Editorial: Of Absence and Fondness

But at the moment that would only add one game to the collection.
My game collection just before getting a PS4.

Hello again weekly readers, I bet after about six days of no Mel articles the wait becomes almost unbearable. I can sympathize, I often find lots of things about me to be unbearable, but let us push on anyway. Today I was mulling over one of the more annoying and unsatisfying compulsions of my gaming hobby: that feeling of excitement and determination to play a game that melts away into unacted upon disinterest. I have found this occurs for a few reasons, both the initial interest and the resulting disinterest, and in my conversations over my time at the site and elsewhere I do not think I am the only one this happens to.

It usually starts while away from home, busy at work or in some other prior engagement, where my mind wanders and I think about (what else) videogames. Curiously my thoughts about a game are often spurred on by some auditory memory, something around me sounded like a sound from a game I enjoy, and that memory suddenly wakes in me the desire to replay that game. For that reason this often occurs with older titles I want to replay and the longer it has been since I have revisited that title, the stronger the fondness for replay is. From there I just stew over the idea of playing an old favorite right up until the point I return home to my array of old and new consoles. But when I finally unpack and unwind from the day, something strange happens.

Instead of going right ahead and popping in that game I was running my mind through for the last few hours, I just continue to relax at my computer chair. I think “I would have to plug in the PS2, switch the input cables, find the game” which is usually not enough to really deter me from playing. When things really go south for my intended replay is when I begin to think of all the unfun or annoying parts of the game I would not want to relive. For some reason, and I have recently started to overcome this, whenever I replay a game and never finish it, it feels very disappointing. It is as if the idea of that replay failed and perhaps the time spent replaying was not worth it. Of course, if I was having fun in my free time with my games, it was well worth it, but there is something indescribably unsatisfying when I stop playing a game (any game, really) without finishing it. So when considering a replay, I have long tried to avoid that scenario. Instead of starting a game I may not finish, I simply do not start that game.

And it is not just a long time from replaying an old title that makes me long for it, sometimes it is the simple fact that I cannot replay the game that makes me want it. A desire for the things one cannot have is a little weakness in me that commonly crops up around videogames. The moment I lend out that old RPG to a friend is also the moment I most want to play that game for myself. Unlike being stuck at work, I will not have this game probably for a very long time. In fact, most of my game “lending” is usually more like game “giving” since I always forget to ask for the game back and they always forget they have it. Regardless of how I become enamored with my games, the defeatist result is that I usually do not attempt to replay them.

But even if not I'd probably convince myself I don't want to play through that horrible water temple again...
The Skull Kid will have to wait until the 3DS version for me to replay his game.

But before I seem entirely too pathetic for being unable to replay my own games it should be noted that I do make concerted efforts to finish old games occasionally. The difference is that these replays are not begun by some fit of pique I had while out and about, but from some more sober decision about the game or the series it belongs to as I tend to replay my old titles in sequential fashion when applicable. For this reason alone my GameCube has yet to be unplugged from the wall thanks to series like Resident Evil among some older singular favorites. I do try my best to see all of my games through to the end, but often these days there is just not enough time to devote to a single title while keeping my interest. After a week or two of not picking up that RPG epic I was in the middle of, do I really want to spend the time to reorient and move on? Or do I want to play this shiny new game? Sorry wallet.

I am going to leave it short for this week as I have MUCH and more to attend to with the holidays and some other laborious financial matters coming to a head. But hopefully this article’s length will leave it more digestible for today’s attention strapped internet users, maybe I will see some more comments therefore. Let me know if you have had similar struggles with replaying old titles or have ever been whisked away from an older game by something newer. Backlogs are a tired subject, but in case you did not hear everything old is new again at Lcom!

11 comments

  1. I absolutely have similar struggles, though just the other day, I popped in a title I never finished and completed it. I had picked up Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes for DS a ways back on a whim, put about five hours into it and moved on. I cannot begin to tell you why it bugged me so much that I never finished it. I did not find the story particularly interesting, or the game play to offer any challenge worth mentioning, but I needed to finish it. So I did. Despite the completely anticlimactic (and sudden) ending, I felt satisfied because I had actually finished a title I paid for.

    Time is certainly a factor. I don’t even remember what my Steam Library count is at, but I admit with some shame that I have actually completely maybe 10% of it, and that might be a generous estimate. Not only do I not have enough time to play all the games that catch my eye, but I am constantly allowing myself to be distracted to new ones like a simpleton to a shiny bauble.

    It has been posited by many that too much choice is a bad thing, and I suppose I can see how that might be true. I like having all these choices, don’t get me wrong, but at the same time, my wallet suffers because I pay for titles that I may never complete, not because they are bad games, but because I get pulled away from it by a million other things. That, I suppose, is on me.

  2. I have too many choices and the result is that I end up playing nothing whatsoever.

    This is despite clearing out scores and scores of games from my library. I’ve sold 80% of what I used to own and I *still* have too many options. There are things I desperately want to play to completion (Lightning Returns!) but I JUST HAVE TOO MANY OPTIONS.

    What’s a gamer to do?

