Slump

I am in a gaming slump. A rut. A dry period.

I always feel weirdly anxious when I get in these places, like maybe I’ve lost my passion for the art, or maybe I’ve atrophied as a gamer, or maybe I’ve lost all the joy and innocence from my heart. To be fair, the latter of these may be at least partially true, given its cold, metal construction.

I’m just in that uncomfortable place where, no matter how flashy or shiny the next big thing is, I can manage a level of enthusiasm equal only to when I hear that my flight is landing right next to the gate of my connecting flight — or when I go to Jiffy Lube and no one hauls a grimy air filter out to shame me into buying a new one. These are not moments without any joy, but they are fleeting, and mundane.

I am accustomed to prizing my time with my hobby and guarding it jealously. I’m used to a near-constant ache of anticipation for some future thing, a giddy, almost childish faith in an industry with an inconsistent record at best. I like that feeling of sitting down and knowing exactly what I want to play.

But right now it’s just not there.

I’ve been through enough of these to know it passes, and not to worry. Passion ebbs and flows, and right now I’m on the low turn of the oscillating waveform. It’s normal. In fact, it may even be good.

I haven’t been following much of E3 this year, and honestly I’m in not much of a position to critique it. I’m in the wrong mindset: a cynical, disinterested place where I read eager previews of upcoming games that most other times I’d be pretty hyped about, and all I can manage is to think that I’ve seen it all before.

I know there are some people for whom this is a de facto starting position for games analysis. While I understand where that’s coming from, I generally feel like this is a conversational non-starter. It feels to me like a position of arrogant superiority, hyper-generalization and general disagreeableness. It feels to me like a failure to see the substance of the thing contained within a known structure, and instead an obsession with the framework.

But here I am, stuck firmly in this frustrating place of not being able to see and recognize the joy that can be found in the familiar, the accessible. Nor am I falling over myself to break away from the ordinary and be inspired by something more challenging or unapproachable.

If you asked me right now what I was looking forward to playing for the rest of the year, I’d probably just look at you blankly as if you had tried to convey your question by semaphore.

It’s not all bad though, because I also know that usually when I come out of this, I come through oddly refreshed and open to new experiences. I remember feeling similar last year, and then suddenly I played Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons followed immediately by Europa Universalis IV the next week, and we all know how that story turns out. Both of those were my top contenders for the best game I played in the year, and suddenly I was right back in the game.

That’s the great thing about the industry — that you never really know when the thing that'll make you fall in love with gaming all over again will just show up. Just when I think I’ve seen all the things, or that I’ve had all the experiences, a game like Brothers shows up and introduces me to a set of emotions I didn’t know I could have in a game.

Sometimes it’s not a new game, either. I remember one slump a few years back where I half-heartedly loaded up the original Deus Ex, and within just a couple of days had finished the game for the fifth or sixth time, and couldn’t wait to play whatever was next.

So I don’t logically or rationally think of these ruts as much more than a cleansing breath, a natural neural response allowing me to reset. My sense of the world is that this kind of thing happens in anything you try to sustain over years and decades. It happens in friendships, in marriages, in relationships, in careers, in skill development. And it happens in our hobbies.

That doesn’t make it a lot easier to be in the moment, because I still have to experience the downer of the slump, but it also frees me from having to worry about what it all means. It just means something is coming that will trip the right neural triggers. The world will turn on a dime, back into something more familiar, and I will remember why I’ve dedicated decades to this pastime. And that trigger is probably coming sooner rather than later.

Comments

Timely post for me. I'm in a videogaming rut at the moment but am finding a love for board and card gaming.

I've been in a rut for new games and movies for a while now. I cannot muster much enthusiasm for what is new in theaters or in game stores. The industry is just in a slump for me right now. Nobody is making new entertainment that I am eager to consume.

I've been using this time to revisit some old favorites (Fallout 3, the third playthrough!) and to get back to reading more. I keep toying with the idea of making a game myself-- I have what I think is a pretty neat concept-- but my hobby time is too limited to let me really work on it much. Just try to debug code when you only have 45 minutes a day to look at it, and that includes boot and loading time.

