Growing Out of Games

Let me first set the scene, you spend your childhood absolutely hooked on a hobby and find it absolutely inspires you. You dedicate your life to this passion above all other passions that come and go. Then as you get older that hobby that you always go back to suddenly doesn’t entertain you the way it used to. This, this is a situation many gamers can find themselves in. Is it common to grow out of games as you get older or just a phase?

Now as mentioned I grew up with games, mostly those on the Amiga systems until I got my first PC when I was about 6. Gaming for me then consisted of Theme Hospital, Simcity 2000, Age of Empires, Quake etc. The games I played were fantastic titles that were paving the way for what I consider to be the golden age of gaming, particularly for PC gaming which is what I grew up with. During my teen years I had a collection of about 50 or so games and could only play them after school and at the weekend, but what free time I did have I devoted to my hobby. During this time I remember wishing I had more games, I would look through PC Gamer magazines looking at games wanting for them and not being able to have them. Having less games meant I would spent more time with the games I had, often either to sandbox or to roleplay on these games.

Now I am in my mid-20’s and have a job I can buy what games I want, when I want and unlike when I was younger I have a myriad of platforms to play them on. Yet, despite having more choice than ever before I on occasion find myself drifting away from gaming as a hobby. Games now do not give me as much entertainment value as they used to, is this because of lower production quality in modern games? Am I burnt out on the genres of games I play?

I decided to speak to other people who are fond of gaming to see if they also feel the same way. A majority have felt this way before or feel this way now. Some have quite obvious reasons for gaming less such as having children or general lack of free time to game. But other people, like myself, have many games which they can play and just cannot get into them.

quake

Quake may have set the bar quite high in the 90’s

After thinking about this I have some potential reasons why we may go through this phase from time to time:

Burnt out on a genre

Generally we buy games we know, for example I bought Simcity (2013) because I am a fan of the series, however like many people the game did not fully deliver on what we expected. In my mind I assumed it would be Simcity 4, updated to be similar to Cities XL but more in depth with more micro-management. I have to consider maybe I am just not a fan of city building games any more. However, recently I have played quite a bit of Cities XL Platinum and found it quite enjoyable. If we look at another example, World of Warcraft, most people who have played World of Warcraft will have likely stopped due to being bored of the game, there is only so many hours you can spend playing a game before getting bored of it, whether that is hours, days or for me in the case of World of Warcraft, years. But then I do yearn for an MMO experience and therefore occasionally play Rift and Star Trek Online.

I think getting tired of a particular genre in general despite the games that may fall under it would depend highly on the type of gamer you are. For example if you primarily ONLY play hack’n’slash games and get bored of them, you have written off most of your gaming library. If you are a gamer who likes a variety of game types then you will be less likely to not want to play games purely due to burning out on a game series or a genre. That is likely a way to avoid getting bored of games if this is you, try a game that you wouldn’t normally or don’t think you would normally enjoy or have given no consideration to. Much like food, you will not find your favourite dishes without first trying them.

High Expectations

I have briefly mentioned having high expectations for games and I think this is a big reason for me why as an adult I am less likely to finish a game. Many games just don’t live up to what we think they will be like. There are a number of reasons why this may be:

  • Hype – Having trailers, advertisements and product descriptions that sell the game too high, over-promise or do not give a true to life view of the game can lead us to think that the game can deliver more than it does
  • Comparison to previous games – As previously mention, we sometimes buy games as we have loved the previous titles in a series. Unfortunately some newer games in a series are worse than previous titles. I could not wait for X-Rebirth to be released assuming it would play similar to every X game before it, alas it was a disappointment.
  • Lack of depth – Games which are shallow draw us in with a good premise or gameplay mechanic before we realise after some time playing that there is actually no depth to the game. We either run out of new things to do, fun things to do or enjoyable objectives to complete

It is hard to avoid having high expectations on a game, particularly those that under deliver. Avoiding gameplay trailers and reviews can certainly help but if we have preconceived notions of a game it is hard to avoid. Keeping an open mind when you are investing your hard earned cash into a purchase is easier said than done.

Lack of Quality Titles

This is quite subjective but one phrase I hear time and again is “Games nowadays just aren’t as good as older games. AAA titles have corners cut and re-hash the same ideas”. This is quite an interesting concept. First of all we need to define what a good game is.

If we simply say a game is good based on visuals and features, such as multiplayer, co-op, achievements etc, then we may be missing more important aspects to a gaming experience. Games now look better than ever so if it was purely aesthetics then games will be just getting better and better. So what about game mechanics? When we think back to older titles in comparison to new titles what we must remember is during the 80’s and 90’s games were breaking a lot of new ground in terms of both presentation but also experimenting with game mechanics. During that period games with storylines were few and far between with the exception of point and click adventure games. Other new advancements came to gaming such as networked multiplayer and modding and so forth, these we take for granted now but back then made gaming all the more an exciting hobby.

I do not believe that modern games lack the quality of older games overall. There have been some fantastic games both AAA and indie over the past 5 years. While Call of Duty may remain quite stagnant over titles have delivered fantastic gaming experiences.

Too Much Choice

If you ask a poor child to name his favourite possession he will give you an answer very quickly, if you ask a rich child the same question he will have to think about his answer. Having few choices makes choosing easier, having a lot of options makes it harder to pick. Back when we had fewer games to play we made the most of them. Now we have hundreds upon hundreds of titles within easy reach it means we can have higher standards and be more picky. If I play a game and it does not draw me in I know I have many other options to go to.

The easy way around this is to stop buying games and try and finish or at least try and finish the games we have before adding new ones to our collections. Of course there is nothing wrong with going back and playing older games again and again. I still often play Quake 3 and sometimes GTA IV.

Steam Store

Steam has a huge library of games

Cannot Get Immersed

Immersion is when we play a game and get absorbed in what we are doing. This is called cognitive flow. Ever played a game for what feels like an hour but turns out to be six hours? That is cognitive flow. When we give ourselves a task and put all our focus on that task we loss focus on everything else around us, think of it as tunnel vision.

Games that draw us in become far more entertaining and enjoyable, games after all shouldn’t be a chore to play through and so when we are immersed we find games fun, which is what they are all about. Getting stuck on a hard level, finding game breaking or world breaking glitches and other poor game design can break immersion.

I think immersion is one reason why I have not enjoyed Grand Theft Auto V as much as older Grand Theft Auto games. There is a massive game world with all the trappings we love from the series yet it has not pulled me in. The storyline was fine but sandboxing after just doesn’t feel the same as GTA: San Andreas for example.

Older games may potentially have been easier to get immersed into as when we are younger we found games to be, well magical. This is something that is unavoidable, as we get older we are less likely to look at games in this way anymore. Immersion therefore is harder, though not impossible of course. We get games that come along and grab our attention for hours at a time.

 

Why is it some people can pick up most games and complete them to 100% without getting bored, while others, including myself, find few games to really pull us in and give us hours of entertainment? High standards? High expectations? I think it is not one reason but a number of them. We have to remember games are not there to do speed runs and finish as quickly as we can. They are fun. I think the key is to take them less seriously, make time for a game and relax forgetting the world around you. It does not matter if you have a great gaming rig or gaming den, it does not matter if you are good or bad at the game, the key is to have fun.

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