The Struggle of Starting Something New

I find it really hard to start new games. It’s currently Friday afternoon, Chives is asleep on the sofa, and I’ve been sitting staring at my computer monitors for a couple of hours. The whole time I’ve been absent mindedly watching Youtube videos on various topics all the while Griftlands sits in my Steam library ready to be played, but I just can’t bring myself to hit the play button. Why?

My continued mental block to starting new games is extremely frustrating as I don’t have unlimited free time and would rather spend it doing something meaningful. Instead, I’m sat here staring off into into space with a glassy-eyed expression. So why is it that I still can’t bring myself to start it? This is something I’ve experienced numerous times over the past several years and it only seems to get worse with time.

While struggling with this over the past few weeks I had two different things happen that may have helped me identify what my major malfunction is when it comes to starting games.

Firstly, I was sat in one of Ian’s (Adventure Rules) streams and I asked if anyone else had trouble starting games. The folks chatting with me indicated they did, but one comment in particular stood out to me. Meghan (MeghanPlaysGames) noted that starting a new game feels like a commitment and that struck a chord with me. While I enjoy gaming as a hobby, obviously, starting each game with the intention of completing it does shift the way that I view the games I’m playing. Instead of playing for fun, I’m playing for completion and that adds a lot of undue pressure that lowers the enjoyment I can experience.

Back in 2014 I learned about how few people actually finish games and thought of that as a huge waste of money. As such, I would beat the games I played to their fullest to maximize as much value as I could out of them. This even extended to games I wasn’t having fun playing, which inevitably led to me being miserable for the duration that I was playing them. If you’ve ever wondered why I have such a hate boner for open-world or role-playing games this is why. Both of those genres are overrun with games where players must devote several weeks of their free time to finish them making them extremely unenjoyable to complete once they lose their luster.

While I’ve tried to cut back on this anal retentive attitude toward completion, I don’t know that I’ve done a good enough job. Over the past few years I went from finishing everything to identifying when I really don’t enjoy a game so I can put it aside and pretend it doesn’t exist. I’ve only managed to do this for a handful of titles though. It’s been an honest attempt at a first step, but hasn’t helped to dramatically shift the way I think about playing games.

Furthermore, in a discord server I run with a with a few friends we keep a tally of the games we finish every year. Despite the lack of any kind of implied competition, I still try to finish at the top of the board every year. I don’t even feel anything when I get there, but I do stop feeling a nagging need to win so I guess it’s more about making the bad feelings go away then making the good ones start. While tracking what I’ve played does provide me with a handy reference for end of year posts (top 10 lists anyone?) perhaps participating is unhealthy for my smooth monkey brain.

The other thing that got me thinking more about my mental block was a video put out by Adam Millard. The video is specifically focused on Before Your Eyes, a unique indie game controlled exclusively with your eyes. The very nature of the game’s control scheme means that players will inevitably miss out on huge chunks of the story when their bodies force them to blink, which pushes several story scenes forward. While this may seem frustrating, Adam argues that the game is better for it and that, in general, we should focus less on completion and more on enjoyment while playing games.

Similar to Meghan’s comment, this really struck a chord with me. When I view games as something to be completed, they’re no longer something fun to engage with in my leisure time, but rather an item on a list to be crossed off upon completion. When you only think about games as something to complete you begin thinking about them in terms of how many hours they’ll take to finish. Instead of simply enjoying the game in the moment, you’ve turned it into a chore that you need to allot time toward. This is made even worse for multiplayer games or roguelikes, both genres I tend to enjoy, because neither have defined endpoints so they go from looking like fun experiences to hundred hour long commitments.

All said, I believe I need to work harder to change my mindset when it comes to games. I don’t need to play every fighting game or roguelike to the point where I eat, breath, and live them. Instead of playing through all of the optional content in open-world and role-playing games, perhaps it would suit me better to play through the core content and put the game aside once I stop having fun. Through adopting a different mindset and making a commitment to change my behavior perhaps I can once again find the fun in what I play and not be programmed into fearing the start of each new experience out there.

11 thoughts on “The Struggle of Starting Something New

  1. As you very well know, I have a fairly low amount of games beaten… When compared to the others in the discord group.

    But I do still sit well above the average person, I don’t feel the same fatigue in regards to starting up new games… But I do feel something very similar when it comes to games like Destiny 2 or FIFA.

    As in I have to complete all of these checkmarks otherwise what is even the point in starting… Which have created a few points each year where I simply can’t make myself press play even if there is something I really wanna do in Destiny.

    So while it is not the same as starting something new, I do feel a wall in front of me when having to continue something.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. With Destiny and FIFA you’re specifically referring to the daily/weekly quest stuff yeah?

      If so, I find that kind of engagement usually has the opposite effect on me as well. It’s supposed to give players a reason to login and play every single day, but it is so draining to keep up with and so many games have used this system that I now find it really turns me off of playing stuff more. I find it a lot easier to jump into a daily hour or two of practice in a fighting game because that’s a goal I’ve set with a reward I want to work toward (being better at the game) versus games offering arbitrary rewards and asking me to dance like a monkey every time I play.

      As you’ve said, not exactly the same, but still a similar feeling.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I get exactly this feeling when I’m looking at my list of games still to be played on Steam, on my hard drive, on my PS4, etc. It’s the same for me with picking up new shows, even though all the commitment and input that takes is looking at a screen and paying attention to what’s happening on it. I almost need as much motivation for that as I do to work — maybe even more, because people actually expect me to work and will hold me accountable if I don’t.