Take 2 FTLs and call me in the morning. \

IMAGE(http://beta.thewritersbloc.net/wpblog/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/6a00d83451b49169e20133ec4ef57a970b-500wi.jpg)

I'm always excited for E3, even this year, though there is rarely anything announced that excites me, except Castlevania on the DS (note the lack of a 3), but those days are past.

For an intense gaming joy, set aside a few hours for your first play session of Rogue Legacy. It's still good afterward, but that first long session soaked my brain in dopamine. I literally lost track of time and was surprised the next day that I'd only been playing six hours the day before and not six days.

Also in a rut, and it's been bugging me a lot. I still spend a lot of time following gaming news, but it's getting really hard for me to summon the energy and enthusiasm to spend quality time with a game. I'll start a new game, play for 20 minutes - just long enough to get a sense of it, and then struggle for weeks to summon the willpower to pick it up again.

Some of it has to do with the circumstances of my life and the sense that I'm rarely in a mental state to play games at the times when responsibilities allow me some time to play.

I'm also spending too much time playing ridiculous energy games on the iPad. Part of the appeal is that they are so easy to pick up and put down.

Where I get really jaded, these days, is with business models. Dragon Age 3, for instance, looks awesome, but my excitement is barely above a simmer, because I just know that EA is going to pull some massive BS to screw up the game, hoping to extract more money from their players.

I'm kind of similar with Star Citizen, which has struck me as being more about raising money than making a game. I'm really hoping I'm wrong, and that all the backers end up absolutely ecstatic with their purchases, but I'm distrustful enough that I haven't put any money in, and won't until it ships and I know what I'm actually buying.

However, I'm having a lot of fun with the beta of Wasteland 2, even though it's quite buggy. I already know that they're not going to be pulling any crap with it, so I can just relax and enjoy exploring what they've made, which is very cool. So it's not all doom-and-gloom, but my trust level for AAA developers is probably lower than it's ever been, and that's never been high.

Wildstar is also fun... it's a new MMO, with the nice old standard business model of paying $15/mo. I'm okay with that; servers aren't cheap to run, and new content isn't cheap to make. From what I can see, it is absolutely enormous, and the combat is a ton of fun. It's much, much more interesting than WoW combat. You're still doing the basic thing of triggering abilities in sequence, and coming up with combos, but positioning is constantly a thing. Almost all the monsters have attacks that blast zones around them, which shade red just before the attack happens, and you want to get the heck out of there.

It's kind of like that old fight in WoW, the Illidari Council. That's been described as the Superbowl of Not Standing in Things. Somewhat similarly, it looks like Wildstar is the MMO about Not Standing In Things. It means you're moving all the time, avoiding enemy attacks, and trying to get your shots aimed to hit multiple enemies (you often fight them in packs), and it ends up just being a lot more fun than the simple WoW grind of, "stand there and swap blows until one of you falls over."

I also really like the art style and tone of the game in general... it's very cartoony and silly. It never takes itself seriously, but has a lot of very good game design. The level up messages alone are pretty funny.... every one so far has been unique, and a couple of levels ago, it was something like "Welcome to Team Awesome!" I genuinely laughed at that one... it's not that amusing in print, but it was downright funny, live.

Worth checking out. Every player gets three 1-week free passes, so cadging one should be easy. I imagine I must have some, so if anyone's interested, feel free to PM me, and I'll try to figure out where they are.

Elysium wrote:

I’m in the wrong mindset: a cynical, disinterested place where I read eager previews of upcoming games that most other times I’d be pretty hyped about, and all I can manage is to think that I’ve seen it all before.

I've been there for a few years now. I'm beginning to wonder if it's where I'll forever call home. It wasn't always so. There was a time where I saw the positives first and commented on them with great enthusiasm. That was a time prior to my career (if it can even be called such) having ground all the zest for life from my very being, a time where my marriage had yet to introduce me to the excruciating struggles of extended family who one must deal with all too too frequently. It has shaped me from who I once was. I am no longer an enthusiastic optimist who suffers from sporadic moments of cynicism. I am a cautionary cynic who has passing moments of positive energy. I hold a glimmer of hope that the heroic optimist can yet prevail over the villainous cynic. Nevertheless, I realize that certain aspects of my life need to be addressed so to enable such an opportunity the chance to occur.

