It Also Gets Harder

You know, I used to look down on “mobile gamers.” Or rather, they just never figured into my headcanon for what a real gamer was. Your mom playing Candy Crush is not the same as you playing a MMO for a decade on a $1200 PC. Nevermind how both developers are technically under the same corporate umbrella these days.

This past week, I went three days in a row without playing games.

Some of that was due to literally not having the time. My window these days is precisely between 8:30pm and 10:30pm, which is after the baby goes to sleep the first time, and when he wakes up for another bottle right before I should be going to sleep. Two hours seems like a decent chunk of time, but that is also the time I have to burn to get chores done around the house. By the time my ass hits the computer chair, it’s 9:50pm and… what then? What am I meaningfully playing for 40 minutes?

Of course, I am not counting the time spent playing Clash Royale. Or sometimes Hearthstone (Adventures). Those ~12 minute increments add up throughout the day in ways they could not via any other games. But these are not real, substantial narrative experiences.

After a while though, I have to start asking myself if that is what I even want. Maybe not in 40-minute increments, but surely I could make time elsewhere, if it were that important to me? I certainly seem to default back to Reddit browsing and low-effort time-killing readily enough. Almost as though I’m enjoying myself.

Luckily enough, I got through the ennui by the end of that week. But it did get me to thinking about what kind of gaming experience I was looking for.

Posted on December 14, 2019, in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I’ve recently gone back to school and had started Deus Ex: Mankind Divided shortly before going back. I was so busy that it took me nearly two months to finish the back third of the game. I started looking for something that I could play in smaller (or on occasion, larger) increments without a ton of keeping up with a deep narrative.

    It was actually your post about Path of Exile and bemoaning the existence of powerful stress free builds that led to me picking PoE back up. It’s been a nice thing to spend a bit of time with a few nights a week before bed. I’m enjoying it.


    • Ha, I can see how Path of Exile would be good at that. Hell, I sometimes get the insane urge to resub to WoW and just level some alts mindlessly, even now. But my docket is packed for the next decade and if I let inertia take the wheel, I would never get anything done.

      … where “done” is actually play any of the dozens of games I spent money on.


  2. I did find the sentence “This past week, I went three days in a row without playing games” startling. Not because I think there’s anything in the least odd about going that long without playing games but because it made me think about how rare it would be for me to do so.

    As I frequently mention, I don’t realy identify as a “gamer” but it would be a very unusual for me to go three days without playing a video game. I never play when I go away on hoiday, so that’s about three weeks a year I play no games at all. And I didn’t play any games when I was in hospital this year. But, basicaly, every day I am at home, I will play some game on the PC for some period of time, usually measured in hours.

    Is that good? Bad? Meaningless? I don’t know. Should you be pleased that you went three days without playing? Even if wasn’t intentional. I actually stopped drinking alcohol accidentally in just that way – I went a few days without drinking, realized it had happened, wondered how long I could keep the run going and never started again. That was several years ago. I had no wish or desire to stop drinking and wasn’t at all worried about how much I drank, even though it was a fair amount. It just happened and when it had happened I felt quite comfortable with the new status quo and carried on.

    Maybe if you just stopped gaming you’d find you wouldn’t miss it at all.


    • It is true that when I stopped playing WoW for 5-6 hours a day, that the time ended up being filled with other things. Reddit, mostly. But gaming in general generates such novel experiences and scratches fundamental itches in ways no other medium can, that I find it impossible to replace.

      For example, there are countless posts on this blog where I spent an inordinate amount of time optimizing the fun out of a game in which such optimization is not necessary. I do that because the optimization process itself is fun. In what other medium can I transfer that experience? I can’t optimize the way I watch a TV show or movie or in reading a book. Those can tell stories that make me think, but they typically won’t be simmering in the back of my mind during the next work day, accelerating the tedium of real life, bringing me closer to my next play session.

      Above all, it’s relaxing. Satisfying. All of us can surely go several days without relaxation or satisfaction, but… why would we choose to?

      Liked by 1 person

      • This is exactly why games are my number one hobby. It’s not always about optimization necessarily, but I like to think about it, make plans for what to do, how to progress etc., maybe ponder switching class or creating another alt, all that stuff.

        It’s like you said, there really isn’t another medium that can be engaged with as actively and heavily, even whilst not consuming it.


  3. To be fair, mobile gaming has also changed a lot over the years. A game like CR or CoC has more content/grind, and requires more player skill to be ‘good’ than most PC games these days, while in the early days of mobile most games were little better than TI83 programs. As the playerbase has matured, so have the games it feels.


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