Several years ago, when this site was under a different name, I offered a post about that moment when you and a game click. I looked at the subject from two different angles: “love at first play” and building a relationship with a game over time. In either scenario, an assumption remains that said game will be finished. That you’ll experience everything the game has to offer, and once its credits roll, it will be time to make a new bond with a new game.
But what if that game that you’ve loved or grown to love is purposefully put on hold?
In my article from last week, I touched upon the fact that within the past few years I’ve found it more and more difficult to actually finish games. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when this trend started, but it’s been at least since I joined Steam and the introduction of the current generation of consoles. One of the more recent causalities in this regard has been The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Here’s just a handful of other games that are on my “not finished” list:
The Witcher 1 and 2
The Last of Us
The Lost Odyssey
Final Fantasy XIII-2
GTA: Vice City
The Walking Dead
This is just from memory, so there are likely others. And now, I must add Red Dead Redemption II.
Part of me places RDRII on the list with a heavy heart, but a larger part of me knows that it’s just time to move on.
Now, with some of the games on my list, we simply didn’t click. Reus, a world-building game, just wasn’t my thing. Final Fantasy XIII-2 proved that I’m not as big a Final Fantasy fan as I once might have been. Stacking was quite interesting at first, and then it grew to be something quite uninteresting.
Could be that I have developed a terrible attention span.
But I digress.
The question here is not about liking or not liking games the games we choose to play, rather it’s how do you know when it’s time to move on regardless?
With RDRII, it came down to a timeframe: one month. After my second impressions post, I didn’t touch the game for one month. This was not a conscious choice, it was simply the span of time that went by before I felt like I had enough time and was in the right frame of mind to return to the game. And when I did return, I…well…I didn’t have a very good time. I managed to complete another minute percentage of Arthur Morgan’s story, which turned out to be little more than yet another sidestep that again questioned Morgan’s loyalties, and that was that. Upon turning off the game, I decided that it was officially time to move on, reasons being (1) I no longer enjoyed the game’s slow progression, and (2) I had grown weary of how much Dutch Van der Linde’s predictability drove Arthur Morgan’s own story. (In hindsight, taking time to explore RDRII’s open world might have been a good option to help see things through rather than totally hanging up my saddle.)
Putting RDRII’s game disc away made me think a little about that “one month.” Because I realized that this timeframe played heavily into my many of my unfinished titles. And this actually provided me with a little comfort. Maybe one month was really my own litmus test. If I could not pick up an in-progress game after a one-month break, then maybe a longer break was required. More importantly, a longer, guilt-free break. While I still experience guilty pangs for stopping Breath of the Wild, primarily because I know I’m not far from its credit sequence (same still goes for Final Fantasy VII, by the way), I have none for RDRII. In fact, I feel good for letting go. Its weight has been lifted, and I’m free.
And it means I can, perhaps, work on rekindling some old friendships, starting with the lone wanderer I deserted in Fallout 4.
None of this is to say that I think either RDRII or Breath of the Wild or any of my unfinished games are “bad” games, because they certainly aren’t. These days, we, as video game players, are bombarded with a million and one great games to play, every day, all the time. As the games around us evolve into ever larger and ever more enveloping experiences, knowing (learning?) when to move on from them is key to preventing exhaustion. It’s one thing to say if you don’t enjoy the game then don’t play it. But it’s another to take control of our habits that we don’t end up washing away into the ocean of playing only for the sake of play. I don’t want to finish RDRII just so I can say I finished the game. I want to finish RDRII because I enjoyed it, became immersed in it, and became a part of Arthur Morgan’s story. While now may be the time to move on, I’m sure that the time will occur again when I know it’s right to return.
Are you comfortable with taking extended breaks from the games that you love, or do you prefer to power through games from start to finish no matter what?
Lede image [© Rockstar Games (2018)] was captured by the author on the PS4 during gameplay.