Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): March 2016

This is getting harder now. I thought I had so many games, they surely last more than a year, and the urge to buy more of them shouldn’t be strong at all. Now I’m discovering that  the act of buying was probably a bigger part of it than the act of playing. This might be what shopaholics feel, but I didn’t know the same thing extended to digital purchases.

You know what helps? To set your Steam client to start into the “Library” tab instead of “Store”. It’s in the settings. Try it out once.

Let’s take this month to think about addiction. Read on if you’re ready.

Observations about the mind

There is a nice side effect to trying to remove your mind’s urges to buy games. You can watch how it operates.

After last month’s mobile gaming binge, I settled on Knights of Pen and Paper +1. It’s a nice game, but nothing warrants my obsession with it this March. I would play it on train rides and even during lunch breaks. I’m sure I’ve clocked in more than 20 hours in just a few days. My mind was lusting after a new game and since it isn’t half bad (compared to all the other mobile crap I’ve tried), I stayed with it.

This went so far that I developed some sort of love/hate relationship with it. In the last 25% of the game, things get very boring, fights become drawn out and I just played to see what’s next, without the slightest hint of enjoyment. So, so repetitive. After a few days of this, it started feeling like the dumb grinding of EverQuest or World of Warcraft. Something I did decades ago. Something I didn’t want to do ever again. And yet I did.

This is bizarre and I hope that I won’t have to feel like this towards a game ever again. In the end I didn’t know who I was trying to please, the touchscreen by mindlessly repeating the same stupid attack patterns over and over again or my obsessive mind by giving it the pixels it was craving.

Addiction symptoms, perhaps. I even contemplated playing while walking, to maximize the time I could be spending in the game. Crazy.

I was happy to discover that one of the hosts of Rétro Nouveau has the same problem, but with Crypt of the NecroDancer (“chu incapab’ d’arrêter”, he says in the most beautiful Québécois). It even became an issue in his family. That’s not my level of addiction yet with Knights of Pen and Paper +1, but seeing that Crypt of the NecroDancer is on my list of games to finish, I might fall into the same trap later this year.

Focus!

The best thing so far about my experiment, even if I’m scared by my mobile binge, is that I find it easier to focus. I know that no new games will come into my library this year, so I don’t have to distract myself with gaming news. I don’t even look at Steam or GOG anymore. This also helps to reduce craving. When I read about a new interesting game, I used to freak out and wanted to quit what I’m currently playing to buy the new shiny thing.

But buying new shiny things just makes you have a new shiny thing, and the excitement about the shiny thing will wear off quickly, and then you’re back to craving the next shiny thing. Intellectually it’s easy to know all this. But to feel it in your bones is refreshing and teaches a much stronger lesson.

Inversely to what I thought would happen, this has increased my enjoyment of the current main game I’m on, Pillars of Eternity. I’m paying more attention to detail in it, and I don’t want to rush the main quest quite as hard anymore.

I’m trying to see the world as if no more new games were being made, and I’m stuck with what I already have. It’s a change of perspective I can recommend to any purchase-addicted gamer.

Some things about gaming in general

With all the shitty mobile games I’ve played, I noticed another pattern. Most new games are bad. This isn’t something that’s only occurring to me, if you look at Yahtzee‘s or Mack‘s reviews, they notice that as well. This is a three-part thing:

  1. There isn’t a lot of innovation in mainstream gaming anymore. Rehashes and graphical upgrades sell just fine, so why innovate?
  2. Most gamers are casuals. And I don’t mean to go all PC Master Race on people, it’s supposed to be an objective assessment. I’m pretty sure the hardcore aren’t what makes up most of the gaming market by headcount anymore. Your aunt doesn’t play Mega Man V, she’s more likely to play Candy Crush. Or else you have a very core aunt.
  3. Through this, a lot of games don’t need to offer innovative concepts or gameplay depth. We gamers have seen it all before. It only remains to see which games actually do a new thing, or do an old thing better, and those are few.

As gamers we might sometimes be nostalgic for old games that we’ve played growing up, and when we revisit them we’re happy for a bit and then drop them again, disillusioned that they’re not as good as we remember them to be.

