The way I play video games has changed drastically over the past few years. As I’ve alluded to in the past, I only have time play games on the weekends; and some weekends I don’t have time to play at all. I’m sometimes able to make up gaming time on holidays and extended (stay-at-home) vacations, but I generally play now anywhere from two to four hours a week. (It’s something that I’m still getting used to as only just a few years ago I was able to devote at least two hours a day to gaming.) Adding to my gaming time management issues is that fact that there’s another gamer in the house. We generally work it out so that we aren’t playing games on the same consoles at the same time, but sometimes games have to be set aside for one reason or another. Recently, I took time off from Grand Theft Auto V on the PS3 because of Beyond Two Souls. We rented the game and my husband played through it first, which was fine as I had a game to finish on the Xbox 360. (I wanted to play BTS, but figured I’d put it on hold until GTA V was finished.) A week later, figuring that I’d return to GTA V, my husband absolutely insisted that I had to play BTS. Since he doesn’t often rave about games, I knew that this game had to be something special, so I started it up. It took me a little longer to get through it that he did, but boy…was it worth it! I still don’t have any words yet to describe the experience, but it was an amazing. The experience, that is. The jury is still out on it being a good game. (More to come on that…someday.)
With BTS under my belt, I decided this past weekend it was time to get back to Los Santos, and this was after nearly three weeks off from it. I started up the game and then…um…where was I? Yeah. I could not for the life of me remember where I was or what I was doing. The menus were no help as any dialogue or catalog of previous actions had been erased. Thankfully, after several minutes of me wandering around in a stolen car, a message from one of my cohorts told me what I was supposed to be doing. And then a waypoint appeared on the map telling me where to go. I felt a little pathetic for having such a terrible memory and having to rely on the game to tell me what to do, but honestly, I might have been wandering around for another hour before getting back on track, and I simply don’t have time to waste when it comes to gaming.
The vast majority of today’s games, or rather the action-adventure RPGish games that capture my attention, have been designed to be more helpful than not when managing gaps in gaming time. To take a couple more examples, I also started playing Dragon Age II again after…goodness…it has to be at least three, almost four months, as well as LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-4 after a month’s gap. I wasn’t too worried about LEGO Harry Potter as it readily tells you where to go as soon as you start a level. I was a little more worried about Dragon Age II since, well, we didn’t depart on very good terms (i.e. I got very bored with it generally). But sure enough, it didn’t leave me in the lurch either. One look at the map and a quick conversation with one of my team members reminded me of exactly where I was and what I needed to do. And off I went.
I know that many claim that maps, waypoints, breadcrumb trails, in-game hints, saved dialogue, and the like make some of today’s game too easy. That these assists lessen the challenge of gaming and make us whine and moan when a game seems too hard. And I can’t really argue with that. I know for myself that my tolerance for brutally difficult games has become almost nil. As I’ve said before, if I only have an hour to play something, I’d rather it be an hour of fun than an hour of toil. As the days move into the spring and summer and my gaming time become even scarcer, I know that the gaps between gaming will become much larger. One of the ways that I’ve learned to deal with this is to switch to less difficult, shorter games once it gets warmer out, that way there’s less of a chance that I’ll leave a game unattended for half a year. So while I might have the chance to squeeze in the majority of Assassin’s Creed III, or maybe even finish Dragon Age II before the sun comes out in earnest, I know that I should soon start focusing more on level-by-level games, like something Mario, or maybe Kirby, as well as a number of shorter indie titles that I’ve had my eye on, like Gone Home.
So while I might wish sometimes that I didn’t have to deal with gaming gaps, I don’t mind them too much as, well…I’d rather not miss out on the rest of life. And I’m glad that some developers have realized that not everyone who plays their games is able to complete them in a matter of consecutive hours. But how to you mind your gaming gaps? How to you deal with coming back to a not-yet-finished game after a matter of weeks or months? Or are you on the other side of the coin, someone who has time to complete games quickly and efficiently?