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Why I Quit Playing Games

I used to chew through games and spit them out. It was my personal mission to play every high-profile game I could get my hands on. Then the unthinkable happened – I stopped enjoying my favorite series.

The build up to Halo 2’s release in 2004 was ridiculous. It seemed like everyone in the country was talking about how Halo 2 would change the face of gaming forever, and I rode that hype train at full steam until the sequel’s release. I read every online article and watched every trailer for the game multiple times. I had even taken the game’s release day off school so I could play it all day. The midnight release was electric, and I couldn’t wait to stick the disc into my Xbox as soon as I got home. However, by 2:30 in the morning I realized I wasn’t having fun, so I stopped playing and didn’t touch it again for weeks. I was depressed from disappointment.

Part of the problem was that I had built up the game too much in my mind; I was expecting too much. But I realized that I had a bigger problem: I had forgotten how to have fun while playing games. Like an obsessed taxidermist, I had video game paraphernalia scattered all over my house and a stack of games on my bookshelf that symbolized my achievements. Having fun wasn’t the point anymore. I was no longer playing games because I liked them. My mission had become to extend my list of completed games.

The problem crystalized for me when I went on a family road trip sometime later that year. While traveling through Kansas, we spent the night at the home of one of my mom’s friends. The woman was a nice old lady who “loved” to speed-read romance novels. She had bookshelves full of Danielle Steele and Nora Roberts. I remember talking to her about her hobby, and she told me something that really stuck with me. She said that she didn’t really remember much about the books she read. She had hundreds of books on the shelves, and she was always eager to read a new book, but once she placed it on the shelf the memories of that experience got lost in a sea of past events.

I realized that I was doing the same thing with games. I was moving through video game titles so quickly because I felt some unspoken pressure to complete them all, and in the process I had forgotten why I enjoyed playing games in the first place. I resolved to only play games I enjoy from that point forward. Looking back, that sounds like a stupid resolution to have to make, but it completely changed my love for the hobby.

Last year, when Dishonored came out, I played it for a few hours, but I wasn’t enjoying myself. I wasn’t in the mood for that game. So, on a whim, I started playing Mark of the Ninja, and enjoyed that a lot. I finished Borderlands and my second playthrough of XCOM, and after a month or so, went back to Dishonored because I felt like I was in the mood for that kind of game. You know what happened? I totally loved it! I now consider Dishonored one of my favorite games of last year, but I wouldn’t have had the same experience with it if I had just kept trucking through the game the first time around.

Don’t do that to yourself. If you don’t enjoy a game, don’t feel forced to play it. Conversely, if you put a game aside because you’re not enjoying it, feel free to return to it again a few months down the road; you might just discover a new favorite.

Feel the same way? Let me know what games you’ve gone back to after a pause and discovered that you really love.

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