subsequently found myself beginning a game of Chrono Cross, a game that I have virtually no chance of completing, but one that I have been having great fun with nonetheless. And therein lies the rub; I have begun many stories that I will never finish, waged many campaigns that now lie abandoned, yet I have never forced myself to play something that I didn’t want to, and thus my gaming experience has always been a fun one. Sure I don’t often get the pent up cathartic overflow of gratification which comes with completing a game (having only completed Arkham Asylum and FFVII in the past year), yet my gaming experience is always a fresh and enjoyable one, free as it is from any semblance of obligation.
Thus I arrive at the simple question; is it wrong to opt for fun over achievement? If I am entertained each and every time I play a game is that not enough, or am I supposed to commit myself to the labours of each and every digital undertaking, working towards the payoff at the conclusion? Should I continue playing past the point where the game has ceased being fun, and feels more like work?
Is it wrong to play what I want when I want to play it?