July 07, 2010

Ludo-hedonic adaptation

For the longest time I've had this lingering sense of self-loathing about the way I play video games. I've always played this way, but I started feeling inferior for it when I was around 14 or so, when I noticed my habits differed drastically from those of my peers.

You see, I usually play for anything from 30 minutes to two hours at a time. But exceedingly rarely any longer than that. Two hours is pretty much the maximum I can pull off. After two hours I must take a break. I could continue, of course, but my ability to enjoy the game is greatly reduced. I start to get anxious during cut-scenes and zoom past dialogue with the fast-forward button firmly pressed down. I start making stupid mistakes, my characters take unnecessary damage and overall both my enjoyment and skill plummet. The duration I can play is also affected by the intensity of the game's plot and the overall state of the narrative. For example, if I've played for 45 minutes and I reach a climactic cut-scene that fades to black and heralds a new chapter in the game, or signals an ending to some sub-arc of the game's story, I have to stop. I feel that to continue from that point onwards would undermine whatever the game would show me next. I have to reset my emotional responses and sense of drama, even if I still felt otherwise fresh enough to continue.

When the going gets tough, the tough head for the save sofa.

I've thought that there's something a bit wrong with me. Like, I have to train myself so I can keep up with everyone else. I thought my avoidance of long game sessions is just some fundamental handicap I have as a gamer.

Then I read this wonderful The Psychology of Games article from GameSetWatch.

Sure, I've always recognized that the primary reason for my reluctance to play for extended periods is that I get more out of a game if I play "fresh". And I've also wondered how running through a game affects game reviewer's views of games.

But still, it's nice to read a well-reasoned article about what exactly makes me like this, and to see that I'm indeed not really alone with this preference. And, most importantly, that there really is a very real cause for my behaviour.

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