I think this factors into game buying. I get excited about a game when I see it in a sale or when I check out release trailers and reviews. It’s the same excitement I felt as a kid. Then I buy the game, and sometimes it’s really good, but most of the time it simply disappoints. I drop it after only a few days, thinking “bleh, I’ve seen all this before, but much better,” even if it could just be my nostalgia that makes the older gaming experiences seem more enjoyable than they actually were.

That in turn makes me feel more disappointed than if I’d never even bought the game in the first place. It reveals that my own judgment betrayed me. The game looked fine in trailers, it sounded exactly like what I’d love to play, reviews were great and now I’m not happy with it. But hey, the brain says, next time will be better! Just wait for the next new game. That one will surely be satisfying! And so this vicious circle goes.

With that thought burning in the back of my mind, I went and revisited some classics I really liked, to see where they fall on the nostalgia vs. quality scale.

I’ve started playing Quake again (the original, not Q3A or anything) and I’m really enjoying myself. This game has everything. Solid, straightforward mechanics, excellent level design, a dark atmosphere and enough variety. Just what I needed. It also whet my appetite for first-person shooters, and through that I settled on the next game to play:

Alien: Isolation

This is one of the games I bought for Windows when rumors appeared that it would get a Linux release. And wow, this is a release that doesn’t disappoint. Controls are tight, sound design is impeccable, the atmosphere is thick and heavy, the characters not too cliché and I really like the graphics with all the light and shadow effects.

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I’ve played this parallel to Pillars of Eternity because sometimes I just don’t enjoy the gloom and seriousness of its murders, dying faiths and soulless children. I’d rather trade that for the gloom and seriousness of trying to survive on a space station with a hungry alien on your trail.

Unfortunately, I also had to give it up before March was gone. I shit my pants too much. The atmosphere is too dense, the sound design too good. I can’t play this game, it scares me. Congratulations to Creative Assembly.

Struggles

Check out this amazing pixel viking with his awesome mustache and horny helmet:

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How can I not download this? It was irresistible. But it turned out I didn’t like the game. Sometimes having a game’s being F2P is quite useful.

I did grab one new free game on Android that actually stuck with me for a bit, Sara and Death. A puzzle game with a backstory that tickles your philosophical thinking, and it has beautiful illustrations:

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It’s death with a poodle, roasting something in the flames of Sara, who is pouting and on fire. What’s not to like?

On March 3, preorders for No Man’s Sky opened, but they didn’t announce a Linux version yet, so it’s not even going on the wish list. I’d love me some nice space trading/exploration game, let’s see what has a Linux version in 2017.

For my birthday, my nephew gifted me Stardew Valley. Thanks! Looks rather good, I used to like Harvest Moon. Since there’s no Linux version available yet, I won’t be tempted to play it for a few months at the very least.

I think despite buying a mobile game, I’m over mobile games again. Yes, shame on me, but I do recognize the error in my reasoning. The colorful icons and all the free-to-play crap lured me in. In hindsight what I did looks amusingly dumb.

The Escapists was 66% off on some sale weekend on Steam. I heard good stuff about the game, but here we go, I resisted!

I’m also getting a bit antsy about the HTC Vive. It looks like this is the first proper foray into home VR. I’m very tempted to get one, but I’m happy I won’t have to worry about it until next year.

Failures

This month marks another failure, and I’ll have to prolong my challenge until March 12, 2017. And not just for one thing: I bought Hitman GO (they had a sale! It was just 1 franc! Bastards!) and bought and refunded two other games. I thought that while I’m breaking my vows, I might as well try some other premium mobile games to see if they’re any good. Since I refunded both of them, they weren’t good enough.

Wishlist happenings and reconsiderations

Linux

  • Moved Sproggiwood from the Android wishlist to the Steam one.
  • Added Enter the Gungeon to Steam wishlist.
  • Added Banished to Steam wishlist because a Linux port is about to appear.

