clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

I'm taking a break. It's not you, gaming, it's me

It's a strange, almost scary thing to look out at the landscape of games, which encompasses hundreds of genres and hundreds of thousands of titles, and find nothing that grabs you.

I'm in the middle of one of those funks where no game interests me at the moment, and I don't have a big project on which to work when it comes to finishing or mastering a game.

This is a normal thing, and it's time to talk about it a bit.

Growing up gaming

This is actually a relatively common thing as I get older, and many industry friends suggested literally dozens of great games I should be playing. I was forced to admit that the problem wasn't the selection of games on the market, but my own need to get away from playing games for a bit.

It seems like every year or two I hit a few weeks, or even a month or so, when gaming as a whole just doesn't feel enjoyable.

It feels like being a priest who suffers a crisis of faith

What's striking is that when I talk about these periods to people I know in gaming, they often admit the same thing, but the conversation turns to whispers, as if we're doing something wrong. There is an idea in gaming that we must constantly be keeping up with the new releases in order to have an opinion on damned near everything that hits the shelves.

We must be real gamers, above all else.

The idea that you can burn out on games in totality feels like a personal failing, something that must be hidden and never discussed. Especially when you write about games for a living, it can feel like being a priest who secretly suffers a crisis of faith, and other writers have confided in me a kind of fear that they'll be found out as they go through the same thing.

The audience often makes these discussions tricky as well. I once wrote an article pointing out that gaming, a hobby of mine that also has turned into a career, isn't the most important thing in my life. It seems like an obvious thing to say, but a few people in the gaming community used that article as evidence I shouldn't be employed in the position I currently enjoy.

One of the issues is that gaming is a a hobby we pour into the cracks of our lives. Our gaming tastes change as our lives change, and those cracks disappear in one place and pop up in another. We may be more comfortable with short games played on our phone during a commute to work. Other people may have hours each night to play multiplayer games with friends or a partner. We may want something violent, or we may feel the need to play games that calm us.

I used to play Heroes of the Storm for an hour or two every night with friends, but lately I've been using that time to watch The Flash with my daughter. Life is a zero sum game when it comes to time, and my budgeted time for gaming is now taken up by something else.

Video games will always be there for me, but the time when my daughter thinks it's cool to watch The Flash with her father is a rapidly dwindling resource of which I will take full advantage, even if it means coming to terms with the fact she has a pretty major crush on Barry Allen.

The cracks in my life have changed, and right now I simply can't find the right game to fill them in a way that matches my personal gaming needs. I've also been spending a significant amount of time in virtual reality, which is one of my current passions, but it's strange in how that doesn't seem to occupy that same place in my brain as gaming.

I watch movies in virtual reality, and I have experiences with games and demos that don't feel like a traditional game. It doesn't scratch the same itch as gaming, even though it seems to be close to that world in many ways. That's an aspect of the technology that is likely to be have broader implications as the technology moves towards an mainstream audience. Virtual reality games feel like going hiking in a way, they're not a replacement for games played on a screen for pure enjoyment or relaxation.

The most common response to my gaming malaise is a recommendation of Bloodborne, the game that seems to have taken the attention of the majority of the industry right now. My friends are playing it, the site is nearly dominated by stories about the game, but I'm not sure the game will ever be the right fit for my life, even though my job is to explore the world of gaming and pop culture.

Bloodborne Guide: Defeating Ebrietas, Daughter of the Cosmos

Finding the time to sit down for a game that may or may not require hours per session, and can't be paused in the traditional sense, is nearly impossible with five children, two of which are under the age of three. It just doesn't fit, which isn't a knock against the game or myself, it's just a case of a connection that will likely never be made. Hell, it's spring break this week, which means all five kids are home while I write this, and sneaking around to find a quiet corner to play a hyper-violent game just isn't in the cards.

What's fascinating about this is the number of people who patiently explain that the game is that good, and how important it is for me to somehow re-arrange the reality of my life in order to experience. In gaming we tend to take for granted the idea that your life must change to play these games, that this is the hardcore way to live.

There are certain games that may never fit into my life, no matter how hard I try. There will be times when my time and tastes don't match up with any new games on the market, which is when these breaks seem to happen.

The love always comes back, it's just a matter of the right game at the right time

Or people bring up Pillars of Eternity, which is another game asking for more time than I have to give. Or Ori and the Blind Forest, which similarly didn't grab me. I know what games are out there, that's a part of my job even if I'm not playing them, and the world of gaming is particularly vibrant right now, filled with a good variety of amazing games.

Looking for a game to fall in love with is, in some ways, like looking for a person to fall in love with. You can't force it, and when it happens you just kind of know.

The Venn Diagram of games I want to play and games I can play sometimes comes up empty, and that's OK. There are movies, TV show and books to enjoy. This isn't a call for people to pitch me games to cover or play and most of all I'm hoping to share this experience with other people who may not want to talk about it openly.

When I talk about these funks to other people in a similar age range, I'm in my mid-30s, there is often a fear that this is the moment we've "grown out" of games, which is silly. The love always comes back, it's just a matter of the right game at the right time.

I'm not even actively looking for that game that will bring me back into the fold. It will find me when it's time. It's OK to take a break from playing games, and the important thing is having other things in your life to fill those cracks. Gaming will always be there, and it's unlikely any of us will ever leave it behind for good. But a break, every now and then? It's no big deal, and it's not a problem that needs to be fixed.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Patch Notes

A weekly roundup of the best things from Polygon