I don’t really get to spend all that much time playing games lately. It’s mostly due to having adult responsibilities and stuff, and I really like my life as it is at the moment, but I’m always a bit conscious that I don’t have all that much time to indulge in hobbies.
It’s only natural, then, that when I do get some gaming time, I’m usually trying to power through the thing as quickly as I can. I’ve only got a limited amount of time to spend with it each week, so I need to be getting through it in fairly short order lest months should pass before I can complete it. I’m no speedrunner, although I find watching speedrun videos intensely fascinating (I’ve spoken about that before, but since then I’m even more engrossed in watching people play games as fast as they can!), but I do now approach games a bit differently: I used to take my time, looking around to find all sorts of secrets, simply staying in one spot for minutes or hours at a time looking at the scenery, enjoying the story… and I still try to do that, but generally I’ll be doing my best to work out the quickest way to get to the next thing.
At the moment, for example, I’m playing Kingdom Hearts 1.5&2.5 on PS4, which means replaying my favourite franchise of all time for the first time in a while. I’m pretty rusty, but I remember enough tricks (and I’ve learned enough from YouTube) to be able to get through most of the early-game stuff extremely effectively. This is how I enjoy games these days: solve the problems as quickly as possible, move on to the next thing. It dawned on me, though, as I took out a boss without really even letting it attack at all, that by blasting through things as efficiently as I could manage, I was actively missing out on a whole lot of the experience. I love the bosses in KH. They’re so well-designed and so fun to fight, and here’s me taking them out before they have a chance to do anything.
It’s a peculiar little bit of cognitive dissonance: I’m trying to enjoy as much of the game as possible in the limited time I have, but in my efforts to achieve this I’m circumnavigating or skipping over a lot of the best bits! I am having fun beating the game in a rather badass way; it feels good to destroy these enemies and power through, but it’s a different sort of feeling good to what I felt the first time I played these games. This is a feeling of… I suppose accomplishment, but not in an entirely positive sense; before, it was wonder and joy and excitement. It’s bittersweet.
I’m reminded that there are all sorts of ways to enjoy games, and that they’re all entirely valid. Whatever is your jam, your playstyle, that’s really, genuinely awesome if it makes you happy. I think I’m now drifting away from the style that made me love games, though, and I’m not sure what to do about it.
In fact, this is happening a bit in my life in general. I have less time to do any hobbies-for-pleasure, not just gaming, so this means that I sort of end up speedrunning any thing that I’m trying to do for enjoyment. I skim-read books to get through them faster; I put podcasts at higher speeds; I eat too quickly… I find that I’m depriving myself of the enjoyment of these things in an effort to be able to simply do more of them, despite the fact that I can tell it’s not making me particularly happy. Quality over quantity ought to be the goal, but a part of me doesn’t seem to be able to accept that and just wants to do as many things as possible as quickly as possible.
I guess I’m finding it hard to accept that I simply will not be able to do as much as I used to for leisure any more, so I’m trying to cram it all in to those short periods of time. I’m hoping that I will eventually just get better at managing my time, adjusting to all these responsibilities and therefore I will actually have a bit more time to spare for just relaxing and doing things for me, but it’s going to be just as important that I take the short time I do have and use it well. If I complete ten games in as many hours, will I have enjoyed myself more than if I spent that whole time exploring and experiencing a single game? Probably not. I just need to convince that little bit of me that for some reason doesn’t want to put that into practice.
Do you find yourself rushing to squeeze in as much content as you can at the expense of actually enjoying yourself? Or have you found a way to strike that balance? Or, more generally: what’s your gaming style? How do you most like to enjoy a game? Let me know! I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts.