Opinion: Familiar Games Deter Us From New Experiences

by Kimberley Wallace on Dec 20, 2013 at 12:00 PM

For years, I've been battling against investing so much time in one game. I know I'm not the only one; we had a whole day of features on our favorite time sinks. But as I get older and have less time outside of work to play games, I've found my comfort food in returning to the same games repeatedly, such as The Sims, EA's NHL series, and Harvest Moon. I enjoy playing these because I know the rules and there's no big narrative for me to keep track of. I've always rationalized that this was perfectly fine. After all, I'm playing a game I enjoy, but lately I've realized I'm robbing myself of new game experiences by relying too much on the same games.

Right now, I'm experiencing this same problem with NBA 2K14 and FIFA 14. I come home, thinking I'm only going to play a match or two, and then several matches and hours later, I'm still hooked. I've had Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag on my agenda for months, and every night I plan to start it, I've been sidetracked by going back to these time sinks. In fact, I knew I had a problem when editor-in-chief, Andy McNamara started teasing me that every time he logs into PS4, his feed is full of me playing sports games. After he said this, other staff members also chimed in that they've noticed the same thing. They were obviously joking and not criticizing me; but it got me thinking: Maybe I do have a problem.

Although, I do enjoy really getting to know games front and back, I'm realizing that I'm well past knowing the intricacies of these games. However, even with this growing revelation, I still come back to them. I'm not saying it's wrong for me to do this, but I'm realizing I need to lessen my reliance on my comfort games. If I say, "I'm only going to play a match," I need to stick to it. It'd be crazy to think I can just stop cold turkey, or that I should even abandon them completely, considering how much I love them. But I do need to start playing them in moderation.

I'm also missing out on the thrill of finishing a game to completion. Games like NBA 2K14 and The Sims 3 can keep going, with hardly any end in sight – which is part of the problem. Throw in that the progress you make by devoting a few hours in them is minimal; The Sims 3 doesn't just award job promotions without spending hours advancing your skills and relationships; A similar time investment is required for My Career in NBA 2K14, you don't see new story threads until after a string of games. Still, these games aren't there to put the brakes on my addiction, nor should they be. After all, props to the developers for making titles that I can't put down. 

The worst part of this is that although I enjoy playing my time sinks, the guilt does start to fester over devoting such a chunk of my time to them. I look at the large stack of games I spent money on and still want to play, and just want to scream at myself for continually leaving them in the dust. Maybe, this editorial is my way of yelling at myself. Maybe, I should just run home now and give my comfort games to some of the staff to hide until I finish a couple of different games.

I know I can't be the only who has ever dealt with problem. I imagine many have at one point had certain games take over their systems. But, should we just submit to the addiction, or should we force ourselves out of our comfort zones and into new experiences? I'm leaning towards the latter, and so I'm starting on a new path today, figuring out my battle plan. Because if I'm constantly turning to the same experience, I'm not learning anything new. That's the worst revelation I've come to yet.