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Opinion: Let Games Pull You Through Them At Their Own Pace

I would like to tell you two stories. One is a cautionary tale. The other is an application of what I learned from it.

A number of years ago, before I was writer and before I ever reviewed a game, I challenged myself. A major RPG that I had been dying to play had just been released, and I wanted to see it all, as quickly as possible. I gave myself a deadline of five days.

A friend was coming into town, and I wanted to pass the game off to him before he left. I stayed up late. I played during every free moment. For that week, all I thought about was this game.

At the end, when the final boss had been slain, I had two simultaneous emotions. I was proud of my accomplishment. Conquering a 60+ hour game in under a week isn’t easy when you’ve got kids. I was also exhausted though, and despite how engaging that game is, the only thing I remember about it today was how I forced my way through.

I firmly believe I would have enjoyed that game more had I taken my time. I did myself a disservice. And while there are definitely some games that have pulled me through at a brisk pace, ever since then, I’ve not pushed.

Recently, I had the opportunity to play through BioShock’s first narrative DLC pack, Burial at Sea Episode 1. As I wandered around Rapture, I let the game dictate the pace. The conversations between residents, the unsullied storefronts and vistas, and the clever callbacks to our first visit to Andrew Ryan’s underwater city all encouraged me to stay a while and listen.

I’ve learned that some games are better for me to play quickly. The adrenaline might need to stay high, the story might be so complex that stepping away means trouble upon return, or I simply might be embroiled in a puzzle that demands solving before I can sleep. These are the times when a game tugs me through, drawing me back in.

I no longer force it. I never push myself to over-indulge in a game that I would prefer in more measured doses. That’s no doubt why my backlog has grown over the past few years. But you know what? I don’t regret anything… except that one game that taught me this important lesson. 

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