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From Fun to [email protected]*% This Game: When a Game No Longer Makes You Happy

We’ve all had these moments where a game breaks us. A rage-quit moment, if you will. The one I most vividly remember was with the first Darksiders title. When War received the ability to pause time, it was the second race-against-time puzzle that sent me over the edge. It didn’t matter that I was fairly close to the end of the game. At that moment, I stopped having fun, I was overly frustrated, and seriously, I have tons of other games to play. I know that puzzles involving a ticking time clock are not my forte. They aren’t fun to me, I don’t enjoy the pressure of the ticking seconds, the list goes on and on.

I know this about myself, and yet it took me awhile to admit it, and thus know when to call it quits. That may sound like a ridiculous notion, to know when to stop, but not everyone does.

Most gamers have a competitive spirit that isn’t limited to playing multiplayer titles; many, in fact, are competitive against themselves. This competitive spirit pressures them in a multitude of ways. Pressure to get the newest shiny thing on the market. Pressure to complete every game. Pressure to obtain a Platinum trophy. Pressure to get as many trophies as one of your friends. Pressure to get different trophies from your friends. Pressure to play all the games in your stack of shame. Pressure to player on a harder difficulty. Pressure to git gud.

The competitive spirit is well and good, as long as the pressure doesn’t turn into stress. I know, because for a long time, I allowed games to overwhelm me to the point of misery. My stack of shame was ginormous, yet I kept adding to it because of video game reviews and, um, reasons. I obsessed over how to handle it. I created a plan that would dictate the order I would tackle games. When that inevitably fell apart, I made a new one, which also fell apart, rinse and repeat. I’d make priority lists. I’d set aside time specifically for the backlog. And none of that was even the worst part of my self-made stress.

video games and happiness

I would crawl down my own personal shame spiral if I didn’t finish a game. Not only was I beating myself up for not playing all of the games in my stack of shame, but I was also making myself depressed over not finishing one. If I don’t finish it, I’m not good at games. I quit too easily. Why do I even bother. Oh my God, SHE was able to finish it? What is wrong with meeeeee. The self-deprecation goes on and on.

Let me tell you something; there’s an incredible amount of peace that comes with accepting the fact a game isn’t fun FOR YOU anymore and saying fuck it. So I can’t complete that stupid time-pausing sequence in Darksiders. Maybe someone, somewhere will think less of me for either not having the skill to beat it first try or not having the drive to force myself to power on through. Well, chances are I’ll never meet that person face-to-face. If I do know that person in real life, they’re most likely not a friend and never will be. Why should I care if someone does think less of me? Better yet, what kind of person is that who looks down on someone for not having mad gaming skillz?

Although, I know, it’s all easier said than done. However, you know the truth is that it’s not about what other people think of you for not finishing a game. In fact, 99.9% of people don’t think anything at all about it. It’s about what you think of yourself. It’s easy to hold up that middle finger to someone else looking down on you, but how about doing so to yourself? We always put so much pressure on ourselves to be the best like no one ever was, but when it comes to something you’re supposed to enjoy, something that’s a hobby, you have to know when to stop. You have to know when it’s time to give both the game and your nagging self-pressure the middle finger.

You have to know when it’s time to say “Fuck this game!” and play something else.

Even if you enjoyed most of the game, there may come a time where the fun ends, like it did for me in Darksiders. That’s when it’s the most important to realize the fun is over, even if it’s during a final boss fight. Even if you only have one trophy to go before getting the Platinum. No game should become frustrating to the point of stress.

Don’t listen when someone provides unsolicited advice such as, “But you only have one more trophy to go,” or “If you’re having trouble, just grind some more.” Especially don’t listen if that someone is that tiny voice in your head. All you have to do is ask if you’re having fun anymore. Are you having fun trying to get that last trophy? Do you enjoy grinding for hours? If the answer is no, then fuck that game. The relief that comes with letting go is worth so much more than potential hours wasted in stress.

Now, as for letting go of all the other stress and pressure we put on ourselves, just remember, baby steps. Today, it’s letting go of gaming stress. Tomorrow it’s not caring what anyone thinks of you, for realsies this time!