  3. I feel like it’s a carryover from how we were introduced to gaming and why we fell in love with it. When we were younger, most of us had fewer games that we would play more meticulously for longer periods than we do now. This is how good games are best played. Unfortunately, it usually takes that amount of effort to tell if a game is any good or not, and with so many games and so many duds, we begin to use mental shorthand to various degrees of success. “Oh, this game has this system, therefore it is like this!” But it doesn’t always work that way, but sometimes it does. Who has the $60 and 30 hours to really find out? Games work on a different pace of time than we adults are currently allowed to indulge in, so that’s why I feel like we get that feeling for not finishing a game, even a replay.

    And it’s true about not wanting to trudge through certain sections. Even incredible games are not perfect, but it’s hard to have something of a scrubber on a game, especially an RPG when a lot of the joy comes from the way the player chooses to engage over time with the systems.

    The solution is to master space and time! Get on it, Mel.

    In the meantime, I am attempting to focus on finishing more games while not sweating it when I don’t. I follow my gut sometimes for a replay quick fix (Bravely Default and 4 Heroes of Light come to mind), but make more dedicated efforts on games I would like to complete for a number of reasons like Persona 4, Suikoden II, Final Fantasy X, Radiant Historia and Dragon Age: Inquisition. It’s a good thing those games take no time at all to complete. :/

  4. Seems like I’m in good company with having this problem!

    And, Ethos, I’d master space and time but then I’d be responsible for it. I don’t need the police on my ass when they find out I botched up Wednesdays and replaced them with Arizonas or that I accidentally make every 5 o’ clock happen an hour faster in South Africa.

  5. @Ethos: Not to worry, for Suikoden is short, at least. You should be able to complete (not simply finish) it in about 20 hours, if you know what you are doing. If you are just playing to play it, you can finish it in much less time.

  6. I used to think it was my fault for not completing a game (not good enough or tried hard enough or something); then I discovered that it’s the game’s fault (obtuse mechanics or bland story or whatever). But maybe I’m too bland and obtuse, and if the game tried hard to get better at me, it would be more worth our time to finish, right?

    Is this something you want to look back on at the sunset of your life and be able to say, “Well Mel, at least you completed X number of games. You get a trophy!

  7. It looks like it cut off a few paragraphs of my comment. I’d say that’s fine, and leave it at that, but the way it cut off looks unintentionally mean. Sorry Melskø!

  8. [continuing from cut-off point…] Or is this all just a temporal form of entertainment because the greater moment we live in, the Consumer Era/Plastic Age, is terribly unfulfilling to our basic human conscious-emotional-spiritual needs and games are a great consolation at filling a hunger for experience?

    If you get the experience you want or expect from a game already; I mean, say you’ve played Z number of hours of Said Game, and you’re over it, what’s the harm in saying I’m done with it and lock it away or sell it? Move on to a more positive, fulfilling experience? Or if circumstances stop you from finishing That Game you’re quite fond of, then you know… Go for it brozscef. It reminds me of substance abuse addiction when you can’t let go of wanting the feeling you used to get from something (and “substance” can be defined a lot of ways, metaphorically too) even though you never get close to that feeling again, no matter how much you do with that thing. If you are still getting what you want from it, then you are probably not abusing it.

    We wander this Earth like hungry ghosts but each bite we take falls through us. But if we had no desires, no itch to keep scratching, then this Earth isn’t really meant for us. Therefore if you’re having too much satisfaction, I suggest withdrawal. Get back to the source and figure out what you love, in a more specific sense, in both the particular objects, the overall grouping of objects, and your experiences in relation to those objects. Give videogames some space, you’re cramping their style.

    I don’t remember if that really answers your article. It was kinda rambly (in a good way) so fair enough, that’s what you get for a comment.

    [It still ends kinda mean. Sorry Melskå!]

  9. @Dancing Matt: it is interesting you bring up substance abuse, because for years I have had some words on the matter as it pertains to gaming. Without giving away too much of my own personal history (and, admittedly, for the sake of having an editorial subject to discuss later), there are some similar mechanics at work here which many who do not understand addiction in general will flat out deny. There are also gaping chasms of difference, of course, but you have touched on something that strikes particularly resonant chords with me.

    I would equate your idea of seeking one used to get from something to the the lynch pin of the tobacco industry. They rely on exactly this concept to gain customers, while using other tactics to make it very difficult to walk back out the front door. A more paranoid version of myself would tip his tin hat and say this is exactly what the movie industry does every time they treat my childhood like a yard sale and attempt to breathe life into some franchise that I outwardly would rather see left as a sacred memory, but inwardly am already counting the bills in my wallet so I can sneak in another hit of that soothing tincture of former joy.

  10. *seeking the feeling one used to get

    I really should stop commenting until I’ve had my seventh coffee. (addiction!)

  11. @Java: There is lots to be said about it and I look forward to your article one day! It’s my honest conviction that the Entertainment Industry loves to exploit your nostalgia to sell products. And not just particular franchises, you know, but that “feeling of the time.” So I can see clearly how commercials, especially some pharmaceutical ones, go for what we grew up with now, while some others are more obviously doing the baby boomer angle. It’s a lot to get into.

    I made a point to a friend once who never did an abusive substance in his life, but played WoW day in, day out for years, comparing one lifestyle to another. Obviously no physical damage is done with games, but I certainly consider them an electronic drug, along with all the others. But that’s like totally cool or whatever you know. Everyone’s got their thing. Life is suffering, life is dissatisfaction, life is learning how to deal with it all appropriately.

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