Gaming does continue to bring fleeting moments of joy, fun, happiness, and all such fuzzy feelings to the fore. They're harder to come by, but they do still exist. Positiveness and enthusiasm flows through my veins and I feel right as rain, for a time. Orcs Must Die! was one such game. FTL was another. Mario Kart 8 is the most recent. Child of Light is primed for play after this post is complete.

From the little I dared watch of E3 I was left excited for Splatoon and Captain Toad. Yoshi's Wooly World, too. But the Uncharted tease and the Order footage left me cold. No gameplay and instead all focus on graphical oomph in specific set pieces. When I see folks get excited for that and eulogize over it I become what resembles anger or frustration. We should not be so easily appeased by hollow promises that a game is going to be great, not just good, but great because of its graphical prowess. Then I realize that I'm being a tad too venomous in my approach and should reign it in a little. I'm not enamored with such efforts, but others may be, and it's great to see people excited by up-and-coming releases. I wish I was one of them much more often.

I just realized something scary:

Sean Sands recently spoke approvingly of a JRPG, and couldn't muster any excitement for an MMORPG.

Quick! Someone check if he still has a beard! We might be dealing with Sean Sands's evil twin, while the real one is actually locked in a basement playing Wildstar and doesn't know how many days he's been down there!

Look thee to the East, to a land called Nintendo.

Time to write THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL

garion333 wrote:

Look thee to the East, to a land called Nintendo.

No kidding. I've never owned a Nintendo, but this E3 has me seriously considering either a Wii U or 3DS.

I'm not exactly in a slump, when I have time I'm still enjoying Guild Wars 2 and I do want to make a dent in my pile, but outside of The Witcher, Dragon Age and the next Starcraft there have been no games I've been anticipating. Anticipating sequels to 3 of my 4 all time favourite series is definitely in its own way somewhat stagnant.

But the stuff Nintendo has been showing is looking very appealing in a pure fun way. And even though many of the games they showed are sequels, they are sequels to properties I've never experienced, so they seem fresh.

polq37 wrote:

Also in a rut, and it's been bugging me a lot.

Sorry to snip the rest of your post, but this is something that comes up periodically. I've done it myself where you feel like you 'should' be playing a game although you don't really feel like it. It seems to be particular to gamers though that we feel guilty that we aren't playing our games.

It shouldn't bug you that right now one particular form of entertainment isn't top of the list. But it's common that gamers feel this way. My theory, totally pulled out of my butt, is that when we identify as a 'gamer' we identify with our hobby in a slightly unhealthy way. We make our past-time part of ourselves so feel rootless when that hobby isn't something we want to do at a given point.

You also allude to something in that many cases games are work. Not (necessarily) in the 'daily grind' way, but they are a participatory past-time. They take energy and concentration, and the hustle of modern adult life means you start out exhausted before you engage your brain for a few hours.

It's one reason I stopped self identifying as a gamer. Gaming is something I do, not something I am. While hitting a shortcut on my desktop is my first go to when I want to entertain myself, I don't feel that I'm missing out if I don't play for a few days.

I'm thinking there's something in the change of seasons, the shift to warmer weather, that changes people for a brief amount of time. Maybe we all get some sort of wanderlust, where the idea of sitting in the same seat with a controller in hand, pushing itty bitty buttons to make colors dance on a screen, is less appealing than other stuff.

Of course, for me that wanderlust was mostly founded in books, but my slump was hitting pretty hard as well. I couldn't even bring myself to write about games, yet I still hopped around here out of habit.

Mario Kart 8 turned gaming back into a daily activity, E3 has helped me remember why I love games so much, and now I'm actually more interested in playing through Fire Emblem: Awakening to completion than reading the third novel I've perused in a single month's span.

I think the only reason it can feel bad, in any sense, is when you're a content provider and, well, you hit a slump. Suddenly there's no content for you to provide, and that can be... well, sh*tty.

MrDeVil909 wrote:
polq37 wrote:

Also in a rut, and it's been bugging me a lot.

Sorry to snip the rest of your post, but this is something that comes up periodically. I've done it myself where you feel like you 'should' be playing a game although you don't really feel like it. It seems to be particular to gamers though that we feel guilty that we aren't playing our games.

