Waiting and Wanting

“After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing,
after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.”

– Lieutenant Commander S'chn T'gai Spock, Starfleet

There once was a young boy who was able to wander in wonder at his game store. He didn’t see the covers of the games he gazed at, so much as he saw boxed joy – joy that could be his if only he had the resources to purchase them. If only he had more money. If only he could have both a Super Nintendo and a Genesis. Or, as long his daydreaming levels were set to ‘Scrooge McDuck Moneypiles’, why not a NeoGeo? He said to himself, “If only I could buy these games! If only I could afford them! If I had the money, then Sonic and Mario would all be mine!” And the boy imagined how happy this would make him.

Time passed. The boy became a man who got a job, then a better job, then a mortgage, then a marriage, then an investment home, then finally children of his own. The man grew into contented middle age, as people sometimes do. The man made a comfortable enough living that he doubted whether he would notice a difference in his bank account at the end of the month if he spent another sixty dollars on a game for his high-end computer or ninety cents on a game for his phone.

The man had as large a TV as he could wish for and speakers that surrounded him in a cocoon of sound. He watched as the digital world grew, expanding to the point where all those games of his youth were now available with a simple click of his hand. He could buy Mario or Sonic or even lonely and largely forgotten Bonk anytime he wanted. When he first discovered that his old childhood crushes were available for such a small amount, he had bought many of them. They, and many of their newer contemporaries, were all his; games of every genre and for every mood. Hard games. Easy games. Classic games. New games. Sequels to games he hadn’t thought of in years. Reboots of games forgotten by almost all. And yet for the most part, they remain on his system, unopened. They sit there still, waiting for him, untouched.

Because pleasure doesn’t work the way the boy thought it did. The boy had thought that if one video game gave him excitement, then ten video games would make him ten times as excited. He thought this because the boy was young and did not know any better.

But the man does know better. The man has read books on happiness, so he knows it does not work that way. The books have told the man that material goods will give him a brief short lived bit of joy but that the joy will quickly fade. The books have told the man that his brain has a rough general resting point of happiness, and that soon after he buys an object, that object (which he once viewed as so precious) will fade into the background of his life. The books have told him that wanting is almost always more exciting than getting, and the man has seen that to be true in his own life.

The man has not been able to be excited at wanting a game or a system for quite a while. Not truly excited, anyways. He has far more games than he has time to play, and if a new one comes out, buying it is that simple click away. The primal part of the man’s brain — the part that still thinks the man is a hunter — that part does not have to wonder if there is a gazelle at the watering hole. There is always a gazelle at the watering hole. A gazelle that he can always catch. The man still likes to eat gazelle, but there is no thrill in catching one, because these gazelle don't run.

Then one day the man heard about a not-game. It was a piece of hardware called the Rift. The man watched videos on YouTube of people playing games with the Rift, and those people seemed to be having more fun than he had experienced with any game in quite some time. The man read articles saying how it was amazing. Astounding. Incredible. How people really had to experience it for themselves to understand what it was like.

For the first time in a long time, the man began to believe the hype. The man decided he would buy a Rift.

But he couldn’t, for it was not in stores. It was not online. It was a prototype, a beta, primarily meant for developers. And the company that made it did not have any in stock. So the man ordered it and was put on a list. And he waited. And waited.

As he waited, the man looked on Reddit. He looked on YouTube. He looked on US Gamer and PA Report. But no matter where he looked, the man could find no information on how long it would be before the Rift would be his. Instead, he saw other people talking about their Rifts and how they enjoyed them — how they loved owning something that he did not have and could not get. Everything he read made him want it more. And more.

The man checked his order again and again, until one day - at last - the order status changed.

It said, “Shipped.”

The man would be receiving his toy this week! He pictured himself opening the box. He pictured himself unpacking it. He pictured himself setting it up. And he pictured himself finally, after being unable to do so for a seemingly long time, playing with his new toy. And the thought of that made him happy.

Will the actual playing of the toy provide him with the same amount of joy? The man does not know. But, at the very least, the man got to experience what it was like to be a boy once more. And that, even by itself, has made the man happy. For a little while, anyway.

Comments

Welcome to the Front Page, JR!

Thanks! I've only checked this page eight times in the last hour to see if anyone had commented on my first official post yet. I'm amazed at my self-restraint.

Weclome to GWJ, JR.

I enjoyed the almost storybook, lilting rhythm of this piece. It works when you read it out loud.

Also the sentiment resonated with me in this time of new consoles. The boy wants one but the man thinks it better to wait.

I can't wait for your follow up piece once you've had time with the Rift. Will the Man become newly acquainted with his bucket collection? (Yes, that was a vomit joke).

IMAGE(http://www.quickmeme.com/img/b1/b132df0089df1bd14fb0be5817769a7f42109dd237a71320a99ac35ce9f3c197.jpg)

Welcome aboard! Can't wait to hear more about the Rift!

Fantastic first article! Wanting something really is so much better than having it..

It is generally true sadly, that once we have something we want it less. During the first few Steam sales I went bonkers, buying dozens of cheap games because I vaguely wanted them. They haven't been played, and lately I've been sitting out the sales because of the slow realization you write about.

