Will and the Lack Thereof

I have a problem. I am part of the problem; and so are you.

I am a miser. It is well documented that I do not like to watch numbers decrease; it sparks an uncomfortable dissonance in my progressive world view. I dread the presence of naught where once there was quantity, and so that makes me the kind of person who will put off paying for the heating bill in the middle of a Minnesota cold snap, just so I can artificially inflate my bank account with an impending paycheck before acquiescing to necessary impulses such as not dying of exposure. This stubborn numerical protectionism extends through to almost every corner of my life, save one.

When it comes to video games, I will buy virtually anything.

It was reinforced yet again this week when I realized I was entirely willing to spend $40 on a pack of 18 AC/DC songs for Rock Band. Like a hammer to the head, the impact of the realization was stunning enough to qualify in some states as felony assault.

This is not exactly new information for people who know me. I have certainly come through the front door brandishing questionable purchases, impossibly basking in my own glory the way a housecat will after depositing the desiccated corpse of a field mouse in front of your dinner. I mean, you’re talking to a guy who walked in the store and paid money for Vanguard, oblivious to the racking death screams of fifty one-dollar bills that had been needlessly sacrificed to a sick and disoriented god.

I am helpless even in the face of this realization. I _will_ spend $40 on the Rock Band AC/DC track pack, and I will do so with no remorse. It’s virtually already happened. It is as certain as the sunrise, as immutable as diamond, inescapable as the blinking out of stars and the slouching dark that will envelop all of creation. I am in the thrall of gaming, beguiled by its slutty trappings. I am weak of mind and mettle.

But, as I said, I am not a compulsive spender. I can’t even find solace in suggesting that I am the victim of one of those unscientific, pseudo-addictions that have replaced the space once reserved for personal responsibility in the lexicon. I will simultaneously agonize for weeks before pulling the trigger on buying a new CD or DVD, while thoughtlessly ejecting forty dollars for a game that I have no intention of playing for at least a fortnight. I haven’t purchased a new shirt or pair of pants in more than a year, simply because I can not bring myself to spend money on woven fabrics. I recently bought a pair of sunglasses at one of those knock-off kiosks in the mall for $10 bucks and had the temerity to feel proud of myself for spending the money.

But, for this industry I am a whore lying on the motel bed wearing nothing but a come-hither look and too much mascara while blowing kisses over an obscenely swollen wallet bursting with greenbacks. I’ll just let that image sink in with you for a moment. Don’t forget the beard when picturing it.

It’s not like taking candy from a baby. It’s easier than that. It’s taking candy from a baby that is trying to give you candy. Even if your game is actually titled Games Elysium Hates – The Platformer Version, I’ll still eye it lustily, considering if perhaps I haven’t given the genre — Games I Really Hate — a fair shake yet.

Which makes this a hard season for me, for obvious reasons. Just this past weekend I bought a Nintendo Wii, ostensibly for my son’s birthday. His haul for the day, including the system, a second Wiimote and, count them, five game was, shall we say, disproportionate to the needs of a five year old. That’s to say nothing of the new games that have wandered into the house over the past month: Rock Band 2, Colonization, Peggle Nights, Warhammer, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky, Viva Piñata, LEGO Batman and Crysis Warhead.

I beg of you, don’t do the math. Particularly if we happen to have a joint bank account and you’ve chosen to read this.

And, to you, my dear readers. You consumers of thought and word, which I scribe every seven days. You casual consumers of clever phrasing and self indulgent analysis, who have been my enablers and excuse for half a decade. It’s all your fault!

As I wipe off the arterial spray from the final death blow I have delivered to personal responsibility — a mercy killing to be sure — consider this. The worst thing that could happen to a guy like me is being able to create professional justifications for being a habitual gamer. Having an audience that, even by inaction and implicit approval, encourages me to pen thoughts on video gaming is a liability for my fragile will that is clearly too great. Obviously this passing of the buck is much easier than trying to show restraint at the point of purchase, a mandate that makes Hercules cleaning the stables seem as taxing as changing the litter box.

The nice thing about taking the low road is that it’s mostly downhill.

