How can you possibly play video games?

You! You‘re a variety gamer, right? Otherwise you wouldn’t be here. I'd imagine that you, like I do, want to play and learn about many different games of many different stripes. So maybe, just maybe, you can relate to an issue I once had…

Years ago, I noticed a pattern: **I had trouble starting new games.** For one, I felt like I had to be in the *right frame of mind.* “No, I can't start *Yomawari* today – I don't feel scareable enough.” Not only that, but I'd have trouble letting go: Sure, I hadn't picked *TIS-100* up for months, but I hadn't *finished* it, so, I thought, I was “still playing it”. This further discouraged starting to play new games, and I'd take countless ifs and buts and candies and nuts to move on.

One day, I realized what an issue this was. Here I had friends who listen to an album a day, or read a novel a week. How was I supposed to culture myself at that pace? I sat myself down, and after some soul-seeking, I had come up with what I called The Two Tenets of New Obskyr. (Except I don't refer to myself by my online alias IRL. That'd be funky.) They were as following:

  • 1. There is no “right time” – no “right frame of mind”. Just start playing. Whatever experience you have is a representative experience either way, and if worse comes to worse, you can always start again later.
  • 2. **You're done with a game when you feel like you are.** If you have the momentum to go all the way through the credits, go for it! But if you feel you've “gotten it” after the first few hours, or you don't feel like picking it up again, that's it. You've played it, and can move on.
  • That year, I played over a hundred games – a thitherto unthinkable number for me. Crafting this strategy for myself has really allowed me to cultivate the breadth of experience I've always wanted, and it keeps me going to this day. Who knows, maybe it could even help someone to hear?


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    That's my particular experience. I've come to understand that others may find other strategies helpful! For example, I've heard from people who once had “backlogs” that they felt shackled by those, and that throwing them to the wind to instead go where their whims take them felt like a breath of fresh air. I'd also like to mention that reading about or watching videos of a video game is a perfectly good way to experience and learn about it. Playing it might still give you a deeper perspective, but the barrier to *researching* a game is far lower for many (myself included), and if anyone's been told “yeah, but you haven't *played* it”, I'm here to tell you that you're valid and also good-looking.


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    Now, how about you? Have you had similar mental blocks or other obstacles? And have you come up with strategies to handle them? It'd be lovely to hear about!

    [“What’s your strategy for getting yourself to play video games?”,“How can you possibly play video games?”]

    I had a good cry on sort of the same subject disguised as a thread back in the fall. A few other realizations about my life came to me since then that I think have if not created mental blocks then encouraged them to form (life stuff that was eroding my mental health and which needed to be addressed pronto).

    Games are big, that's usually true, but I also think years of reading about one can build it up to be even bigger in your mind to the point that it becomes much more daunting than a new release that has just come out—one you've probably been looking forward to but which no one but journos and the devs themselves can really know anything about, so even taking into account reviews there's no legacy of reverence weighing on you if you get it in your hands fast enough. This is part of why I think it's easier to plow through a new game than one that came out years ago. TotK makes me think I'm onto something because it plays so similarly to its six-year-old predecessor but it wasn't too hard to finish its main questline even when I didn't like huge parts of it. I'd read the headlines but that's not the same as a consensus coalescing about the game's relevance forming, which always takes time.

    Most recently I picked up the *Pikmin* series. This is a series I'd ignored for a long time and knew very little about. There was no legacy of reverence for me and I didn't really know what to expect. So on a whim I booted up the first game, finished it, and then the second—triggered probably only by the release of the latest game and my reaction being that the clashing styles of cartoony CGI on top of a more realistic world design looked appealing to me. This all played out after one day finding it a little difficult to get back into *Yakuza 0* (I'm sorry to have to admit that that game might just not be for me) and then hunting for something else to play. I picked a winner, by the way. *Pïkmin* is a gem of a series.

    If there's any takeaway I get from this it's that games you know fuckall about might be the easiest to give your time to and can be real block-busters if you know you want to play something but can't figure out what. I always consult [howlongtobeat.com](https://howlongtobeat.com/) though so I know at least what kind of a commitment it can turn into if I get invested, but maybe that's not necessary if you're more cool than I am with just playing a few hours and walking away?

    @“connrrr”#p128249 I feel that. When I finally played Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, I didn‘t have a particularly good time at all – because I’d grown up with the subsequent decade of metroidvanias (games like Aria of Sorrow included), and I‘d been told SotN was the big one. It wasn’t the big one, as it turns out – it was just revolutionary at the time, and lionizing it had hurt my chances to love it. Expectations certainly make an enormous difference as to how your experience will shake out.

    However, I wouldn't let that scare me. Beyond trying to keep your expectations to reasonable levels – which isn't entirely in your control – there's not much to do about it. Rather, I've realized, if you have a suboptimal experience because of too high expectations, that's a free expectation adjustment! You can go back a year, two years, five years later and have a new experience on different terms. It's not the end – you get another chance – so it doesn't need to be such a heavy matter.

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    @“connrrr”#p128249 [M]aybe that’s not necessary if you’re more cool than I am with just playing a few hours and walking away?

    I think it's possible to *make* yourself cool with just playing a few hours and walking away. Or, well, I can't speak for how well it'd work for you or anyone else – but it's what I did, through those rules I set for myself. It's truly been a load off. Removes so many barriers.

    Lifehack: You can play any game you want if you have enough cocaine.

    I think different times of day give me different vibes and so I find it easier to juggle multiple games if I have different use cases for the game.

