As someone who plays an awful lot of games, I find myself in a near constant struggle with the idea that I need to find the ‘right time to play a game’. What should be as simply as putting a disk in the console, or double clicking an icon on my desktop has turned into an evaluation of my mental state, my upcoming schedule and whether or not I can even be bothered to devote x amount of hours to something.
How Long to Beat
When I’m setting myself up to start a new game, a few things usually go through my head. Firstly, how long is the game, and do I have the motivation to play a game exclusively for that time?
You see, I’m a big believer in experiencing one game at a time. If it’s a story heavy game, I want to be utterly engrossed in that story and that story alone. Maybe I’ll mix it up with a little competitive multiplayer or some couch-coop, but for the most part, if I’m playing a story focused 60 hour RPG, that’s all I’m playing.
So there’s the first hurdle. Can I be bothered to commit to something that’s going to demand so much of my free time? More often than not, I can’t, and so I end up waiting a year to play Skyrim or avoiding Fallout 4 altogether. It’s a problem that often leads me into talking myself into playing 2-3 smaller games for fear of having to dedicate so much time to one title.
Sorry, I’m Busy Next Week
The next big hurdle is a slightly less personal one. As adults, we’ve got certain responsibilities. Work, Kids, Parents, Friends, you know the drill; your free time is rarely your own. As someone who gets an above average amount of holiday, this is less of an issue, but it still stops me from playing games I’d otherwise love to dive into.
I’m a big subscriber to the idea that books should be read in less than a week, that films should be watched in one sitting and that video games should be played in as short a length of time as is possible. This ideal prevents me from starting games after work and it’s even got in the way of me starting games at the back-end of a week off. I’m paralysed by the fear that maybe I wont be able to finish a game in two sittings, that maybe I’ll have to save my game and do something actual adults do before I get to finish the games final part.
I know deep down that I’ve got enough time after work to play an hour or two of my new favourite game, but for whatever reason my brain makes me feel bad about it; like I’m not experiencing the game at it’s best. And as someone who considers games to be an art form worthy of experiencing correctly, that can’t fly.
I Can’t Deal With This Right Now
Believe it or not, but sometimes video games are capable of telling stories that emotionally wreck you. I’m not talking about a game that maybe makes you cry, or ones that manipulate you into falling in love with two characters, no I’m talking about ones that stick with you for life.
That Dragon, Cancer is the perfect example of a game that can’t help but kick your ass emotionally. I knew this going in of course, and it’s the exact reason I held off playing it until I was ready for such a game.
I knew That Dragon, Cancer was going to ask a lot of me, and as such I had to find the time to play it on my own terms.
Thankfully my awesome girlfriend to let me lock myself away in the spare room for the evening. I did this because I wanted to experience the game in one sitting, away from any and all distractions, and mainly because I wanted to be able to cry without feeling like an idiot.
I’m glad we planned the evening out, it allowed me to entirely immerse myself in the story they were trying to tell. If I was playing the game with my girlfriend around, not only would I have been distracted, but I’d have been much less eager to let the game get into my head like it did. It took a while, but I did experience the game as the creators would have wanted me to.
I’ll be honest, I don’t like locking myself away anymore. I’ve done that in a previous life and it’s not something I relish getting back to, but at the same time I know that some games are best experienced without distractions. I don’t feel the same way about reading a book, despite the obvious fact that reading demands the same, if not a more distraction-free environment. So whilst I know some games are best played in total silence, free from distraction the fact that I feel bad about asking for that sort of time impacts my overall stance on starting new games.
Video games are an important part of my life. I enjoy playing them, I want them to engage me in new and interesting ways and I want their stories to touch me in the same way that films do. Sometimes I’m going to need to allow myself a few hours of free time to let a game have its way with me. I wouldn’t want to play INSIDE surrounded by activity, the game just wouldn’t work as well. That’s okay.
However, if I’m standing at the front end of an open-world RPG, maybe it’s not so bad if I just dive in head first. Sure, perhaps it’s not the ideal way to experience that game, but if the game is worth experiencing, I’ll find the time to get more out of it.
Video Games are a hobby, they’re something I do because I enjoy doing it. I think it’s time I remembered that. Sometimes it’s okay to plan out an evening if you feel like you need to, but don’t allow yourself to become a slave to ‘The Perfect Experience’. Perfect is great, but it’s also unrealistic and perhaps a little unattainable.