Summer is just beginning and I, as a normally frantically busy college student, am faced with the “challenge” (if I can even call it that) of having more free time than I know what to do with. In the struggle to find a productive and/or creative outlet with which to use my time wisely, I often find myself spending some of that time in my sort of default position: playing games.
I’ve noticed since finishing school for the year and actually having the time to play games, that the way I play games has changed drastically. No longer are the days of exploring every last corner of the world of Xenoblade Chronicles, or trying to find every collectible in Donkey Kong 64. I had close to no time to play games during the school year, and when I did, I had to get strategic about it. I became obsessively aware of how valuable my time was and how I was spending it.
There are a few trends in my play style that developed during this time. Some were already slightly apparent, but they for the most part came to be as a result of my busy schedule. For example, one overarching theme is that I tend to spend more time thinking about games and researching them than I do actually playing them. This sounds odd, but I believe it may actually be more typical than people think. I mean what kind of person would write about games anyway? I’ve always been more interested in the history, development, and critique/analysis of games than I am with playing them. This is an attitude that I think is more commonplace among other mediums such as film. For me it became even more dominant when I found myself with less time to actually sit down and play through something.
Anyway, my actual play style these days consists of things like choosing the easiest difficulty level, and never 100% completing a game, in the rare cases that I complete a game at all. All of these things add up to an attempt to get the overall experience of a game as efficiently as possible, so that I can experience as many different games as possible, despite my limited time frame. This doesn’t mean rushing through a game necessarily, it just means that I have become increasingly selective in how exactly I spend my time in a game, and how I choose what games to play, and even more so what games to finish. I have become more in tune with what kinds of games I know I will get something out of, and what kinds of games, though I know are worth something, may just not be for me.
A great example of a game that was perfect for me is FEZ, which I just finished a couple days ago. FEZ is a game that’s not very long, but that contains a large amount of secrets. It took me about four hours to get to the end, but it would’ve taken much longer to find everything the game has to offer. This is perfect for me because FEZ was very much a game where I believed that the feel and experience of the game was what was most important. I feel like I got a lot out of playing it without having to spend hours finding all the collectibles, and secrets, not that I wouldn’t like to. I also loved FEZ because it was open-world, and had a wonderful sense of exploration. This is contrary to many other open-world games I’ve played in the past, and have mostly stopped playing. Many of these games have such an overwhelming amount of side quests and things to do that I don’t know how to handle it and it ends up more stressful for me than enjoyable. In games like this it has always felt to me more like I’m working than playing a game. I can see how a person could get addicted to that kind of work, but for the most part those kinds of games aren’t really my thing any more. There are exceptions, but this leads me to the real point I’m getting at, which is why people play games at all.
I would guess that someone who doesn’t play games would say that the reason people play them is to have fun, but I think anyone who’s played games a long time would say that this isn’t the whole truth. Many days I ask myself while playing a game if I’m having fun and the answer is often no; often I am struggling with frustration more than I am having a good time. I think the truth is that it’s just like movies or books or anything else in that it depends on what a person wants to get out of it, and that it might actually say more about the player than it says about the game. I know people who are very competitive and only play games to assert their dominance as a superior player, and then I also know people who only play games to try to relax and have fun, or even just to distract themselves. These days, I find myself more often trying to find and play games to have a good time than I do trying to be competitive, not that I don’t surprise myself from time to time. For the most part though, I think I’m gonna be an easy mode guy for good.
I’d love to hear what anyone else has to say on this topic. Thanks for reading.