Nerd Maintenance Blues

Although this blog is fairly new, some of you may know that I’ve been playing less games than usual this year. I wrote an article about my experience as an aging gamer, which you can find here. Essentially, I’m taking a break from gaming, but don’t think that I’m “growing out of it”. Gaming is not childish or immature, I simply find myself playing games less than I used to and, instead, I focus my gaming enthusiasm towards other things, such as my blog or youtube channel. One curious thing I’ve noticed recently about my gaming behavior, is that I still continually log onto my various gaming programs to update all of my games. For whatever reason I really enjoy making sure that all of my games are up to date, just in case I decide to play one of them randomly during the week.

The one game to update them all.

My first thought on the matter was that upkeep and organization are just other quirks that comes along with gaming for me. One is obviously not a necessary property of the other, however, as I constantly update without actually playing approximately 99% of my gaming collection. I’ve evolved from a gamer who spent upwards of 5 hours a day playing games to a nerd who sits down to update Steam every morning who plays around two hours of games a week.

ArcheAge-Alpha-Caption-Contest-Screenshot

Thank you for your services Blacksmith, but may I ask why you play a sub par MMO in which you only craft gear for others?

The next question that crossed my mind pertains to the types of games I do end up playing during my hiatus from gaming. A lot of my friends are playing the newly released Korean MMORPG called Archeage, but I have close to zero interest in the game. If I really enjoy updating games and logging onto all of my cloud gaming program, why am I not more interested in a game whose sole player interaction is logging on to perform meaningless tasks? An MMO grind is as close to manual labor as a gamer like myself is going to get, yet I still prefer updating games, and, sometimes, logging onto Hearthstone to complete my daily quests before logging off. Hearthstone is a meaningless grind of daily quests for gold coins which I use to purchase Arena tickets, which is very MMO-esque, so what makes Archeage any different?

This phenomenon reminds me of a theory that a professor at my university taught in a course on happiness. The hedonic treadmill essentially describes the way in which people gravitate towards a certain level of happiness despite events that influence their happiness one way or another. If the entertainment one gains from updating one’s steam account doesn’t drastically change one’s happiness more or less than actually playing a game, then one may be more inclined to play less games, as they require more effort for a negligible change in happiness. MMORPGs, and to a certain extent games in general, are not worth the effort to me, even though I don’t make conscious decisions to avoid them, compared to other activities that scratch my “nerd itch” in a comparable way. Last year, I experimented with this idea by not using the internet for three days straight. My video blog on that experiment can be found here. The results of this experimented pointed towards the conclusion that technology, especially social media, provides an almost investment free entertainment fix, which, thanks in large part to laziness, supersedes all other forms of entertainment, even those which may end up being more enjoyable in the long run. During my internet fast I found myself doing things that I would normally never want to do, like reading, writing or playing games that are harder to get into, even though I love doing all of those things. It seems my Steam situation is very similar.

I’m powergaming my attempts at gaming, so much so that I don’t game anymore.

I’m getting my “gaming” fix in unorthodox ways, even if I don’t intend to. This doesn’t mean I don’t play games anymore, but it does mean that the games I gravitate towards are those that require less initial investment. It seems that MMORPGs are off the menu for now, as I have less energy to dedicate to leveling, grinding and questing than I used to. Hopefully, I can train myself to better value my overall enjoyment, rather than subconsciously min-maxing my investment to happiness ratio.

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