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.
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.)
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?