You’ve felt it before, right?
Ever since finishing Bioshock Infinite, I’ve experienced what I can only call a funk. Collins online dictionary defines the word funk as “a state of nervousness, fear, or depression”. A fairly hyperbolic label when linked to a hobby or pastime, but this is a mantra I’ve heard repeatedly from a variety of gamers, on podcasts and forums, a sense of games not igniting that fire in your thumbs or the feeling of not wanting to game at all.
I say this mainly because ever since I received my Xbox back in 2008, I’ve heard this sensation mentioned several times, but never understood it. How can you not want to play a game? The choices are as endless as they are varied. Whether you have 50 minutes or 50 days to fill, surely there is something you can jump into and immerse yourself in. Right?
Well I’m feeling it know and I have had plenty of time to reflect on it and try to figure out what Bioshock Infinite has done to me, if indeed this single moment is the source. It was an intense and shocking experience, with an ending that left me going down an internet forum rabbit hole like no other. Ever since, other games have felt a little flat, like I’ve experienced the ultimate high and I’m feeding of the scraps of second rate goods.
What’s wrong with me? This year was, up until Infinite, a tour-de-force of excellence in gaming entertainment. DMC: Devil May Cry (apologies for the abundance of colons both semi and full in this article), Dead Space 3, Metal Gear Solid: Revengeance and the superlative Tomb Raider. Gears of War: Judgment was a blast, and I even enjoyed a couple of multiplayer sessions, which are not my usual bag.
Then Infinite arrived and I was enraptured, both by it’s storytelling and it’s world. I don’t want this to turn into yet another gushing fountain of praise for this game, but damn, this is a game to show off – to show off to all your naysaying friends about what this medium can do. So I finished it and felt – exhausted. Since then I have really struggled to get into a game. Having completed Bioshock Infinite and revelling in it’s excellence, it appears that I am now bereft of gaming options. I say bereft with a huge caveat – I have a huge backlog of games with a total playtime of 1976 hours and 83.2 sleepless and continuous playing days. Here’s a shot of my excel spreadsheet I use to calculate and prioritize my pile of shame:
As you can see, I own a lot of formats, and there are few genres I either don’t like or won’t try – I may be spreading myself a little thin. My backlog is huge, and I have tried to focus and motivate myself on the collection of objectively good games I have in my possession. I polished off the Mass Effect 3 DLC, Citadel in particular raising a wan smile to my fatigued lips. Persona 4: Golden is only 18 hours done, and it’s length is a de-motivating factor; I’ve just started Metro 2033, a hugely atmospheric and daring FPS, and despite its oppressive atmospheric and intriguing world, hasn’t gripped me; I bought and played Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm (another colon – indicative of this late generation perhaps?) and the doomed Sim City, desperate to once again engage with something different, to move away from the usual FPS or 3rd person action games that flood the market.
Yes, I could join the Year of Shame challenge, but I’m far too interested in the latest hot new thing, always moving onto the latest brand new shiny bauble. I’m still picking up games. I am Alive for 380 Microsoft points? Yes please! I really need a Japanese RPG that requires multiple playthroughs to appreciate – Oh go on, I’ll pick up Neir; but it’s two for £10 on used games in Game, so I need to pick up another. I feel like replaying Dragon Age 2 so I might as well throw that in too. I bought Guacamelee, which, offered my goals and challenge in a particular favourite genre of mine, the Metroidvania – it distracted but not invigorated me; I’ve just finished Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and am finding myself underwhelmed, despite it’s humorous and nostalgic gloss. Others have been dipped into but not left any impression or hooks.
I’ve reflected long and hard, and I think the problem (which to be fair, is one of the most first world concerns I’ve ever expressed) is rooted both in myself and the games I play. I work hard, and I like to play hard. But I’m too old to go out and refuse to waste my time watching crap television, (mercifully my wife has an aversion to awful TV) so I play games. Games are my primary stress reliever. They take me away from the myriad concerns that my job throws at me, throwing me instead into worlds that are purely designed to engage, and that I can control and interact with purely on my terms, because that is the nature of the interactivity of videogames.
I admit I have been burning too though too much too quickly, and this may point to my problem. I play games, but do I really enjoy, savour them? Do I need to spend more time really unpicking the depth to a game, to engage in more multiplayer, to try more challenges, higher difficulties and achievement hunting? Do I need to find a different genre? Do I need to find a different hobby? Do I take a break?
However, on the other hand, I have a vague feeling that games are getting a little stale. Bioshock: Infinite manages to deliver in a big way and everything I’ve played since has felt lacking somehow. The same setups; the same mechanics; the same progress systems; the same install, watch cut scene, go through tutorial rigmarole – Indies and smaller releases are providing most of the highs, through their increased sense of innovation. But even some of these titles are not having the same impact. Thomas was Alone and Cart Life are scratching an Indie itch, but not necessarily satisfying me or occupying my thoughts.
It feels like a mix of Infinite’s impact as a masterpiece of interactive storytelling (and despite the backlash, it is an exemplary game) and the paucity of good ideas at the end the generation, but either way, I feel like I am at a funny time in my gaming career, at this time in the twilight stages of the generation. I’m not sure what is happening. It isn’t an aversion to games. It isn’t a fatigue, despite my earlier remarks, because there is a burning desire to game still with me. It isn’t that there isn’t anything to play, because there have never been greater wealth or variety of style of games catering to a variety of tastes than ever before. It just feels like nothing is having any sense of impact or importance than Infinite.
Cheers Irrational; It may be time to take to break.