On a given day, my daily routine is: wake up, drive to work, work, drive home from work, walk my lovingly disobedient Corgi, kiss my fiancé square on the lips, and then fall into the beautiful abyss of indecision when confronted with the “which game should I play?” quandary during my stringent 1 – 2 hour window of free time.
Given the lack of response and the quiet movements you are making as you struggle to hide your Steam purchased-but-unplayed list, I’ll take it that you are very familiar with my “what to play” anxiety.
I can’t tell you the amount of times I have stared at the games in my library without actually playing anything, only to eventually shrug and turn on Netflix. Lately, though, it’s been happening much more often and most of the games I do end up playing are left unfinished and alone in my library. Even Prey, a game that I would wholly consider my shit – not to mention a game I poured hours into when I first started playing – has been fated to collect dust after making it halfway through its campaign.
What, then, is my problem? Why can’t I commit to one of the many incredible games released this year and finish it? Is there something wrong with me because I don’t want to play or finish games that are (apparently) universally loved?
The answer to all of those questions is easy: No, there is nothing wrong with me and there is nothing wrong with either leaving a game unfinished and moving on, or lacking the interest in a game so many adore.
If you are in the same boat as me, ashamed that you secretly harbor disinterest in a beloved game or are desperately trying to hide your finished-to-unfinished game ratio, take a breath. See? You’re fine. A divine gaming deity has not descended from the heavens to strip you of your gaming credentials for your hard opinions on Zelda, and a mob of hardcore gamers with pitchforks made of abandoned Dreamcasts are not beating down your door to force you to see all of the endings of Nier: Automata. Everything is going to be okay, no one is going to take your game box away.
Remember when I told you guys about my conflicted relationship with Persona 5? Everyone really seemed to enjoy that game, huh? Well, I didn’t finish it. In fact, I traded it in to get something else. That’s right, I said it, and I’m proud of it. You see, at some point this year, I finally stopped giving a shit about the stigma toward not beating every game and just started playing. Whether I completed a game or not, it didn’t matter; if I was having fun, it was time well spent.
The concept of playing whatever you want, whenever you want, probably seems obvious and certainly not novel, but the gaming industry can feel suffocating at times with the pressure it bestows to play everything or share fervent interest toward cherished franchises. It’s like telling someone you never listened to In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and Drake is wildly overrated – though the former may be true and the latter how you feel, they are unpopular dispositions, so others look at you strangely and you feel discouraged from being honest, and that sucks. Firewatch has quickly become one of my favorite games of all time, but if someone else despises it or never gets around to finishing it, that’s okay. I’m not hurt because others didn’t enjoy a game I’ve raved about so much, they are simply deciding their time is better suited playing another game or doing something different entirely.
If, like me, you make an active effort to stay involved in the gaming industry, it is easy to get bogged down by the notion that you’re not being a “true gamer” if you fail to finish a specific amount of games per year or you are not particularly fond of a GOTY contender. Like I said, gamers, and by extension the gaming industry, can be harsh with their opinions if you don’t take gaming as arbitrarily serious as they do. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that their severity can start leaking into your gaming habits and, worse, the level fun you can have.
That’s what happened to me. As I have gotten more and more imbedded in the gaming industry, the strain became worse, and even more so when I started writing about games and developing my own critiques. I spent money on and finished games I did not enjoy but felt compelled to finish so I could feel relevant. Eventually, it got to the point where I didn’t want to play games at all. I singlehandedly burnt myself out and started looking at games as a box to check because I was so worried about completion rather than enjoyment.
Thankfully, I’ve gotten over my gaming insecurities and play games without shitting my pants over what the fellow geeks out there think of me. If I finish Prey, cool; if I don’t, that’s cool, too. I feel like I keep coming back to this point with each article I write, but it bears repeating: video games are about fun. Yes, completion rate, speedruns, achievement and trophy hunting, and playing on the hardest difficulty are cool, and often tremendous accomplishments, but at the end of the day, if you’re not enjoying yourself, than what in the hell is the point?
If you’re reading this, and you, too, are paralyzed by the amount of games you haven’t finished or don’t find yourself praising a game others love, I am here to give you a pat on the back and a word of encouragement: play what you want, when you want, and forget about the rest. You might thank me later.