Don’t forget to stop and smell the Fire Flowers.

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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.

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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.

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I don’t stop and look at the scenery any more; I just rush through it to whatever’s next. I’d miss out on all this – I’d miss out on the game itself for the sake of ‘finishing’ it, as if that’s worth more than ‘playing’ it and ‘enjoying’ 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.

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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.

13 comments

  1. One thing I’ve learned in my few years of living the married life/parenting/adulting-in-general is that free time seems to come in seasons. Right now, for example, I don’t feel like I have as much as I used to because I go to sleep earlier as a resulting of having a longer commute to work. Once I move and my commute gets shorter, I’ll be able to sleep later, which means I can stay up later -I’ll also get home earlier in the afternoon, etc. There are seasons where my wife and I spending time together is watching the same show or playing the same game, and seasons where it’s doing separate things in the same room and having conversations about it or just snuggling while we’re occupied. So my encouragement would be that this busy time will pass for you, and a time will come when you have more time to enjoy gaming in the way you did previously.

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  2. This is really interesting and something I’m sure a lot of us have had to think about over the years.

    It’s fascinating to read your view on it, because I approach it completely differently. I haven’t finished a game this year, I’ve watched my partner finish a couple but haven’t actually finished any myself. I often read about people watching a 5 series tv-show in like three days, wheras it can take me over a year, and the same with games.

    I only start games I know (well, as close as possible to know) that i’ll love, and then spend as much time with them as is humanly possible. I just feel no urge to fit in ‘as much as possible’ in any scenario, it’s the same when I go on holiday, I simply enjoy not doing very much, but I feel I take as much from the experience as someone who goes to 30 museums in one day. The experience is completely different but neither is better or worse as it’s a personal judgement on what you enjoy the most.

    Feel free to read this comment as simply ‘Pix is lazy’ if you want to though 😛

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  3. You bring up another point that I was thinking about but forgot to include, actually! The whole thing of ‘only starting a game that you’re as sure as can be you’ll enjoy’ – with the pressure to fit in as much as I can, which basically translates to ‘as many games as I can’, I end up being incredibly selective. It probably wastes more time because I’m spending so long working out which games are ‘worth’ playing, you know?

    That one’s not new for me, though. I’ve always had a sort of ‘hobby guilt’, where I feel like I need to be doing my leisure time really well. (I’m well aware that that doesn’t make any sense.) So if I’m not reading a book that’s any good, I’ve… like, wasted that time that I could have used better.

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  4. Ahh, Hobby Guilt sounds difficult! It’s a shame to think you will feel you’ve wasted your time. At least you can stop reading/playing/watching things you don’t like before the end if you’re feeling it isn’t a good use of your time. You will also have learned from that experience I think, making it worthwhile in the long run.

    Because I play so few games I have lots of time to assess upcoming games by reading the odd article/blog post or just judging feeling on Twitter. For you though it might not be worth using your time for research and you’d be better just diving in and finding out!

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  5. I like to take my time so I don’t mind that it might take me a while to finish games. I like to look at the visuals and go through the game’s story slowly.

    For example I spent a lot of time in Destiny Islands in the first game of Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX because I wanted to explore the island and do the mini battles a few times. I can understand wanting to see the story and experience the game quickly, but I just like to experience games slowly. Although, because I play games slowly it can take me a few months to finish a game.

    Plus, I am easily amused so I can easily get distracted in games. I got distracted by how adorable Trico is in The Last Guardian. I just wanted to keep petting him and I was supposed to be solving puzzles!

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  6. That’s a great approach! I used to feel I ‘had the luxury’ of playing that way, and I guess I’ve lost that because I don’t feel that I have that luxury. I just need to find that feeling again, even if it means accepting that it’s going to take me a long time to complete anything!

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  7. I would recommend accepting that it’s going to take a long time to complete games. I believe it’s much more fun and relaxing to experience anything leisurely, whether it is games, movies, books, anime, or TV, without a timeline. Otherwise you feel pressured to complete everything by a certain date and that takes the fun out of the relaxing part of playing!

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  8. I’ve been struggling with this myself, which is partly why I’ve taken a step back in my writing habits. I had been plowing through games as fast as possible, renting what I can, when I can, so I could create content for my blog. The only this is that I haven’t been enjoying it at all. I have been missing that magic because I’ve been trying to conquer games instead of enjoying them.

    That’s why I shifted focus and took the pressure off. I started writing about the games I’m playing for fun, when I can play them instead of cramming as much time in as possible to help me write. It’s meant that I haven’t been giving myself time to make videos or write any reviews, but I’ve been having fun again at the very least.

    Not great for Falcon Game Reviews, but great for my sanity. My method is now just to play what I want to play at the time instead of forcing myself to play something I have interest in at the moment. If that means I don’t play at all some days, so be it. Better that than ruining my hobby for myself.

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  9. I hope you’re able to find that balance soon! I’ve had points in my life when I feel like I’m cramming in rushed hobbies and not enjoying them as much because I want more than I have time for. I’ve been able to find the balance more and more lately. I’m finding gaps of time that I didn’t realize I could fit them into, allowing myself to have smaller consumption goals, and making sure to make time for my hobbies so I can stop and enjoy them properly.

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