02 Aug Taking a Gaming Break
I wanted to try something a little different with this post. It’s a little personal, but I wanted to share my experience with anyone interested in reading it!
This may seem a little strange coming from the likes of me. I’ve posted a bunch of blogs about games, genres, and the best of the best. I love video games, I love playing them, talking about them, writing about them and discussing their inner workings. I talk and think about video games the same way many people would converse about their favorite sports, movies, t.v. shows, or job… Video games have become a very important piece of our cultural identity as well as significant pieces of art. That being said, and their importance being known…sometimes you need to take a gaming break.
Gaming, just like anything else, can be addictive and cause the player to get obsessive. While Video Game Addiction as a medical condition is seemingly only being discussed in regards to mobile, online, and micro-transcation based games, the medium is built to keep you locked in for hours at a time. Just one more level, just one more upgrade, one more achievement or trophy or battle. I love video games, but just like junk food, caffeine, or netflix binging, they can monopolize your time and attention. I have no real experience with actual, clinical addiction, but I often feel the barbs of gaming taking over my attention. If you happen to have experience with real addiction, I’d love to discuss it in the terms of video games.
I sometimes find myself wrapped up in that style of addiction. Due to my policy of “ONE GAME AT A TIME” I will rush and obsess over finishing a game so I can progress to the next one. Just a few weeks ago, I killed an entire Sunday playing Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. I had started the day with less than 5 hours invested into the game and spent 6 hours of my valuable, Summer Sunday in front of my computer. I enjoyed myself and loved Bloodstained, but I know that it was a giant waste of my day. I could have easily finished the game over the following week instead of cramming it into an afternoon. I think this is also a problem with how we consume our entertainment nowadays. There is such an incredible amount of content that it’s tied into our human addictions to consume. We need to finish this book so we can watch this series, we need to finish this series so we can move on to the next series we’re behind on, oh and we need to play three games that came out this week and rewatch the entire series of The Office before it gets removed from Netflix. The new MCU movie needs to be watched TODAY or the whole world will spoil it for me. The mentality is dangerous and addictive and for me adds a strange layer of anxiety to my enjoyment of things I like.
About the same time I employed my ONE GAME AT A TIME policy, I also decided to actively take breaks from gaming a few times a year. Sure, there’s still 1001 JRPGs I would like to play and finish or 10 new releases this month I’d like to try, but for the sake of health and professional improvement it makes the most sense to take a break. I’m in the middle of a gaming break right now. I had finished Bloodstained and wanted to move onto the next game, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order. I started playing the game, and while I can confirm that it’s a solid action game, it wasn’t grabbing me like I thought it would. I considered buying Fire Emblem for Switch or another few indie games, but ultimately decided that it was break time. I also was told NOT to buy Fire Emblem, because my birthday is coming up and that’s probably something someone would want to buy for me.
Sidebar: I have a terrible habit of buying myself everything I want and it frustrates those who wish to buy gifts for me for birthdays and holidays.
I put my switch away after scouring the webstore for something to buy or trying to force another game on myself. I dug through Steam and the PSN store. Nothing was grabbing me or retaining my attention for more than a few minutes. So, time for a break. I shut down the consoles and started reading some books, manga, and started to watch some of the series I wanted to catch up on. I still haven’t felt the urge to play video games, and I’ll jump back in once I want to.
This isn’t my first break, but I definitely have learned from my non-gaming periods. Last year after I finished God of War in April, I was in a similar spot. I had no games to play and similarly, nothing was grabbing me. I took a break and spent my time writing (to no success) and reading. At first it felt a little strange, as gaming is very much a part of who I am as a person. Actively taking a step back from video games was difficult at first, but I found more productive things to fill my time with. More productive than trying to force myself into a game I had no interest in. Reading is an important facet of life that I had neglected for far too long and a video game break was the perfect time to expand those horizons. I felt good about it, like I was broadening my horizons a little bit and making myself functionally uncomfortable. I don’t want to make it seem that one art form is better or more important than another, but books are an important medium that I often ignore far too much. It’s also cool to switch on a dim light, turn on some lo-fi hip hop and cruise through some literature. I read self-help books, biographies, novels, and finally started reading manga. It was a very cool learning experience and I appreciated that first true gaming break. It allowed me to expand my interests and focus more on honing my understanding of what I like.
My life is surrounded by video games. My office at home is loaded up with retro and modern consoles. I have video game posters on my walls and toys in my desks. I can’t walk three feet in my house without bumping into something related to Mario. So taking a gaming break felt like an impossibility, but there were other benefits than venturing into different mediums of art. Instead of forcing a game into my schedule, I let releases hit the world and shrugged them off. I didn’t need to play every AAA title at that point in time. I scheduled an end to my break though, as Octopath Traveler was set to release in July of 2018, I told myself that my break would end on its release day. I also built in an option, if this game didn’t grab and speak to me on another level, I’d put it away and continue my break throughout the summer until Spider-Man released in September. Octopath Traveler got me good, and I spent the next month or so pumping 70+ hours into its story. I loved every second of my time with Octopath and it felt like a reawakening, as though I learned how to truly appreciate gaming again. I know the old proverb of “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, and it felt like it was in full effect here.
I played Octopath and then played Snatcher on Sega CD, followed up by Spider-Man and Mega Man 11. I was enjoying myself with games again, and I think the break had a major impact. When I took my break, I wasn’t as engrossed or appreciative as I used to be of video games. God of War didn’t resonate with me as it did with others, and I think it was due to my gaming exhaustion. I loved the game, but I think I need to replay it with a more engaged mind next time and then fully understand why that game speaks to so many people.
It’s healthy to take a step back every so often and try to analyze our interests and what we’re spending time on. Gaming is a wonderful hobby and one I plan to enjoy forever, but I it’s important to not force yourself into something if it’s not resonating with you at that point in time. I’m not demanding that any of you do this or that any of you take a break from gaming (or any other hobby), but I wanted to share my experiences and tell you what I got out of it. I’m in the middle of yet another break and enjoying it! I hope to return to gaming with Fire Emblem later this month. If you have any history of taking breaks from gaming, how’d it work out for you?