There is an odd phenomenon that comes over me at least once a year. Seemingly without warning, a wave of fatigue and indifference sweeps into my head. Within other leisurely pursuits, this is not uncommon. Writers will report having massive writers block, and languish over the first few words typed into a Word document. Equally, a painter or sculptor might stare at a blank canvas or lump of clay, bereft of any kind of muse. Whilst my own fog is hardly detaining me from anything quite so noble and creative, it nevertheless proves just as disruptive and perhaps upsetting. My vice is videogames. More than TV, music (playing and listening to), reading, walking, driving, sports observation and writing, I feel most at ease and entertained when grasping a Dualshock or a mouse and keyboard.
And yet, once again, I find myself as I did in December 2014; lacking any enthusiasm or willingness to go through the suddenly arduous process of turning on a console, or logging into Steam, or sitting through a loading screen, or, heaven forbid, playing one of the damn things.
I’m at the tail end of one of these funks now, and it is with this is mind that I thought to do two things. Firstly, reintroduce myself to the Destructoid community. Hello, my name is Aidan.
1. Do something else for a bit.
Seemingly the most obvious answer. If you don’t want to game, don’t game, right? Unfortunately, for someone in my position (on two weeks forced annual leave, because I have to use it or lose it by March 31st, and living in a village with only a Co-Operative, an Indian restaurant and a hairdressers, you run out of other things to do fast; especially when every other friendly face is at work.
2. Replay one of your old favourites.
One of the best ways to reconnect with gaming is to do something that reminds you of why you love the damn hobby in the first place. Like a married couple in their mid-forties having a second honeymoon in Paris, sometimes you have to look to the past to see why there should be a future. Personally, I returned to the first game I ever loved (Sega Rally Championship 1995 on the Sega Saturn if you’re asking) revisited a more recent flame (added three more hours to the 1004 hours that Steam says I have spent playing Left 4 Dead 2) and revisited my gaming adolescence (played Banjo Kazooie for a bit).
3. Try out something you missed.
We all have favourite genres. Mine are racing, first-person shooters, and horror. There are, however, glaring omissions from my gaming history. Until last week, I had never played what many consider to be two of the most important FPS’s; Doom and Half-Life. Inspiration came to me listening to the Jimquisition podcast, when Laura stated that the original Doom was unplayable without prior history with the game granting rose tinted goggles. Whilst I myself had never progressed any further than a level or two into the game, and my only history of it prior to that being sitting in a caravan on holiday in Cornwall, covering my five year old eyes with a cushion whilst my Dad blasted through the Super Nintendo port because the noises scared me, I felt determined to prove her wrong. Four hours later, I had done just that; having been slightly egged on by the new Doom campaign trailer; the aim now being to complete Doom II as well before it comes out in May. On the back of Doom, seeing Gordon Freeman's face peering and winking out of my Steam library proved an enticing invitation, and can now claim the entirety of the Half-Life franchise under my belt. Perhaps more entertaining than the walk through history playing these old games provide is just how different these games feel to today's offerings, having been developed in a very different time, when cynicism and DLC practices were a glint in Ubisoft’s eye. In short, if you love a particular genre or developer, look at what they have produced of note in the past, and give it a go. It might relight your spark.
4. Make a list.
Chances are, you have something you refer to as a backlog of games. This can range from games you bought with every intention to play, but haven’t found the time, games you started, but fell out of love with, or even just games that wormed their way into your basket in a Steam sale. Getting too obsessed with a backlog has previously been the cause of my longer hiatuses. Then you find yourself unwilling to purchase another game, in fear that it will become just another item on a growing list of things you spent too much money on.
That said, backlogs can be a good thing. Ultimately, all this means is you have more games to hand that you haven't finished before. One trick I have learnt is to operate two backlog lists to keep track and prioritize. And before you ask, yes, I do mean literal lists. It might not take everyone’s fancy, but I like the action of physically crossing them off with a pen.
My first list is one of games for the current generation (8th gen, PS4, WiiU and Xbox One, as well as Vita and 3DS) which I would ideally like to complete before purchasing something new for these consoles. My general rule is that I am allowed to buy something new and shiny as long as there is no more than five items already on the list. Currently, this list is five items long, and includes the half of Bloodborne: The Old Hunters DLC I haven't got back round to doing since New Years Eve, all but one Game of Thrones episodes, Xenoblade Chronicles X in its intimidating 100 hour long state, the seemingly infinite Elite: Dangerous, and Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy. Before I allow myself to buy Far Cry Primal (if its good), Dark Souls III (will be good) or Doom (I hope its good), one of these games must be conquered, so as not to end up with a list resembling what I have come to refer to as “the other list”.
The Other List contains any games from older generations of consoles or Steam sales which I consider to still be worthwhile of playing; 360, Wii and PS3 games I never got round to, along with classics like Link to the Past and Secret of Monkey Island that I didn't have the means to play at the time of their release. These are all games I still have every intention of playing and finishing, but which I am not going to let get in the way of enjoying new games. Revisiting this list in the last fortnight has led to a few games being crossed off (the aforementioned Doom and Half-Life, along with Her Story). I am also ten cases into L.A. Noire as we speak. Whittling down this list over time is still satisfying, and yet does not weigh heavily on my conscience when I go out and be a dirty great consumer if I don't make progress.