But, there’s more at play here, and it’s the part of this self realization that I can take comfort in. I love video games. Sometimes I feel like the last of that dying breed, an unabashed fan of the industry, of its excesses, of its creatively compromised, morally bankrupt, lowest-common-denominator indulgences. Unlike less pleasant and more physically debilitating addictions, I still get the high when I install that new game and fire it up for the first time. I’ve been playing fake songs on plastic instruments for two years now, and I still bounce around like a professional fool when the lights are out and everyone else has gone to bed. I’ve been running fetch quests for digital avatars in artificial worlds for half a decade, and that ding of a new level is still fundamentally Pavlovian. I’ve dispatched ten million bad guys from their multitude of nefarious, world-ending deeds, and I still am close to that thrill of the hunt.

And, that is the security blanket that I will clutch close to my breast and cover my eyes with to avoid seeing the truth. As I said at the very beginning, I not only have a problem. I am part of the problem. Because, in the cold light of day, as a careless consumer, I am ultimately the reason your video games suck. Without discriminating at the point of sale, demanding quality from publishers and respectful treatment from retailers, I am as much an enabler of those excesses. While the insistence on blaming weak willed buyers for the supposed de-evolution of video game quality is as questionably tenuous as my blaming readers for poor self control, there is some sense of culpability. And, I know I should feel bad, should be more responsible about my buying choices.

But what I really end up asking is: who wants my money next?

Comments

Can we setup a Game Buyers Anonymous type meeting.

I think I need help too. The problem is, after sharing stories of what we've recently bought, or games we want to buy, we'd probably end up stopping at a game shop on the way home and feeding the need.

Don’t forget the beard when picturing it.

Damn you, sir.

IMAGE(http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1047/1444802676_65cf065336_m.jpg)

Irongut wrote:

Can we setup a Game Buyers Anonymous type meeting.

We have one! It's called Gamers With Jobs!

I'm going to save this story and refer my wife to it every time she thinks I have a problem. Thank you Elysium!

On the other hand, I do enjoy buying games on a whim, however I've begun to rationalize my purchases to games that have actually proven their worthiness to me through the services provided by GameFly. I've only been a member for about a month and it has saved me from spending $50 on Boom Blox. I did enjoy Boom Blox, as I thought I would, but not $50 of enjoyment. I'll still consider purchasing it used or when the price drops to about $20 cause that's about the value:entertainment ratio I can justify. That's a key thing for me now, value:entertainment ratio. If I can get the cost of a game low enough and get a TON of enjoyment out of it, that game is like hitting a jackpot. Geometry Wars 2, NHL 09, and N+ are some games that have more than paid for themselves since I bought them. BF: Bad Company... not so much. I guess this is why I'm committing myself to actually finishing more of the games that I buy.

You are a true Fanboy.

I could have sworn spendthrift meant the opposite of your use of it... what is more fun is you use its antonym "miser" immediately after. Pfaw!

On topic: I've been musing writing a topic around the "new economy" and how it is and will affect my gaming purchases. As it stands now, I know I am planning on ramping back my purchases - to maybe 4-6 games across PC and 360 this coming year. I have never been one to buy a ton of games anyway, largely because I don't have the time to play much and so I tend to focus on the games that I am really interested in and where I think I will get the most mileage from.

Certainly my younger, daughter-less, two-income me was in the same situation though, and would have benefited from Game Buyers Anonymous.

I could have sworn spendthrift meant the opposite of your use of it... what is more fun is you use its antonym "miser" immediately after. Pfaw!

Wordsmythe is going to be furious with you. He likes to be the one who makes me go back and change my article.

I hear ya brother, I am a frugal sonofabitch myself when it comes to almost anything - but - gaming. Sometimes the reality triggers do kick in and I have to delegate my purchases to AAA+ only, but I'll find if I block the impulse one day, the next day I'm at the store, cash in hand, like a sucker.

Digital downloads are even worse. No getting up and going outside, you magically get it right away! I have even less caution with them!

Podunk wrote:
Irongut wrote:

Can we setup a Game Buyers Anonymous type meeting.

