I know I make a big deal about how I value story, narrative, and emotional response when I play/review indie games. I love watching a gripping storyline unfold, and characters starting off small but rising to the occasion and becoming giants by the end. I love a game that forces me to think, and adds a new dimension to my worldview of life. But this wasn’t always the case. About two years ago the majority of my time was spent on an all-consuming and pointless venture. It occupied every waking thought. I read guides and watched tutorials on how to get better. I sunk nearly seven hundred hours in the space of around eight months, with absolutely no lessons learnt (except perhaps one), and nothing to show at the end of it. Want to know what I’m on about?
It’s funny…I’ve never liked cars and I’ve never been big on football/soccer. But once I started, RL slowly became more and more intriguing. At the beginning, it was like spotting a rare bird with fascinating plumage through a pair of binoculars. The more time I spent on it, the closer and more beautiful the bird appeared. After a month, the bird got so close it was revealed for what it was: a rabid, foaming raven. It sank its talons into me and didn’t let go.
I regret the sheer volume of hours I wasted playing RL. Yes I enjoyed playing it, but great moments were few and far between. It didn’t help that I was so terrible at the game despite the hours I invested, which invariably led to harassment and vitriol from both opponents and teammates. The toxicity was mind-blowing. Not very frequent, but immensely concentrated when it occurred. I think the lowest point was when someone told me:
“you’ve played over 500 hours but you’re still this sh*t?! kys”
I remember that comment verbatim.
I must have uninstalled the game on three separate occasions in frustration, and swore to myself that it was pointless and I’d be better off without it. But it called. It wouldn’t stop. Eventually, when my partner was entering her final trimester, I realized just how much time I was sinking into the game. I finally saw how she looked at me when my headphones were on. As if I were a stranger. Like a smoker declaring they’d just had their last cigarette…that was it. I haven’t played since.
I want to be clear that I am in no way comparing my situation to substance abuse: I know that what I experienced was nothing like what an alcoholic or drug addict would go through. I also don’t believe that video games as a whole are addictive, only that some individuals are prone to spending more time on certain games than others. It’s certainly not to the extent the media would have the public believe.
I also want to be clear that I’m not saying that RL shouldn’t be played and I wouldn’t dream of telling people to change their habits. If you play it and enjoy it, fantastic. But it made me fall short of the standards I set for myself. I ignored everything around me and prioritized it over others, something that never happens when I play indie games. I wish I’d spent those hours more effectively, if not with my partner then at least on games that were thought-provoking and inspiring, that I could learn from, that wouldn’t make me shut myself off from the world.
But here I am. If RL taught me nothing during those seven hundred hours, it taught me (after the fact) that I’m much happier when I stick to indie games. My partner noticed as well. I know the telltale signs now, which means I’ve armed myself with a trusty rabid raven swatter. I’m hoping it gets to gather dust in its sheath, unused, for a long time to come.
(header image sourced from medium.com)