Editorial: Where Has the Magic Gone?

Grownup Snoopy
Poor snoopy.

It is a rainy day in Murfreesboro. The perfect sort of day to ponder things of a bittersweet nature.

Like growing up, for example. Growing up sucks.

When I was a child my father told me that as I grew older I would realize that my most valuable commodity was time. Not money, not food, nor even relationships necessarily – but time. I cannot remember how old I was when he told me this, but at age 22, I remember these words well, and consider them to be among the more poignant and truthful words that my father ever spoke to me. And, since this is a videogame website, I will use the obvious example of videogames to illustrate this truth: Ten years ago, videogame time was standard hour-killing. It is now, relatively speaking, a luxury.

“Oh, come now,” a reader might be muttering to himself, “sure he does not intend to fill an entire editorial with grievances of limited game-time.”

No, no. Not exactly. It is an unfortunate fact of life that as one grows older, more and more responsibilities are taken on, and time for pleasures is cut shorter and shorter. It sucks, but it is what it is – there is not much to be done about it, and truthfully speaking, it should make one enjoy activities such as videogames more, as they become something of a special occasion. A treat, if you will. But there is something that my father did not tell me as a child, and it is something slightly more unsettling, and perhaps less universal than a loss of time: the loss of enjoyment.

“Good God,” a reader says, “this has gone from boringly trite to embarrassingly emo in a paragraph’s time.” Bear with me, though. Because I do not believe I am alone in this. And again, it ties back to the big, wonderful theme of videogames. (Because this is, after all, a videogame website.)

Many of the people reading this article know who I am, I am sure – and they know me as a guy who has been writing about videogames for four years now. It is and always has been my thing. So perhaps it is a bit strange to hear that these days, not only do I play video games less, but I enjoy them less as well. Even the good ones.

Final Fantasy XII Battle Screenshot
Ah, the memories.

I have fond memories of playing Final Fantasy XII for thirty, forty hours in a single week when it was freshly released in 2006. Over two weeks after its release, I do not believe I have broken the ten-hour mark in Batman: Arkham City. (And it is not any fault of Arkham City – that game is awesome.)

I recall playing The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for five, six hours in a single sitting, unable to tear myself away from the wide-open seas and the labyrinthine dungeons. These days, if a game maintains my interest for ninety minutes at a time, I am surprised.

I remember when the approach of a new Zelda or Final Fantasy game was the cause of unparalleled excitement and anticipation. Now, Skyward Sword is just around the corner, with Final Fantasy XIII-2 not far behind, and my apathy is almost disturbing. Granted, in the case of XIII-2 it is, perhaps, justified. And admittedly I am happy that a new Zelda title will soon be in my hands, but when compared to the gut-wrenching hand-wringing anticipation I had for Twilight Princess… well, there is no comparison. For Twilight Princess I happy rushed out to purchase a Wii (since I figured that was the “definitive” way to play it), for Skyward Sword I am grumbling about having to purchase a MotionPlus.

(No, I never bought a MotionPlus; that is how much love I have given my Wii these last few years.)

Skyward Sword Screenshot
I am looking forward to this game.

When I was younger, one of my greatest peeves was listening to older gamers ramble on about how much better things were in “their day.” I did not understand nor agree with it, though I played plenty of older games. Now, though, I think I understand just how powerful nostalgia can be. I frankly do not remember the 120+ hours I spent with Final Fantasy XII in precise detail. What I do remember, though, is how happy the game made me. I remember a time when I could disappear into my room for most of the week and immerse myself in a fantasy world with nary a though of the “real world” outside. I remember a simpler time when life’s pleasures outweighed life’s responsibilities.

Games have changed, sure. But I have changed more. And as much as I would like to blame my dilemma on the videogames being made and released today, I think that would be to miss the point. Perhaps finding less enjoyment in the things I once loved is simply a part of growing up. Perhaps I just have not found a way to properly integrate videogames into my adult life. Perhaps I just miss being a kid.

But now, I am interested in your opinions, denizens of the L.coms. Perhaps you can relate to my predicament; perhaps you, too, have found that as an adult, games no longer provide the unadulterated pleasure they did as a child. If so, why do you think this is? And can be done to fix it?

8 comments

  1. I totally agree with almost everything in this article.

    I wish there was more I could say about it, or a way I could offer to address it. Perhaps the best attempt I can make is to say, “Now, I only play a few, core games which are almost certain to entertain me, and I don’t buy much else.”

    Time is a premium when one gets older, it seems. Sad, but true.

  2. My game playing went drastically down as I entered my 20’s (by 2004), and by then only had time for Wind Waker and Metroid Prime. The staying up all night to play Diablo 2 days were over; college and other pursuits became supreme. This stayed true for several years.

    We are kind of special to be the first generation of humans to grow up almost completely under the wing of video games, so understanding how to shed that as one of our primary self-definitions as we enter adulthood is our unique burden. I think Lusipurr’s “few core games” philosophy is what sticks. For instance I plan to get a PS3 soon (this is how far I’m catching up now) and know exactly what few games I’m going to get, nearly all from a single genre which is my top interest.

    You have to sacrifice anything which has middling interest in order to fully pursue what you truly love. Hey, that goes for choosing a major in college too…

    p.s. This is another good kind of article which Lusipurr.com is useful for.

  3. Nostalgia is a powerful thing. It can turn games with faults into classics. But I, too, have seen my gaming time wane.

    It’s funny, because when I was a kid and had all the time in the world, I couldn’t afford too many games, and just played the same ones over and over. And as an adult, I can afford pretty much any game I’m interested in, but I only have time to play a few of them. Cruel, isn’t it?

  4. Perfectly sums up our AIM conversation the other day. The year that video games are practically thrown in my face, I play them the least and have the least enjoyment attached. I think I noticed the feeling the strongest playing Pokémon of all things. It was the first time I wasn’t completely overjoyed to be playing a new Pokémon game. I really liked it, but the magic is draining away.

    I fear becoming Susan. So lost in adult life that the magic that I was literally surrounded with has disappeared.

  5. @Ethos: Pokemon is the game that showed me that I’m not enjoying games as much as i used to, because before this year, I would have beaten at least 4 gyms within a week of getting a new pokemon game, but I have only finished 2 gyms and have logged maybe 5 hours in about 3 months.

  6. That’s very odd, because Pokemon White is the game that rekindled my interest in gaming, which had been waning. It was the first non-social video game I’d played in a while that kept me interested enough to keep playing.

    For the most part, if my interest in games is waning, it is because I feel the need for more social interaction, so any game that isn’t multiplayer gets the shaft in favor of games that allow me to communicate, cooperate, and compete with other real people.

  7. This article really hits home. My backlog is huge but sometimes I still end up spending my precious free time surfing the net reading… gaming news >__>

  8. One time my mom told me about how when I was in the 1st grade, everyone in class had to draw something that they wanted. I drew a book and told my teacher that I just wanted time – to read all of the books that I wanted to read.

    Over 2 decades later, time is still my most valuable resource. Now it is generally spent with games than books (to the chagrin of many, I’m sure), but there’s still just not enough free time to experience all of the games that I want to. This is compounded by my completionist tendencies. I still do enjoy games as much as ever, even with 2 jobs that keeps me constantly exposed to them…. hmm, I think I’m seeing a pattern here…

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