We have one! It's called Gamers With Jobs! :lol:

Yes, but the twelve step program here involves:

1. Buy game ABC
2. Game of the Week is game DEF. Gotta grab that
3. Awesome, the digital version of game GHI was just released. That'd be fun.. and its cheap. Download that.
4. Oh, man how'd I miss game JKL that is being discussed in a Catch-all already. Buy that.
5. Hey, the GWJ thread about game MNO is huge. Must be good. Gotta buy that.
6. Wow, the developer in the thread about game PQR makes everything a development of love. Gotta buy that to support the little guy.
7. An expansion STU for last year's game ABC came out. It's great. Buy that.
8. Oh I finished a game on the Pile of Shame. Satisfying. Now I'll buy game XYZ
9. New MMORPG called ABC1 launched. Now is the time to play it with everyone.
10. Darn why'd I waste the money on that MMORPG. No one is playing. I need DEF2 to feel better and forget.
11. Crud everyone says GHI2 is a classic. Now its available on STEAM. I should buy that.
12. Oh cool game JKL2 comes with a gigantic plastic raygun of death if you pre-order. I better order that!

... and so on.

The real questions is how many games are on your "Pile of Shame"?

I believe spendthrift means the opposite of miser. A spendthrift is one who is prodigal, profligate, free with the dollar, generous, improvident, wasteful. The opposite of the thrifty.

But I'm no writer, and I'm aware my reliance on technical definitions is irritating, so I'll shut up now. Anyway, this is Wordsmythe's job.

EDIT: It appears the word has been stricken. Back on topic...

Elysium wrote:
I could have sworn spendthrift meant the opposite of your use of it... what is more fun is you use its antonym "miser" immediately after. Pfaw!

Wordsmythe is going to be furious with you. He likes to be the one who makes me go back and change my article.

As a newcomer to this site I feel honored. After having been a longtime lurker, it almost seems a right of passage...

And yes Mr. Swat... digital downloads are dirty enablers. Sweet, glorious, dirty enablers.

I'm not so bad about the games, but I'm a sucker for the movies.

Speaking of which, the Godfather Coppola Blu-Ray set is on sale at Amazon for $60 ( 50% off).

Just saying.

Actually, I may be in denial on the games. Luckily my wife has a make-up and knitting addiction, so she can't really criticize.

Folklore wrote:

I'm not so bad about the games, but I'm a sucker for the movies.

Speaking of which, the Godfather Coppola Blu-Ray set is on sale at Amazon for $60 ( 50% off).

Just saying.

Actually, I may be in denial on the games. Luckily my wife has a make-up and knitting addiction, so she can't really criticize.

You remind me I was meaning to pickup the Corleone Challenge Pack DLC for the 360.

... see?

Elysium wrote:

The nice thing about taking the low road is that it’s mostly downhill.

I have also considered purchasing that AC/DC game. If it retails for 30 dollars I'm there.

Folklore wrote:

I'm not so bad about the games, but I'm a sucker for the movies.

Speaking of which, the Godfather Coppola Blu-Ray set is on sale at Amazon for $60 ( 50% off).

You remind me I was meaning to pickup the Corleone Challenge Pack DLC for the 360.

...See?

I haven’t purchased a new shirt or pair of pants in more than a year, simply because I can not bring myself to spend money on woven fabrics.

Lightweight!

I have underwear older than that!

( Sorry Quintin, but you can't unsee that either. )

I don't own a tee shirt that's younger than seven years. The only reason I own any clothes younger than 3 years is because I bought my own tuxedo for my wedding. (Knowing that I have a brother in law who was planning to marry, I thought it frugal to own a tux rather than rent one twice. I was right.)

I've become much more frugal when it comes to games lately. The last game I bought was Folklore, which cost me a dollar because I traded in some games. I can't play it until I've finished Half Life 2 at least, and I'll probably tackle some other aspect of the Orange Box before switching over and coming back later.

My main weakness is DVDs. I'll buy almost anything if it's under $15 and I have even a vague interest in seeing it (cheaper than going to the movies, anyway) but I can excuse that in myself because I'm not paying for cable.

I am a whore lying on the motel bed wearing nothing but a come-hither look and too much mascara while blowing kisses over an obscenely swollen

Hellooooooooooooo Perverts of the Year post.

I love video games. Sometimes I feel like the last of that dying breed, an unabashed fan of the industry, of its excesses, of its creatively compromised, morally bankrupt, lowest-common-denominator indulgences. Unlike less pleasant and more physically debilitating addictions, I still get the high when I install that new game and fire it up for the first time. I’ve been playing fake songs on plastic instruments for two years now, and I still bounce around like a professional fool when the lights are out and everyone else has gone to bed. I’ve been running fetch quests for digital avatars in artificial worlds for half a decade, and that ding of a new level is still fundamentally Pavlovian. I’ve dispatched ten million bad guys from their multitude of nefarious, world-ending deeds, and I still am close to that thrill of the hunt.

