No play; uninstall game

I don’t write about video games much anymore. Yet, given the long history of this blog, and the fact that I started it over seven years ago to write about video games exclusively, that should really bother me more than it does. It feels like it should, anyway, I guess. But, well, I’m rather nonchalant about it. Instead of a loss, it feels more like a natural extension of where I’ve been headed for over a year now: into more development and mostly causal play.

When looking over my video game collections on various consoles recently, I was trying to decide if this is just a function of me getting older — 30 is very close now — or that, having gone so very long without a disposable income to throw at new games, I’ve finally made peace with the fact that I’ll never be on the cutting edge or be a part of the “in” crowd that instantly buys and talks about products as they come out. Something that, even early last year, I would have been very anxious about — am I playing the right current games? Should I buy now and hope to be part of the “critical” group discussing this? Can I really afford to do that? Do I have the time?

Now, though, and really more in the last few months, I’ve stopped caring about those worries. Not only do I still not have the money to spent on the latest digital baubles, I’ve arrived at the realization I probably won’t ever be able to do that.  After a decade of near or at minimum wage, I don’t really see my fiscal situation improving to such a high degree that I’d be able to pay off bills, including student loans, and be able to throw $60 or more dollars at new games every month. I just don’t see that happening at all.

So, I came a decision pretty recently. I went through all my video game collections, those on the consoles I own and especially on Steam, and reviewed each game. If I hadn’t played it in over four months and couldn’t come up with a valid reason to save it, I uninstalled or deleted it completely. I made my way through what I had saved, downloaded or installed, those games I never managed to finish or get all the trophies or achievements for, and just took them off their respective systems. Even when I didn’t need to do it, if I didn’t really need to clear out space, I did it anyway. This wasn’t about making room for new games. This was to clean out things I hadn’t ever played or needed to stop feeling guilty about never finishing.

The result, I’m proud to report, has been very liberating. Instead of having to feel even the slightest bit of guilt every time I saw a game I hadn’t finished or quite gotten all the trophies or achievements for, I could forget about them. Without their cover art or titles to remind me, I didn’t need to think about even playing them at all. I could, in many ways, start again to only buy games I actually wanted to play. All those things I’d saved in the hopes of trying to impress other people are, for the most part, now gone.

It has reduced my collections considerably. And it has made me think more about why I even buy games in the first place and brought to the surface how, for a very long time now, I was plagued with the anxiety of wanting to be a part of a community I’ve finally figured out wants no part of anything I bring to the table and which I can finally give up trying to impress. If I can’t be part, I see no reason to keep trying now. Not to mention what a drain emotionally it was for so very long to constantly wonder if I was doing the things that placed me in that group. Now, I can ignore all that shit and move on with my video game playing.

3 thoughts on “No play; uninstall game

  1. rwelean

    I also sometimes feel an impulse to buy a game right when it comes out and be part of that first wave of responses. But most single-player games are just as fun to play after the hype has died away. And it’s possible to discuss them too! I kind of miss the vintage game club for that reason.

    I’d be interested to hear about how your enjoyment of games changes as you go through this process of playing things for fun (although writing about it might tint your experience?). After I dropped out of grad school, I went through most of my books and got rid of all the ones I didn’t want to read and felt guilty for not reading. It was rather liberating! I don’t have to read those classics unless I want to!

    1. Dan Cox

      I’ve still been playing games! I just haven’t been, you know, writing anything about them. Like, I finally got to the kill screen of Fez yesterday, for example, but I didn’t really have much to add other than “That’s a neat game right there. I like it.”

      It’s the expectation of “This is an essay about video games, so it better be super introspective or about a relationship of some sort” that drives me crazy. I don’t like that kind of writing and it makes me uncomfortable to produce it. I usually feel so incredibly sad afterwards.

      Plus, thinking about grad schools, I’m under some pressure to put more effort into writing articles about mobile usage and development lately, so I haven’t even been thinking about games more than grabbing whatever might be free via PSN Plus or Free with Gold each month for awhile now.

      To me, I guess, it feels like I’m trying to get back into a position where I was years ago where I’m okay with just playing World of Warcraft or Hearthstone some and not having to worry if that’s okay with others. If somehow I’m not living up to the “critical writer” label if I just play a casual game a couple times a week and call it done for video game playing.

      I’m conflicted about it, I guess? That’s, at least, the current position right now, probably. I very often feel the need to justify my time spent playing a game by listening to a podcast or show at the same time. Playing games “just ’cause” stills seems strange sometimes.

      1. rwelean

        XD I think it’s completely okay to play games and not have deep thoughts about them. You shouldn’t have to justify what you do with your time off! On the other hand, I also understand the compulsion to achieve things and feel like you’re doing something worthwhile with your gaming time.

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