Calling it quits on long games

Swapna Krishna wrote a good piece for Wired about the decision to give up on games that bore you, even if you’ve invested a lot of time into them.

Sure, in some ways longer games are good. You get more bang for your buck. (One hundred hours of gameplay for $70? Not bad at all!) And sometimes it’s easier to return to a familiar world than it is to boot up an entirely new one. But huge games are also often bug-infested, patch-needing nightmares that were incredibly grueling for the devs who created them. Not to mention that, once you get the game and sink 50 or so hours into finishing it, it’s really hard to walk away without feeling like a failure, even if you hate it.

Yet this, dear reader, is where I find myself.

For me, I’ve enjoyed a select number of games on a select number of consoles. The most enduring titles have come from the Pokémon series, the Championship/Football Manager series, and a few of the major Mario and Sonic games. Oh, and the Golden Sun series. They carry a relatively short amount of game time in comparison to the biggest games out now and I like it that way. I’m in my 30s, I have a full-time job, and a son (who I play games with but he’s also 5). I don’t have the time or inclination to bury myself in a game that demands 100+ hours to complete. I understand people out there want that and they pay the premium for it. But for casual gamers, it really is okay to say no more if you don’t want to play anymore. Playing games shouldn’t feel like a second job you hate.

That’s not to say I can play Pokémon over and over for hundreds of hours without feeling burnout. I completed Sword and Shield within a week of it coming out in November 2019. All the subsequent hours went into playing the DLCs (I still have some legendaries to catch in the Crown Tundra but both are otherwise finished). My biggest timesink has been VGC. I never played it in the other games as it was harder to EV train but Sword and Shield made it more accessible. But going hard last summer pushed me over the edge. My son even alluded to me wanting to play the right way instead of having fun (if a 5-year-old can say this to you, you know you’ve got a problem). I took a few months off and didn’t play at all. Eventually, I got back in and I’m still playing VGC now, even if I’m not very good.

The Washington Post discussed this not long after I finished the base game, as a matter of fact:

Top eSports players are no strangers to long hours beyond a standard 9-5 workweek. Given the high-stakes pressure to perform, many burn out in their 20s.

[Aaron] Zheng is working on his undergraduate degree at Columbia University, and [Wolfe] Glick is a full-time consultant, so they both compete in Pokémon on a part-time basis and as a hobby. But even without the same intensity that pro players in esports leagues experience, Zheng and Glick say mental health and balance are a necessity. And it’s not always easy, especially when they both have large followings (Zheng has 74,000 subscribers on YouTube, and Glick has 69,000).

So not only do we have to consider enjoyment in all those gameplay hours, we also have to factor in our mental wellbeing, and possible content creation and everything that comes with it. Suddenly, fun games can become mentally taxing chores whether we keep our consoles on or not.