Android

  • Removed Crashlands. Won’t be put on the Steam one, it’s trying too hard to be funny and there’s no Linux version.
  • Removed BattleLore: Command for no reason.
  • Removed Circa Infinity because the trailer nearly made me vomit.
  • Removed Pandemic: The Board Game because I’d rather play the board game.
  • Removed Mage Gauntlet because Wayward Souls seems better.
  • Removed Civilization Revolution 2 because I think Civ 5 on the PC ought to be better, no? And I already have that.
  • Removed Dark Echo. Nice concept, but I think I’m too jaded to try it.
  • Bought and refunded Reckless Racing 3. Stutters on my device even in lowest graphics settings, and the camera makes me vomit.
  • Bought and refunded Devious Dungeons. Maybe in mobile turns this is a nice metroidvania, but it ain’t no Rogue Legacy.
  • Tried some free to play games and filed them under “nah, been there before, I don’t need any of this”.

Where we stand now

Finished

  • Knights of Pen and Paper +1 Edition. Wow, what a pain in the ass towards the end. The first 60% or so of the game were quite enjoyable, but especially the very last few quests are just a stupid back and forth of fetch quests between places you’ve seen dozens of times before.
  • Black Man by Richard Morgan.
  • Alien: Isolation. I really like the atmosphere and the 80s style. Wow. But I’m shitting my pants over and over again, so I had to quit it.
  • Super Meat Boy. Gave up on this for the third and final time. Those fucking levels with the fans. I can never get the hang of wind physics here.
  • Elliot Quest. It’s honestly not very good. Or I have seen much better before, either way.

Now playing

  • Pillars of Eternity. I have to retract a bit of what I said last month, at the 17 hour mark I’m slowly growing to like some of my characters and the story (especially of some of the city side quests) seems to be written with a lot of love and attention to detail. Still don’t understand the combat system, but I just bullshit my way through fights.
  • Quake. This has aged surprisingly well.
  • Escape Goat 2. Not as nice as the original with its pixel graphics (IMO) but there are still some very pleasing levels.

Now reading

What’s left

  1. The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human
  2. The Banner Saga
  3. Chaos Reborn
  4. Crypt of the NecroDancer
  5. The Curious Expedition
  6. Divinity: Original Sin Enhanced Edition
  7. Dropsy
  8. Escape Goat 2
  9. Hand of Fate
  10. The Long Dark
  11. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
  12. Nuclear Throne
  13. Outlast
  14. Pillars of Eternity
  15. Quake
  16. Ronin
  17. Shadowrun: Hong Kong – Extended Edition
  18. Star Wars: KOTOR II
  19. Tales of Maj’Eyal
  20. Transistor
  21. Victor Vran
  22. Wasteland 2: Director’s Cut
  23. XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Mobile

  1. Hitman: GO
  2. Horizon Chase

In terms of books, the list is too long to put here, so I’ll just link to my shelf on Goodreads.

Enjoyed this? Read the other posts in this series.

 

 

3 thoughts on “Diary of a year of not buying video games (or books): March 2016”

  1. Came across your blog as I’m doing the same thing. Between January and March I’ve allowed myself the games I had on pre-order from last year. This included Megaman legacy collection, Zelda Twilight Princess HD and Black Desert Online. My goal is to have at least a 12 month period where no games are purchased. Like you this will now take me to the end of March 16.
    I have a steam library which includes 236 games with many of them un-played. I also have quite a number of 3DS, Wii U and Wii titles which I need to get through. Using FTP to satisfy the itch for something new is a good strategy. Thanks for the tip on making your steam client open up on the library page as well (Great tip) especially during sales.
    I wish you all the best in achieving your goal of not buying games for a year. I will keep updated on your progress and keep you updated on mine. Knowing you’re not alone in this aim might spur you on when you’re tempted to make a purchase.

    Like

    1. Hey, great timing! It does feel like the burden is spread out a bit, and what a coincidence that we have roughly the same end dates now 😀 Keeping that in sync will give me one more incentive not to buy anything new. I also have a 3DS game and two on the Wii U that I can resort to, I wanted to play those anyway but never “had the time” since I kept buying stuff on PC. Thanks for the note and I hope we both make it to the end!

      Like

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