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Keeping up with all my old games made playing new games hard in 2018

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Mobile games and MMOs ate up most of my free time

Idolmaster: Cinderella Girls Starlight Stage on an iPad Julia Lee/Polygon

Normally, every year, there are a ton of games that I haven’t played that I want to. Maybe I’m too stingy to dish out $60 for a game, or I own it and it’s just sitting on my ever-growing backlog. This year, that wasn’t the case. With the exception of Pokémon Let’s Go! and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate I played none of the big releases from this year — because I was too busy playing a ton of other games.

Marvel’s Spider-Man, God of War and Red Dead Redemption 2 were highly praised on just about every gaming outlet I follow. Everyone was shocked when I told them I had a PlayStation 4, yet had no desire to play these. “What? That’s such a waste!” I was told. “Just play it!” While the game genres weren’t for me, normally if somebody is really recommending a game to me, I’ll eventually cave.

I considered what my day-to-day looked like and knew that I wouldn’t want to sacrifice any of my precious time with my ... other games to play any of those big titles. Why? It’s not because I’m actually playing through my backlog, but it’s because I’m playing so many mobile games and MMORPGs consistently throughout the year.

I play a handful of mobile games: Pokémon Go!, Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and several Japanese idol rhythm games that take up the most of my time. (There are dozens of us Idolmaster fans in America! Dozens!) I am consistently playing both MapleStory and MapleStory 2, with Final Fantasy 14 spattered between if I feel like renewing my subscription. Of course, I’m also playing League of Legends throughout the year. Just when I wipe my brow and think I can take a break in any of those games, I’m dragged back by a new limited-time event and a desire to complete it.

I don’t have the time to play a game about being a cowboy, even if there are a ton of different horses that do appeal to me. Instead, I have to dedicate a bulk of my next week to grind in an event so I can get a PNG of an anime girl. Once I think I’m done in MapleStory, the developers launch a new event where you can farm coins for some really good loot, so I’m back on that, too. Oh? I have free time? Nope, there’s a new crossover event in Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and I need to harvest bugs off of flowers relentlessly for the next week. Too bad. And I know I make it seem like an exhausting bore, but I’m happy to do all this. I love these games and the constantly updating content.

Even years after release, the games I play are still releasing quality-of-life improvements. Whether the update is just being able to hold more currency or being able to help out your buddies with a single button press instead of 20 presses, game companies are starting to understand what to do to keep their players coming back. They’re actively listening to feedback and making changes.

New games are a gamble. I have a set of games in front of me that I love to play and find joy in, so why invest the time and energy investment in a game that I might not enjoy? The hype for new big titles is always huge. Most of the time they exceed expectations, though players, in their excitement, will oversell a game. Will Marvel’s Spider-Man still be this raved about next year? Will it still be considered a game I should spend my time on?

The events in my games are only around for a limited time, but God of War will be waiting for me, years from now — maybe with new and better content, too! I have time to play these other games. AAA titles also only get cheaper after releasing, so maybe in 10 years I’ll buy a $5 Steam port of a game from 2018. I’ll sit down and finally play — between all the events in my other games, of course.