Games Gaming

Gaming Timesink

Today I realized that I don’t really play a lot of different games anymore. The last few weeks I’ve been playing Stellaris… the same game that I was making youtube videos of when I was doing youtube still like 3 or 4 years ago. The game really hasn’t changed that much, which may be part of the reason I still enjoy it, but even beside this game which I recently just picked back up in the last few weeks… if I think back on the games that I’ve played over the last year… it’s Stellaris, Imperator, Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley, No Man’s Sky… and umm…. is that it? That may be it. There were a few games that I’ve put a few hours in here and there like Littlewood I’ve played a little. I tried picking up Shadowrun Returns for a short time… Hell, I think I even put in an hour or two into Minecraft at one point.. but these types of games never really stuck.

Then I sit and compare my game playing of Wii vs Switch. Now overall, I feel like I like the games better that are on Switch… yet when I contemplate the games that I’ve played, I think it’s around 10, maybe 15 games. I then went back and counted the games on the Wii that I played and the number is around 50. Now granted, the Switch was around for a few more years and so I had more time to play those games, but I feel like I seriously outpaced myself. Similarly, I feel like I played more DS games and even Gamecube games than I have played 3DS games.

What really astonishes me about this is that when I think about the days where Wii was at its height… I had a roommate and only one TV so if I wanted to play a game, either she didn’t want to use the TV or I had to play with her. I also went out and did more during that time frame. We would go out shopping, go out to eat, go for a walk, go to a park, go do something… Now… I don’t even go grocery shopping anymore (thanks COVID). I also worked more back then. I had a job where we were rolling out a new system and I was putting in 60 hour work weeks, even when I finally went back to 40, I was putting in 10 hour days. The work was more tiring, and now adays, I almost never go over 40 (secretly, I probably work around 35 for real but I have a high output so I’m OK with it). And I also tend to be done with work at like 1pm whereas I was coming home at 6 or 6:30 (also no commuting these days, even before WFH was enforced, I had a 10 minute commute compared to a 40 minute commute, each way).

So WTF!?! How is it that I was playing more games back then, than I am now? And still able to go out and do more than I am now? It’s mind boggling!

I do think there are a few reasons why this happened… First, though having a roommate (and periodic daughter) meant that I couldn’t always use the TV when I wanted to for games, sometimes both my roommate and my kid would in fact play games with me. This led me to play games like Mario Kart, Mario Party and Boom Blox. I bought Mario Party for Switch, but now, I have no one to play with so games like this just never get played anymore by me, though I still love them and wish I could. Even games like Mario were more likely to get played.

Back then, PC games were also just not what they are now. Minecraft really turned the table on PC gaming but it took time for more than just a handful. I have always been a bigger PC gamer, but during those years I can only think of a couple of PC games that I played. I know my roommate and I both played Sims… either 2 or 3 or both. Minecraft was in the mix, as was Everquest 2 and Civilization. But I didn’t really put in the time that I put into PC gaming these days. Back then, I think I mostly played PC some weekend mornings (roommate slept in) and evenings after the roommate had gone to bed. Interesting bit here though, I slept in the living room when my kid was around so this too led me to play more console games after she went to sleep. Now… I play predominately games that are serious time sinks. 4X games constitute probably around 75% of all gaming I do. And when I get into Paradox games in particular that number goes up dramatically. Civ games I can generally do a game in a day or two, but Paradox games almost always take a week or two to complete just a single game. They are huge time investments, and often time a failure in a game will lead me to want to play again directly afterwards to fix my mistakes. This leads to weeks of time sink.

There’s also the recording paradox that I sort of mentioned in my previous post. Recording in general is just generally a bigger timesink. When you record a video, you have to edit it, create thumbnails, and post and that all takes time, and honestly it only takes slightly less when streaming. There’s a lot of offline work you have to do to record. But the paradox for which I mentioned has to do with this internal struggle that I have where I feel that I can’t play a game unless it is being recorded, and so often times I put games aside because I don’t have the time or desire to record right now. Both Fire Emblem 3 Houses and Pokemon Sword/Shield fell into this trap a little bit even though, for Pokemon in particular, I wasn’t even recording at the time.

Thinking about this time, I think I was overall happier, and yeah I think I was happier largely because I had a roommate to share my life with. Like I said, we went out and did stuff very regularly, and she did a good job at pulling me out of my comfort zone on a regular basis. Leave me to my own devices, and I’m likely just to sit in front of a PC and surf the web and play games all day… which is essentially what I reverted to almost the minute that I was alone. But even beside this, I feel like me sinking so much time into 4X games, and paradox games in particular… is bad for me. I mean… I do enjoy these games quite a bit, but they fall into a similar trap, I feel, that I get from Diablo games… I play Diablo, not because it’s a good game, it’s OK… but because it is a completely brainless game that I can sit and zone out with. I don’t have to pay attention to what’s happening, i don’t have to think about it, I don’t have to remember, I can just sit down and kill stuff. Oddly, I feel like I get the same pleasure from playing a game like Stellaris. Yes, it isn’t brainless, you have to think about what your plan of attack is. Although, I will note, once you have a strategy that you tend to follow, the amount of thinking is actually fairly minimal. There is no reading in these games, there’s little remembering, it’s just a bunch of clicking. You can sit and zone out REALLY easily once you’ve figured out a base strat. this might be a primary reason that I have such a difficult time picking up new versions… for instance, I still haven’t played Crusader Kings 3 largely because I don’t want to learn, I just want to play. That alone speaks loudly to the amount of brain power that you actually use with these games!

I don’t think other PC games are bad though. If I sat down and played Meat Boy or even Stardew Valley to a degree, I think I get a different thing out of it. I really need to start thinking about these games as to why I am playing them repeatedly over and over again. Am I playing them because I actively have fun? Or because they are fun, but I really am just zoning out? I think there is nothing wrong with zoning out from time to time, realistically I used to watch TV much for this reason. But I think it’s easy to get stuck in a cycle when you are zoning out in video games. A TV show ends… it creates natural brain wake up points every half hour or so. Hell even the commercials will snap you out of it. But once you get into a game, you can literally get lost for hours… days… weeks. It can be dangerous to zone this way. And I think I fell into that trap.