I think you have it backwards. Anyone that's playing games and does NOT feel like this is doing it wrong.
You are getting real enjoyment from your virtual deeds.

Isn't that what gaming is all about, really?

This rings true for me to a frightening degree. I don't know what it is about the hobby that I have become so obsessed with. I'm frugal with so much in my life but video games always take my cash. There have even been times when I purchase a sequel of a game on day one at full price, even though the original which I also bought day one at first price and is now bargain bin material is nowhere near completed. It's almost similar to people buying lottery scratch tickets in a way, as if there is some sort of inherent worry that one of the greatest games I would ever enjoy is being missed out on due to my inability to give it a chance. Yes, I'm embarassed to admit I have spent hours, even days, feeling guilty for not buying a new release because I wasn't certain about it.

I've been slowly improving on this front though, in some ways. Moving into a new apartment has forced to me put aside money for new furniture. And I've started spending more money on other things like clothes. But in other ways, it's just as bad. I've been waking up with a bad back for the past three weeks and if it doesn't turn out to be a medical reason, I have been having serious concerns about spending the money on a new mattress. It's only now that I'm starting to realize how utterly pathetic it is that I feel having a good night's sleep isn't worth about the same amount of money I've spent in pre-orders this year of games I'm only vaguely interested in, most of which will still be in their plastic wrap or only used for an hour six months later. And don't get me started on how Steam, XBOX Live, PSN, GamersGate, etc. have managed to sap my PayPal account from impulse purchases.

We are brothers in this, sir. Even if you limit yourself to the good games, as I try to do, it's still an overwhelming number of purchases, especially this time of year.

I’ll just let that image sink in with you for a moment.

Note to self: don't check GWJ while eating lunch.

Gamefly has to some extent made a lot of this go away. Since I'm rarely a completionist, the ability to sample or rent games has saved me thousands of dollars, I am sure.

Of course, this is the worst time of year. Too many games I know I need to keep.

But, for this industry I am a whore lying on the motel bed wearing nothing but a come-hither look and too much mascara while blowing kisses over an obscenely swollen wallet bursting with greenbacks.

Wow, just wow. No not a good wow, a how the heck did that ever come across your thought pattern wow.

Funny as hell - LOL.

Stryker wrote:

The real questions is how many games are on your "Pile of Shame"?

I wonder that, too. Mine has about 12 and I'm very selective at what I buy, and when. Elysium seems to just throw his credit card at the counter as he races by to the games section of Best Buy.

Elysium pens another masterpiece, and what a Pulitzer it is!!!!!

Elysium wrote:

Bearded prostitute.

Now I just feel dirty.

I must admit I would struggle with the same problem if not for the ridiculously low income of a grad student's stipend. I have considered gamefly, but I feel like the rental agreement would put me on undue pressure to complete my games as quickly as possible, which would lead to even longer gaming sessions and even more actual work being ignored.

Even if your game is actually titled Games Elysium Hates – The Platformer Version, I’ll still eye it lustily, considering if perhaps I haven’t given the genre — Games I Really Hate — a fair shake yet.

For me that was GTA 4. And that is how I manage to resist the GWJ enablers when reading threads like the Spore catch all. I know I'm going to hate the game, but the first 3 times seeing the game on the shelf were Herculean challenges. And I still want to buy it every time I see it, but now it's like the memory of an addiction, calling but no longer alluring.

I used to covet new games, but I found my cure to that is to not visit gaming websites and not expose myself to gaming news. I also try to revisit old titles, like right now I'm re-addicted to Diablo 2.

but I found my cure to that is to not visit gaming websites

Everyone, shhh! It'll be more fun if he figures it out on his own.

Yep... that's me. Gripes about buying a single pair of pants but has to be held back from buying a game I know I won't like. Sad, really.

I also came to another realization while reading this. Your writing style... it reminds me of Lovecraft. If you could just use the word "cyclopean" a few times I'd be sure he'd been reincarnated. So many multi-syllabic words vying for my attention in a single sentence. It makes my brain sing with wonder and confusion.