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.