Although I struggle to come to terms with my own adulthood, one thing is clear to me: I don’t have as much time to play games as I used to. It’s not that I don’t still play a lot of games, but it does mean that the games I play have changed. No longer are the days that I spend five hours at a time exploring an obscure free-to-play Japanese browser RPG. Instead, I log onto Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm to finish my dailies and maybe play a new game on Steam if I have enough time left in the day. There’s rarely a moment that I’m bored anymore, which leaves me playing the same few games week after week, with hundreds of games being left in my steam library to gather dust. My time is much more valuable now that I’ve graduated from university and work much more often, and the diversity of my gaming experience has suffered for it.
When I was younger, I would dig through tons of games every month, ranging from physical CD triple-A titles to digital download games on Steam to free-to-play online games. Nothing could quench my thirst for new games, not even the internet. Now I sit writing this, staring at my extensive steam library and wondering what happened? I certainly didn’t lose interest in gaming, as my bank account would gladly attest, but something has changed. I no longer have enough patience to play games with extensive tutorials or convoluted gameplay mechanics. I’ve stopped exploring the unknown territories of the video game community and have settled down in a log cabin of comfortable normalcy instead. I’ve become the Henry Hill at the end of Goodfellas of video games.
“And that’s the hardest part. Today everything is different; there’s no action… have to wait around like everyone else. Can’t even get decent food – right after I got here, I ordered some spaghetti with marinara sauce, and I got egg noodles and ketchup. I’m an average nobody… get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.”
The biggest culprit in the crime of pulling me away from new games is Netflix. It sneaks into my home every night and tempts me with rewatching Star Trek: The Next Generation. I’m only a man, you see. Younger Tom would be more than willing to put on Star Trek on another computer screen while playing Runescape for eight hours, but Adult Tom can’t be bothered. Each moment spent playing games must be carefully examined on an effort to enjoyment chart, with Netflix as the instant alternative if a specific game doesn’t match up to my new found standards.
At first I thought this would be a great thing for my gaming experience, as I incorrectly assumed that not wanting to play so many new games would mean that I would play the more ‘cinematic’ games in my library, such as The Wolf Among Us or The Banner Saga. Instead, I play games that require very little intellectual stimulation, such as card games or action real-time strategy games. My gaming has become more and more automated, fulfilling my basic needs to click buttons and see shiny colors without forcing me to think. This can’t be an entirely healthy thing, especially because my work doesn’t require much thought either. The only real positive that has come out of my change in gaming habits is my return to books. I’ve read more books for leisure within the past 5 months than I did in the four years I attended university. I’m not reading Ulysses or anything, as the most thought provoking book I’ve been reading lately is the Silmarillion, but they at least keep my brain churning more than the games I play do.
My fear is that this change in my gaming habits is just a part of growing up. I hope that I can condition myself to get back to a place where I can willingly try new, exciting games for hours on end, but I’m not very confident. Gaming is such a large part of my life and it will continue to be into the foreseeable future, but it seems that I’m subconsciously much more picky about what things peek and subsequently maintain my interest. I’ve become the gaming equivalent of a middle-aged blue collar square whose most exciting moment of the week is trivia night at a local pub.