Looking foward to more articles JR.

I really enjoyed this article, Jrralls. I enjoyed it enough to make my first comment on an article at GWJ. You've perfectly framed something so inescapably true yet so difficult to describe with real impact. I'm looking forward to sharing this article with friends.

As for my own experience, I've learned that I have to ration the games to get the thrill out of them, so I do plenty of game hunting (very exciting initially when you first discover the big sales at Steam, or the magnitude of the indie bundles - but later on, it gets feeling hollow too). I've heard it said that this hunt for games is like a game in itself - and I think I'd agree that it taps into the same reward centres. So, I find I enjoy the games most if I grant myself limited access to the games (sometimes easier said than done), and really focus on one or two at a time in a very deliberate way).

One thing that your article really made me think about is how much the little boy in my brain still craves a brand new Atari system that came out in 1983. Obviously I don't need one, and it wouldn't make me happy, but somewhere deep inside me that yearning target of a game system hasn't left me. It makes me chuckle. How many other ridiculous things are we all carrying around in our heads hoping to pick up someday? A full set of real armor? A horse? A castle?

Great article! I've always felt something similar, but never quite thought of it this way. I purchased a PS4 at launch. Since getting it almost a month ago, I've played a ton of AC4. I probably put in around 30-40 hours in the first two weeks. I played the opening chapter of Killzone twice (solely as a tech showcase to my friend and cousin) and I still have not touched Need for Speed Rivals. If I'm honest with myself, I don't think I've turned on my PS4 in at least the last 10 days.

Instead, with the recent release of Super Mario 3D World, I decided that I needed to play a new Mario game. The N64 was the last Nintendo system I've owned (that and the SNES are still hooked up to my TV, along with a 360, PS3 and PS4). Of course, I still have an absurdly large backlog on my last gen consoles and plenty of games to play on my shiny new PS4 - but I NEEDED a new Mario game. But I couldn't justify buying a Wii U; not after having spent a total of around $600 on my next-gen console purchase only three weeks earlier.

So this past Friday, I bought a very slightly used Wii on Craigslist, and picked up a used copy of New Super Mario Bros. Wii from GameStop. The thought to buy a Wii entered my mind Friday morning and was fully realized by Friday evening. So I spent close to 10 hours this weekend playing a 4-year-old game on a 7-year-old console, while my one-month-old PS4, which I played like crazy for two weeks, sits on the next shelf over, gathering dust on my entertainment center.

I know I'll go back to the PS4 sooner rather than later. I know I'll put more time into Killzone and probably enjoy NFS when I finally play it, but the excitement I felt about my PS4 purchase went away a lot sooner than I expected. This article highlights exactly why that is. As I get older and have more disposable income, I'm beginning to realize that the satisfaction of owning a new thing doesn't come close to wanting it!

Oddly enough, I got to experience that child-like feeling of wanting last night and this morning. Due to my commute using public transit I tend to have two hours of 3DS time a day, plus about 30 minutes at lunch time. I had a couple of incomplete games for the system, plus a couple recently purchased, and managed to burn through them all in about a month.

So now I sit there, looking at my collection of DS and 3DS games, wondering what I want to occupy my time with until Christmas (after letting my family know that, boy, it would be nice to have a couple select 3DS games for the ride in and out of work each day). It was a lot like being a kid again, when video games were rarely received or obtained outside of birthdays or holidays. I recall playing a variety of games for fifteen or twenty minutes before swapping them out, trying to figure out which one would scratch that itch I was searching for. I remember trying to play Ninja Turtles after the third week the rental store was out of the new Star Fox, even though that's what I really wanted to play.

And I also remember being able to find new appreciation in a game after playing it for a second or third (or more likely, seventh or eighth) time, as I was able to do recently with Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon and Resident Evil: Revelations.

But what I will possibly remember most is the first game I bought with my own money from my first job: Legend of Mana. It was a decent chunk of cash considering I wasn't making a lot, but I didn't have bills yet. I didn't feel guilt as that game was specifically what I wanted to spend my hard earned money on. And man, did I love playing it.

Of course, this is my first year living on my own having to pay rent and all the other bills and utilities, and my current job isn't the best. So I'm learning to "enjoy" the wanting again.

Yeah playing Zelda 3DS the last couple weeks really brought back that feeling of joy.

You captured it. Good stuff, jrralls.

I've been ruminating on this topic recently. That ephemeral child-like joy is so rare and precious.

I believe I know how to solve this problem of waiting and wanting good sir.
It is called the enthusiast (videogame) press.
http://www.joystiq.com/2011/06/07/dr...
and the game is even slightly better than I expected.

Also, I'm with you on the Rift, totally gonna get one, laid off or not.

Great read, thanks for this Jrralls! The pile is always a grim reminder of what you thought you wanted, and you really have nailed this one down very nicely.

I'm do agree with some of others as well though, there is a lot to be said for things like the "One Game Challenge" style of approach for helping to deal with this. Limiting yourself artificially and really taking the time to enjoy a game thoroughly, often one you have played before, can have amazing results.

