Post-Game Depression

Have you ever finished beating a game, only to find yourself lacking all motivation to do anything else for days afterwards?

Yeah, that’s me right now.

In this particular case, the diagnosis is easy. The last game I played was Metal Gear Solid 5 on Sunday, two days ago. According to Steam, I logged 75 hours /played. The game was released on the 1st. I did not actually start playing until the next day, but that means I spent an average of 6.25 hours a day on this singular piece of entertainment. To speculate that there might be some sort of withdraw symptoms associated with such behavior is extremely fair.

It’s an interesting phenomenon to explore while mired deep in it. I knew it was coming with MGS 5, but I’ve experienced it even in games I haven’t mainlined to quite this degree. I’m even relatively certain why it happens: it comes from the sudden loss of a body of useful experience. Games are a system of rules and, over time, you come to absorb these rules into yourself in the form of knowledge and reflexes. You generally get better at the games you play. You understand them more. You begin to anticipate future actions. All useful things in the context of playing a particular game.

Then it ends.

All that gaming minutia forged in the fire of experience… becomes irrelevant. Sure, it will still be there for you should you ever turn the game on again. My memorization of all the pulls of every TBC heroic might come in handy should I reinstall WoW during a Timewalking weekend. But just like after a breakup, sometimes (most times) you just got to let things go. The memories will stay with you in all your new experiences, but the specific way their hand fit into yours will not. That special, secret knowledge no longer has an application, and your mind mourns as it reclaims the space.

I enjoy playing games and will continue to do so in the future. It is precisely the mechanic of learning new systems that I enjoy games so – finding the contours, the edge pieces, the optimization. I enjoy this in spite of knowing the inevitable end of this process, the returning to Square One with a new game and novel idiosyncrasies.

Titles comes and go, but the process, the root that generates joy, is eternal.

Still… the ennui inbetween, I could do without.

Posted on September 16, 2015, in Philosophy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I’m glad there are other people out there who still remember all the pulls in the TBC heroics. Even when I ran Ramparts on normal years later, by which point it had become a complete AoE fest, I would still think about how that one mob needed to die quickly or he would summon adds, that caster was best off CCed, and there was that patrol from around the corner to watch out for… funny how persistently that completely obsolete knowledge has stuck in our heads.


    • Oh man, such memories about those mobs that Fear in SLabs, or even the ones in Sethekk Halls that drop mind-control totems. Roll the dice… hey, it hit the tank, now we wipe. Actually, just thinking about SLabs made me shudder. Clearing out the amphitheater area while desperately trying to AoE the stealthed mobs that will otherwise one-shot the healer out of nowhere? I’m pretty sure that heroic took 2-3 hours on average.

      Those dungeons certainly made an impression that stuck around, most likely due to blunt-force trauma than good design. Then again, I started WoW in TBC, so perhaps it was simply because those were my first heroic experiences.


  2. Yep. I experience similar with books as well.


    • I remember when I finished the Wheel of Time series… that was rough. The author change was bad enough, but 13 massive novels later is a lot of mind geography to reclaim. And Dune. And Ender’s Saga. And His Dark Materials. And… pretty much all of them, now that I think about it.


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