Rethinking Replays

One of my oldest gaming habits is turning to old favorites whenever I fail to find footing with something new. Super Metroid and Super Mario 64 were two such staples. For years I kept copies of them alive on one Nintendo system or another, and I’d fire either of them up any time a new game just did stick. This time spent was to reset rather than fully replay either game. I’d play for just a session or three until I felt ready to move onto something else. Nowadays, this habit hasn’t much changed, though the games have. Now whenever I rebound off a new or new-to-me game, like recently with Divinity: Original Sin II, I tend to reset with either Mass Effect or Dragon Age, which is what happened. I fell off DOSII into Mass Effect. I got through it about two-thirds of MEII before I had had enough. Problem is, while I had never had any problem leaving Super Metroid or Super Mario 64 unfinished, I don’t feel the same about ME or DA playthroughs. For whatever reason, I always feel like I have to see those series through all three games each time I start.

It’s a silly problem to have, I know, but it’s led me to reconsider my approach to replaying games. Game “replayability” once hinged on building skills and obtaining high scores. That still holds true for many games, especially skill building, but thanks to my current gaming preferences, my choice to replay or not all depends on story and choice. Does a game offer branching paths and alternate plots in a world that’s ripe with discovery? If so, then I’m probably going to replay it to obtain a different ending or spend time exploring things I previously missed or find an undiscovered storyline.

But, going into a replay simply to experience something different is no longer enough. Now, I have to have a goal. I have to start out the replay with a set goal in mind, otherwise, I’ll second guess my decision. I’ll think, if I’m not replaying this game for a very good reason, a very good goal, then I should just be playing something else, something different, something new. Then, I’ll fall further into the self-sabotage hole in thinking, why do I need a goal? This is a game, not work! Maybe I’ve been living too long in a career that rests heavily on making and reaching goals, but it’s a feeling I have trouble shaking with replays these days. Not all my replays diverge down this dark path. In many, I find comfort and ease, because I can easily categorize several games under “my happy place.” The problem is, these easygoing replays have recently taken a backseat to my goal-oriented, too-focused approach to playing, this feeling that I simply must compete what I started, and I’m pretty sure that’s not a good thing.

I’m pretty sure that my overarching devotion to Fallout 76 for a good three years altered some portion of my brain chemistry when it comes to gaming. For the vast majority of my time in it, I had to create goals for myself. Heck, I enjoyed it enough to keep making goals and keep playing long past its expiration date, as it were. But, as I’ve learned, it’s this goal-oriented state of play that keeps so many MMOs going. Sure, they do what they can to attract new players, but something has to keep everyone coming back, and so developers add goals. Call them dailies, weeklies, grind sessions, leveling for gear, or whatever floats your boat, they are goals through and through.

I have plenty to play – too many new games to start and too many old games to finish – yet, I have a new Commander Shepard who’s sitting in his quarters in Mass Effect II waiting for me to return. And yes, I had a goal in mind when I started his path. (To see though the Liara romance, if you’re curious.) Why did I have to go and do that? Why couldn’t I just be happy enough to stick it out with DOS II? Why do I now want to throw it all to the wind and pick up with my Fallout 4 lone wanderer Faye, who’s career took a very raider-esque turn after she became queen of Nuka-World?? Why, indeed. I know I should just quit worrying and just play. Play on no matter the game. Because that’s the whole point of this strangely jubilant hobby, right?

Lede image captured by author during PS5 gamplay of Fallout 4 (© Bethesda Game Studios).


  1. Ehrisaia says:

    I totally understand what you mean, Cary. I’m currently replaying Shantae: Half Genie Hero on my Switch. SO much content! And so much fun! Just something about the Shantae games that reminds me of my childhood. Very special games. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      Yes, nostalgia plays a huge role in replaying games, too! Those feelings of comfort and happiness are often enough to make the replay totally worth it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. WCRobinson says:

    Completely relate! So often I think about going back to a game I adore, whether it be for a new remake/remaster or just to play the original. For example, I got the GameCube version of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess recently and would love to play it again, as it’s my favourite game ever. But I always think about how it’s taking precious time away from playing one of the other (many) games on my backlog. I think the problem is that as we get older, we’re trained more and more to make sure whatever we do has a result or a proactive sense to it. I’m attempting to train myself back into just playing for the pure fun of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. cary says:

      That’s an excellent point about *needing* results. I know I feel that not only with games but with other hobbies, too. It’s like, “if I’m not doing it for a reason, why am I doing it?” It’s a great way to quickly sap the fun out of things, that’s for sure; and it belies the whole point of a hobby! It’s funny that the pursuit of wholesale “fun” as an adult is almost like the pursuit of “being an adult” as a kid. We want so bad to have that which we don’t, and once we have it, we want exactly the opposite. What a life! 😅

      Liked by 1 person

  3. cary says:

    Reblogged this on Recollections of Play and commented:

    Gaming shouldn’t come with baggage, but it does, at least a little in my world, when it comes to replays. In a world where I have so many new gaming choices, why do I keep turning back to old favorites? And more importantly, should I? Recently, I pondered these thoughts and more over on Virtual Bastion.


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