I would also suggest that sometimes, the hunt is for those games that are exceptional and do bring back that intensity of enjoyment, instead of simply more games.

I experience the "need" for an old book in much the same way King Ludd describes his "need" for a new Atari, and love visiting used book stores trying to find books I read or read parts of as a teenager; many times, once found, the books are quite a disappointment.

I've had the craziest ''want'' feeling I've had in a long while with the PSVita and the PS4 and I think it makes me appreciate them even more...

When I got the Vita I basically went all out and even got my girlfriend one and got tons of games and accessories. I was probably Mr. Vita in my city. It is highly doubtful that anyone got as much junk as I did. I spent a lot of time playing it and I love it dearly. It saddens me that the general public does not appreciate it as much as I do. It's almost like there's this homely girl I'm in love it and I'm crying out loud to everybody ''can't you see just how pretty my girl is? you blind fools!''

Anyways ... when the PS4 was announced as supporting remote play for my beloved Vita and all I got the wants all over again ... except this time I was a bit more moderate in my spenderings.

I loved your article JR. great job

interstate78 wrote:

It's almost like there's this homely girl I'm in love it and I'm crying out loud to everybody ''can't you see just how pretty my girl is? you blind fools!''

It's that episode of Seinfeld, "The Van Buren Boys". Jerry's got a perfect girlfriend (played by Christine Taylor) and everyone else hates her. So great.

And then his parents love her at the end, so he reconsiders.

Felix Threepaper wrote:

Weclome to GWJ, JR.

I enjoyed the almost storybook, lilting rhythm of this piece. It works when you read it out loud.

When I was editing it, I was hearing the voice of Graham Rowat reading it. No joke.

King Ludd wrote:

I'm looking forward to sharing this article with friends.

Please do.

King Ludd wrote:

I've heard it said that this hunt for games is like a game in itself

I've honestly considered making a game called, "Boiled Water" which is all about collecting the most games for the least amount of money.

King Ludd wrote:

How many other ridiculous things are we all carrying around in our heads hoping to pick up someday? A full set of real armor? A horse? A castle?

A castle would totally fill me with a deep and wondrous sense of happiness . . . for probably a week and then it would be old. *sigh*

SeldonAI wrote:

Instead, with the recent release of Super Mario 3D World, I decided that I needed to play a new Mario game.

My brain has been trying to convince me that I need to buy a Wii U to play Super Mario 3D World, all the while ignoring the fact that I bought Super Mario Galaxy and have yet to play it.

ccesarano wrote:

But what I will possibly remember most is the first game I bought with my own money from my first job: Legend of Mana. It was a decent chunk of cash considering I wasn't making a lot,

I have a very very vivid memory of getting my first couple of paychecks of my first job ever, then being at the mall and when I was considering buying something going, "Wait . . . is this worth the seven hours of my life it took me to earn the money to buy this?" I definitely think I value my money more when I was doing jobs I didn't like, then when I was doing jobs I did. Might be an article in there about money, work, and gaming.

Dakuna wrote:

love visiting used book stores trying to find books I read or read parts of as a teenager; many times, once found, the books are quite a disappointment.

I used to get so excited about going to a book store, but then I got a Kindle and the excitement went to near zero. It's not going to be long until pretty much everything you ever read is up there, and then it's going to be nothing but fat gazelles.

"Picture a boot going up to your face and giving you whatever you want, whenever you want it, forever." OK, now I'm being silly.

Thanks for the warm wishes everyone.

Here's my steam link if anyone wants to friend me;

http://steamcommunity.com/id/jrralls

Cheers,
JR

interstate78 wrote:

I've had the craziest ''want'' feeling I've had in a long while with the PSVita and the PS4 and I think it makes me appreciate them even more...

When I got the Vita I basically went all out and even got my girlfriend one and got tons of games and accessories. I was probably Mr. Vita in my city.
blah blah blah the Vita got me off drugs, let me into your home to share the good news about how the Vita can change your life too..

Geez man, its like a Vita cult around here. Always gotta bring your pro-Vita agenda to any discussion...

Spoiler:

(It's ok I love it too!)

Running Man wrote:
interstate78 wrote:

I've had the craziest ''want'' feeling I've had in a long while with the PSVita and the PS4 and I think it makes me appreciate them even more...

When I got the Vita I basically went all out and even got my girlfriend one and got tons of games and accessories. I was probably Mr. Vita in my city.
blah blah blah the Vita got me off drugs, let me into your home to share the good news about how the Vita can change your life too..

Geez man, its like a Vita cult around here. Always gotta bring your pro-Vita agenda to any discussion...

Spoiler:

(It's ok I love it too!)

Hahaha you're right I sing its praise a bit too loudly and too often

Nice piece!

As man who has become jaded at getting or being able to get most of the things I want without too much hassle, I cannot help but feel that restraint is key in enjoying things... as the older I get the harder it is to enjoy things that I do regularly, games included.

Hell, I lately enjoy the thought of playing X game more, as I toil away at work or some social activity, than that actual playing thereof.

Excellent article. Always looking for the next fix. That's us.