Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Getting Burned Out on Games

Before we begin, I'd like to congratulate HarassmentPanda, author of the excellent video game law blog Laws of Play, for the banner he created. Thank you very much to all other contributors, I know it was an act of kindness and I really appreciate the wild stuff that got sent in.

On with the week's post.

It's always an awkward topic to bring up the concept of getting burned out with someone who plays games. Many folks are used to being told that they're a waste of time (usually by someone who watches a lot of reality TV) and don't exactly want to say that they get sick of games. Instead the game is labeled bad or you get someone explaining that all video games have officially ceased to be fun. There's the added caveat that with contentious children who cannot accept critical opinions of their favorite game, well, admitting you get tired of video games is just another bullet to use against you.

Like most of you, I obviously enjoy video games. It's just a matter of accepting the fact that I get sick of them sometimes. Not all of them and not any particular genre (I'll play anything once) but rather just the huge time commitment they involve.

It's not really a problem of ALL games being too long, it's just that a lot of games are too long for their actual game design. Take the FPS. How long is running around shooting stuff going to actually stay entertaining and new? When is it eventually just going to become a grind because you know everything about the game design? Far Cry 2 got away with it for about fifteen hours, games like Call of Duty pace better but they still go on too long. The gold standard of brevity in the FPS, Portal, is not just a model game because it's fun or it has a clever design. It's the right length so that by the end, you're about done with it. There is some designer term for this, chunking I think, but I'm rushing out the door to work and would rather admit to being wrong now than have it happen in the comments.

There's lots of problems with pointing out the reality of this. People dropping 60 bucks for a game that's the proper length (see Wanted) are going to be pissed about the principle of the matter. Price drops, social change, and the growing recognition that lots of the people who play games do not have buckets of free time are all factors keeping this back.

There is a very kind group of people that are actual writers connected with the industry or who work in games that are always very eloquent and polite with me. I asked around and decided to see what they thought of getting tired of playing games.

Bless them.


SnakeLinkSonic said...

I'm actually on the verge of writing one very large doctrine that accompanies this sort of fatigue. For me, the problem has never been as much of a burnout of the games themselves, just "the system' around it. I got tired of "keeping up" with the industry so-to-speak last year. I couldn't be happier right now as a gamer. Even though I'm one of those blessed by a lot of free time, I do feel the need sometimes to just simply not play anything.

It's just a matter of priority as well as time, as many people don't obsess over the medium like I do. I actually think the traditional burnout is an admittance of the glorified consumption of the games as they are. It's actually not all our fault, but the way we play and are led from one game to the next forces us to reach a point where we need downtimes.

At this point I'll use one of my wanky metaphors. Say you're someone who really loves pizza and orders it daily. Even if you order drastically different types of pizza, you'll still get sick of it eventually. However, there's not so much of a wall here as there is a large gaping chasm for personal creativity. You could learn to make the dish for yourself, branch out in related categories of Italian cuisine or even find a new dish to loom over altogether for a while.

The choice is up to people on what they're going to do, the catch?

It's not like they're just gonna stop eating.


Matthew Gallant said...

Let me know if you'd like a hand getting that banner centered, I used the same theme ages ago and figured out how to hack it.

Denis Farr said...

This is very much where I am at the moment, though it appears I'm edging out of it with a few titles here and there.

It's also how I fell off the wagon about writing about them.

L.B. Jeffries said...

@ sLs

Man, I think go through all through of those pizza things every couple of months. The urge to make a game, the urge to play a radically new genre, or to just quit entirely. I like your last point, gotta do something with your free time.

@ Gallant

No worries, I kinda enjoy having it be wonky.

@ Farr

To be honest, back during the Spring while I was taking exams all I would play was Audiosurf and Spelunky in ten minute bursts. I have my little blog build-up to make that possible, but I think getting sick of them is just natural. They are, however pleasant, kinda like work.