It shouldn't bug you that right now one particular form of entertainment isn't top of the list. But it's common that gamers feel this way. My theory, totally pulled out of my butt, is that when we identify as a 'gamer' we identify with our hobby in a slightly unhealthy way. We make our past-time part of ourselves so feel rootless when that hobby isn't something we want to do at a given point.

Thank you for your response. There's a lot of stuff to think about there.

I guess I do self identify as a gamer, but I don't necessarily see it as a core identity ('parent' probably comes first) and I still don't present it as part of my public persona. At the same time, computer gaming is incredibly important to me. As a kid, I was often wracked with boredom, despite being a heavy reader. Gaming is one of those things that kept those feelings at bay. I feel grateful that my mind/personality settled on gaming as a thing for me to do. I know too many people that settled on things like alcohol or gambling to burn away the stresses of the other parts of their lives. So, it is troubling to me when I fall into a gaming rut. But, I'm at a point in my life where I have fewer legitimate stresses than many other people, and maybe gaming does occupy a slightly unhealthy place in my psyche.

Elysium. Rise of Nations just came out on Steam...

Never let a product labelled as entertainment get you down. If you don't like it don't worry about it.

For most of my gaming life my rut breakers where always some form of CRPG..turn based or not as long as it had a decent story and lots of fiddling with my party it helped me relax and just take my time to play.

Strangeblades wrote:

Never let a product labelled as entertainment get you down. If you don't like it don't worry about it.

This.

My philosophy of hobbies is simple: the second it starts feeling like work, I stop. I don't mean labor of love kind of work. I mean the kind of work you do because you feel obligated to do it.

Any game or hobby that makes me think "ugh, now I have to go do X" with any level of consistency gets dropped. Or at least put on hold until such time as I want to do it again.

Go to Hawaii, specifically Kauai. That is all I think about since being there almost a year ago. Man, I freakin miss it.

I don't know why I wrote this. Maybe because I myself have been in a slump that is growing deeper & deeper everyday. I find myself playing Candy Crush on my phone every night instead of GTA 5 or the 300 other "AAA" games that I own.

I think mobile gaming has become the biggest distraction for me. I blame Steve Jobs & Apple

I too, am in a rut. It is either too tired or when I have time it's been more anime/browsing. My work can be super busy or dead. I will grind a ton with handhelds. I wish games as service would let me enjoy them anywhere.

I just got off a 10 hour shift. I've got maybe 6 hours sleep (by the time my mind switches off) before heading back in. I thought about playing one game or another, but I'm spent even though I cannot sleep. When I do play a game in such moments I generally don't have a good time, and wrongly attach that outcome at the feet of said game, when if I'd played at a more appropriate moment the same in-game experience may have been well received. I've noticed this when I've had a morning off and got some early gaming in, compared to late night gaming with very little mental energy left to spare before exhaustion brings about sleep. This can lead me to believe I'm in a gaming related rut, when it's actually more a misuse of my gaming time.

polq37 wrote:

... computer gaming is incredibly important to me. As a kid, I was often wracked with boredom, despite being a heavy reader. Gaming is one of those things that kept those feelings at bay. I feel grateful that my mind/personality settled on gaming as a thing for me to do. I know too many people that settled on things like alcohol or gambling to burn away the stresses of the other parts of their lives. So, it is troubling to me when I fall into a gaming rut.

You're not alone in that line of reasoning. I ponder where I could be if not for video games. My father turns to alcohol for escapism. I have a cousin and a brother-in-law who have both saw gambling as their outlet to satisfy boredom. There were two co-workers (they no longer work with us) who turned to drugs to blur the lines of reality when they had time to think. I use gaming in such ways on occasion. Sometimes it's just out of interest and for the enjoyment, but often it can be to stave off boredom or occupy my mind from thoughts I'd rather not deal with.

As of this moment in time, there are more games available to me than any other time in my life. I can download a new experience inside of 10 clicks for less than a lunch meal.

However, I also find myself in the same rut.

As the video game industry matured, the field narrowed and a few major players emerged. Games got bigger. Deeper, more complex and full of progression. Development cycles got longer and longer. Hell, we waited 10 years for Diablo 3.

Then something happened. Game mods and indie devs crossed the chasm... the AAA market rose out of nothing. Crowd favorite mega sleeper hits emerged as the next best thing. Games reverted back to x-bit graphics and chiptune soundtracks. Development times shrank.

