Writing through the pain

Is game withdrawal a real thing? Are there articles in gaming magazines about the dullness, the lethargy, the lack of will to explore a new virtual world that follows a particularly intense gaming experience? If not, then let me be the first unhappy volunteer. Last week I wrote about the joy of finishing a great video game. This week every pixel seems less intense, every storyline dull. I no longer care if the character I’m guiding falls endlessly, screen after screen to his death. I’m more aggravated by difficult or unresponsive control schemes.

I’m not really excited to pick up a controller right now.

This will change, of course. It’s actually a side effect of the depth of immersion possible with some video games today. Part of the pleasure of a game like a good Final Fantasy or Red Dead Redemption is becoming invested in an entire world, getting to know the characters, overcoming challenges, and taking part in an experience that builds as it goes along. I’ve written in the past about the substantial learning curve of contemporary games, where much of the early portions of the game are devoted to tutorials, but there’s a learning curve involved in an immersive story as well. It takes time, in effect, for a game to earn its player’s trust and build a relationship.

This is one of the reasons why sequels are pervasive in the video game world. It’s smart business for a developer to make the most of an audience that a game has already built, but the economics make sense on the player’s side as well. You’re already invested in the game’s world, and you have a pretty good idea what you’re going to get out of the experience. Playing a new game is like a first date. You’re interested but tentative. Something about the game is attractive, and you want to get to know it better. Most of the time, you’ve even shelled out a dinner-worthy $20-60, but you’re still figuring out whether the game is worth a more substantial, long-term relationship.

And sometimes you go on a lot of first dates before you get a second date.

(You may laugh, but I played Red Dead Redemption for four months. I’ve only dated two people longer than that, and I married one of them.)

So I’m going on first dates right now. I’m taking the opportunity to get better acquainted with some exciting, attractive games that I couldn’t pursue because I was spending time with Red Dead Redemption. I’m taking a new look at some old friends to see if there’s the possibility of discovering something more. It’s fun, but it takes a lot of energy. There are disappointments. Sometimes it’s the game. Sometimes it’s just me.

I’ll get there. And I’ll let you know when I do.

Gavin Craig is co-editor of The Idler. You can follow him on Twitter at @craiggav.

8 Responses to “Writing through the pain”
  1. Jill says:

    This reminds me of how I feel after finishing a really, really good book, or especially after finishing a really good series of books. After spending about 10 years of my life reading Harry Potter, the world was a little less bright after I was done. Total withdrawal (you can laugh if you want).

    • Gavin Craig says:

      No laughter here. I read Deathly Hallows the day it came out, much of it while I was supposed to be watching the girls while Danielle was at work. I’m not proud, but it was worth it.

      • AVGW says:

        I felt the same when I finished reading “100 years of solitude.” I was fairly certain I’d never read anything so perfect and masterful again. For the most part, I was right.

  2. ana says:

    I go into mourning after a show I love ends. Post “Buffy,” “The Wire” and “Six Feet Under” I was a bit of a mess.

  3. I had precisely the same experience after I played Ico. Shoot. In many ways, that game spoiled gaming for me since it rounded off a series of fantastic games I found myself playing (Ikaruga, Rez, and Chrono Trigger). Now when a game doesn’t put out like they did, I almost get mad.

    • Gavin Craig says:

      I’ve been dying to try Ico, and eying the DS version of ChronoTrigger, but Ico in particular is hard to find for cheap. Shadow of the Colossus is hopeful as a rebound though.

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  1. […] I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was going on a lot of first dates, and last week I listed a handful of old games that I […]

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