    I like this more “enjoy the experience” approach to games you bring up. Maybe it has something to do with that “mindfulness” stuff people kept talking about a few years ago. It sounds like a good way to get yourself into new experiences, and certainly into new games.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually had to look up mindfulness to know what you were talking about. I’ve always thought of that as my ability to actually engage with a piece of media. I guess the main thing I want to try to do is to think to myself, “am I actually enjoying this”, while playing games and to cease playing them when the answer is no…maybe even going as far as also stopping when it’s “not really but I don’t hate it either”.

      I dunno. There is no right or wrong answer with this kinda stuff, but I do think I need to make a change and doing so is going to take a concerted effort on my part. I can’t just passively continue operating as per normal otherwise I’ll fall back on old habits.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. interesting, for me over the last year actively writing about games and media has deterred me a little from investing and in some cases even starting certain titles with the shadow of having to create or say something about them. they become a ‘job’ and working full time is tiring enough without that added pressure placed on top. the most enjoyable gaming experience I’ve had in recent months was playing through and completing the Mass Effect trilogy for the simple fact I decided early on to not actually say or write anything about these games given their age. so maybe there is that?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True. I feel like thinking about every game as a piece of content was part of what burned me waaaaaay out back in 2019. Since then I’ve only ended up making content for about a third of the things I play and I don’t start any game with the express intent of making content out of it. Rather I decide what I’m going to write about based on what I want to write about after the fact, which has freed me up to spend as much time as I want on certain titles.

      Still, there might be some traces of that same mindset still buried there. Could be something to playing certain titles after making a contract with myself where I can’t turn them into blog content, or at the very least, don’t try to turn them into blog content until I’m well and done with them (so I can still reference them in a future article should I choose to).

      Thanks for sharing, Charles. 🙂

      Like

  4. Good to know I’m not the only one on the planet who can procrastinate starting a game.

    Although for me, this extends beyond starting a new game to even launching a game I’ve already started. And less to do with any form of commitment anxiety (I know I won’t finish 9 out of 10 games I pick up and am OK with this). It’s more to do with the opportunity cost in the moment. I multitask extensively while on PC, but most games require singular focus. Or… relatively so at least.

    So starting one means an end to browsing, an end to YouTube or a show in the corner of my eye, an end to (as active) participation in Discord chats, etc.

    For you… I’m not really sure there’s too much in the way of good advice to give. Any advice here is without a doubt much, much easier to say than it is to do. Because it involves feelings more than anything else.

    Still- while having acknowledged that, I think Krikket’s view of gaming is a good one. She summarises it as ‘Play to satisfaction’ which (paraphrasing) means she gives herself permission to play as much or as little of any given game as she sees fit. If the satisfaction has gone from the experience- drop it. If the satisfaction continues past the end credits- 100% it, new game plus it, whatever.

    But when the fun ends… Well; this is a hobby. Sure, there is money on the line much of the time. But your time — even your hobby time — is valuable too. So why throw good investment on top of bad?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Solid advice, and I believe I’ve actually read Krikket’s definition of that before though I’d forgotten about it until you referenced it.

      The linked video by Adam Millard says as much to: play until you have a satisfying experience with the game and then move onto the next.

      Obviously, as you said, it takes effort on my part to actually enforce such behaviour, but as with everything eventually it’ll become habit and I won’t have to think about it. Just need to put the work in now. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The question is, do you really need to change your mindset? If you want to complete a game, then complete it. If you don’t care about it, then don’t do it. I understand how huge games can feel like too much of an investment of your time or feel like you’re committing to something. But that’s no reason to try to fundamentally change the way you view your hobby. It worked for 20 years, so it “evolved” in a way to be still fun for you.

    Obviously, sometimes you hit a slump, but that doesn’t mean you need to re-evaluate gaming as a whole. Here’s a small tip for your decision making process: Pick 2-3 games that may interest you. Start the first game with the intention of only playing a little bit before you try out the next one. If, at any point, you feel the need to try the next one, do that. But if you really start feeling that game, you’re already up and running. That way you start out without any “commitment”, but can dive right in at any time.

    I do that all the time when I start a new game OR when completing older games. For exmple, Borderlands 2 (you know I had to bring it up…). Sometimes I’m just fed up with that game. Still, I start it with the intention of doing 1 quest. That’s not a big commitment of my time, 20 mins tops. If, after the quest, I’m happy that it’s over, I’ll just stop and do something else. But sometimes, I just get in the mood and play for hours on end. Not because I made myself do it, but because I wanted to. No ragrets!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good way of doing things honestly.

      As it stands, most of my gaming time is usually split between 2 games at any time. One will be an ongoing game I’m playing every day for a couple hours because I’m enjoying it and it works in that sort of frame work. Usually this is a roguelike, but Monster Hunter and more recently fighting games like Fantasy Strike and Them’s Fightin’ Herds have filled that space.

      The other slot will be occupied by whatever game I’m focusing on and it eats up the rest of my time. That’s served me well for a number of years now, but some games, as you’ve noted, just don’t always command your full attention or otherwise do in bursts. Having more on the go could help, but trying not to squeeze every game into the same square hole might also help. Some games will never grab my attention as aggressively as some of my favourite games and I don’t know that anything will change that.

      Like

  6. I have insane choice paralysis so choosing a game can sometimes be a day long endeavor. I’ve dabbled with choosing something to play in a low-pressure way. Allowing myself to play a game with no commitment, I could play it for 10 mins and move on because I think a major issue I have is that I don’t want to commit precious free time to a game when I have so many to choose from. The guilt of not finishing a game I really like that I started years ago can get in the way but I’ve found it is best to just let yourself play what you’re feeling for as long as you’re feeling it.

    Liked by 1 person

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