Thing is, beta-test cycles got a wider audience and half baked games flooded the market. A lot of great concepts with humble beginnings just never got finished.

Of course, the lowest common denominator on the player side doesn't help, either. Cheaters, hackers and those of that ilk have killed entire communities.

Both sides of the industry are due for some healthy introspection. Developers need to find a happy medium between making money and producing content. I'm happy to pay for a gaming experience that's worth it, but I'm not interested in the microtransaction world. On the other hand, the game player community needs to find a better way to turn the tide on the lowest common denominator phenomenon.

I don't know. I feel a little lost and am probably rambling.

All I ever wanted to do was play games.

CrawlingChaos, I'm not quite certain you're looking at things clearly. Maybe I'm just latched onto your declaration that the rise of public beta-testing has led to "half-baked" games, or that's at least how you make it sound. I remember when the Internet was becoming a bigger thing, in particular broadband, and suddenly everyone was complaining that studios didn't need to release finished games anymore because they could just patch it later. The same worry happened to console gamers when Xbox Live became a thing.

I think this is not only an overestimation of how many games are releasing in a "half-baked" state, but also underestimating just how many games released like that before the Internet was even a thing. Crunch cycles, overtime, and deadlines are nothing new to the games industry, and neither are glitchy games. Daikatana is a perfect example of a game that hit store shelves with nothing but problems. Or look at the original Pokemon games. Even Nintendo, with all their care and polish, released a game that has countless bugs riddled through it, though they also happen to be very, very interesting.

Sure, there are games with issues, and as the technology advances so, too, does the possibility of bugs and glitches. And yes, there are a lot of developers out there that refuse to fix certain bugs that later become major problems. But just because your most fond memories also happen to be of the most polished games, especially when all you could afford in your younger days were likely the biggest and best, it's pretty unfair to compare.

I don't think the industry is fine in how it operates, but it always bugs me when people insist gaming has somehow gotten worse simply because certain aspects of it have changed.

I don't remember feeling like "get off my lawn" and "things were better in the old days" when writing my post. This is either misinterpretation or bad writing on my part.

I've been around games long enough to understand that bugs happen. That's not the point.

Last night, I spent about 2 hours on Steam. I've been really wanting to pick up something new. All games have good and bad comments/reviews. I try to find the mid ground and look for trends in the comments.

Of course, many games are early release on Steam. I get that. Many times comments point to "wait a while and this game may get better or fixed"... Semantics or otherwise, this is half-baked to me.

I've already purchased a few games in my Steam inventory that have gone into some sort of game development limbo. The devs have this great concept and put out a starting build for the game. Great! Let's kick the tires... And then nothing happens.

This is a great time in the industry. There are more games out there than ever before! We can participate at a ground floor level to shape a game! All good things.

However, there is a glut of unfinished ideas out there. That's frustrating. I can't be the only one feeling it.

Now you can get off my lawn!!

Ahh, alright then. Yeah, I felt like you were more specifically discussing the AAA industry.

I think what we're seeing is a lot of independent projects, across a variety of media, are looking to public funding in order to take a shortcut into working on their passions full time. Patreon is a perfect example of this in addition to Kickstarter. The downside to this is that a lot of times these folks may not exactly be proven, and when other people are getting cash for an unfinished product you might start thinking "Oh, hey, maybe I should get some cash, too".

Personally, I don't really participate in any of that. I'd rather fund a finished product or Kickstart a product by folks that have a proven track record. Which might seem a bit hypocritical as I'd love nothing more than to have a successful Patreon so that I can do this stuff full-time, but alas.

Goonch wrote:

I think mobile gaming has become the biggest distraction for me.

So playing games is keeping you from playing games?

Problem solved, I'd say.

Prozac wrote:

Timely post for me. I'm in a videogaming rut at the moment but am finding a love for board and card gaming.

I was going to post something very similar.

The arrival of our first kid has necessitated a sea-change in how and what I play, but not necessarily if I play.

wordsmythe wrote:
Goonch wrote:

I think mobile gaming has become the biggest distraction for me.

So playing games is keeping you from playing games?

Problem solved, I'd say.

I have this "problem"-- recently I've been feeling guilty for neglecting my PS3 while I crank out another game of Lords of Waterdeep on the iPad.