  • 1. Brunch Games - Games that I pay attention to, whether it‘s focusing on strategy or precision, watching cutscenes, listening to the game music, following the story. I tend to play these games in the morning on weekends or when I have nothing else going on. I can usually only stand 2 hours of this at a time. This is a pain point for my backlog though, I can’t really juggle more than 1 of these.
  • 2. Grindset Games - Games I play on the treadmill or while eating dinner or pretending to work from home or doing another task. Usually these games literally involve grinding and I can just pop on a podcast and do something with my hands. This is the most consistent type of game I play because I've worked it into my daily routine. This is where I get through a lot of JRPGs or replay old games.
  • 3. Bedtime games - Games its ok to play for less than an hour and then go to bed and not pick up again. Sometimes I just like tinkering around with stuff without really committing to it. That feeling of starting a new Cities Skylines map for 45 minutes and then returning to it a month later. Or rolling around a couple Katamari levels while drifting off to sleep. Or this is where I'll make time to emulate weird stuff.
  • Again, I'd rarely do all 3 in one day, but the best games tend to capture my attention during all 3 use cases.

    Until recently I would get absolutely paralyzed with indecision when I wanted to play a game. My brain didn’t release happy chemicals correctly so I thought if I didn’t pick the most perfect game for the moment that I would feel disappointed and empty. (When you’re depressed you look forward to the rare bursts of dopamine/serotonin/whatever and if it doesn’t arrive it can be crushing)

    I’ve since mostly resolved that problem but I still feel it sometimes and it prevented me from enjoying games for a few years. _“None of these games are right. I need one game. The perfect game.”_

    I’m trying harder lately to just play whatever is there. There are no special rules. Just try it all because it’s otherwise hard to say what will land it’s hooks in me.

    But I do feel bad because I have a list (mainly rpgs) of games I dropped unceremoniously that I’d like to someday finish. Games are too long.

    My biggest hurdle is my self perceived “backlog”. The idea that I have hundreds of games that I‘ll “get to eventually” can be almost paralyzing at times, and more recently since my wife and I have had children I’ve been considering my own mortality and recognize that I have an undefined amount of time to pursue my interests in life. Some people want to see other countries or climb a mountain. I‘d just like to complete my Tears of The Kingdom playthrough without feeling like I’m neglecting something more important.

    @“Tradegood”#p128267

    I often have a similar rotation on the go at any given time. Usually a “big boy game” which might be a lengthy RPG, story heavy or dense game which is my main focus for sitting down at length to play.

    Then I have my grindy but chill game, which is a “school night” game which I might play while listening to music or half watching something. Usually something like Into the Breach, Slay the Spire, a farming sim or visual novel. Usually even if said game is challenging it’s usually pretty mechanically simple to play and pick up/put down.

    Finally I’ll also often have something more arcadey on the go, which usually is something more mechanically twitchy or challenging to play but doesn’t require a lot of thinking or reading dialogue. This is usually also something quick to pick up and put down too.

    The most important thing for me is making sure everything is accessible. My setup has been designed so I can play any game I own or have downloaded as a rom in under 30 seconds, which includes the time to go upstairs to get the game.

    I only use emulators for PS1 and older as it is almost always guaranteed to work. PS2 has too many compatibility issues and grabbing a ROM, loading it up, fiddling with the config and finding it still runs badly is not something I'm down to clown with.

    So, almost everything I play is on original hardware. I know for a fact that if I put a disk into a console, it will run as intended. I use a retrotink5x because the OSSC introduced problems with PS2. I'm not an original hardware purist, I just want to make sure when I play a game, it works flawlessly.

    For me, fussing with getting stuff working when I used to emulate a lot (I emulate some PS1 now but Parasite Eve 2 and Vagrant Story don't work correctly so emulators still can't be trusted) just put me off playing and I'd just go back to my ps4 or something. Once you know for a fact that all your games will just load up and work, most of the barriers to playing have been removed.

    I think it was when I saw people using backloggd like letterboxd and goodreads that I realized that I think of games fundamentally differently than I do novels or movies and that a lot of people don‘t. The vast majority of long story based video games are a bore to me. The stories are usually nowhere near as good as those in movies or books (I actually think Ebert was right on this one, that because video games are all about giving the player agency they are not a good medium for storytelling (he was wrong about them not being art but, you know, he did have a point in there somewhere)) and that’s just not what I play games for. I don‘t want to play a game that’s like a novel, I want to play a game that‘s a game in the way that chess is a game, or solitare is a game, or jenga is a game. And so the idea of finishing a game or putting off a game until I’ve finished the one I‘m playing is anathema to me. Have I finished Jenga? What would that look like? Would I ever refuse a game of chess because I had a half finished solitare board at home? I approach games less like someone organizing their TBR shelf and more like a kid in an arcade with a pocket full of quarters. Often literally. I definitely gravitate more towards action games, multiplayer games, arcade games, run based games, etc over the long narrative stuff like rpgs and visual novels, but I play more videogames with the time I have than a lot of people I know who love games as much as I do, and I think not thinking about games like they’re novels is the main reason why

    Yeah, a lot of the gaming anxiety comes from mindset. Thankfully I have never had a completionist mindset. I‘ve never believed in “one hundred percenting” a game, even one I love. Sometimes I’ll beat the game, but until five years ago, I would play every Final Fantasy, get near the end, say, “Wow, that was good” and stop playing. (I‘ve since beaten IV, VII, IX, and XII, largely thanks to speed options. We’ll see if I actually beat XVI, but if I don‘t, I’ll likely say the same danged thing.)

    My issue lately has been _grass is greener_ thinking. I have such a huge list of games I want to get to at some point. For instance, I want to try Shining Force CD, but I also want to play or get back to Judgment, Lunar 2 Eternal Blue, Yakuza 4, that new Baldur's Gate 3, Horizon Forbidden West, that soon-to-be-released Starfield, and the list goes on. When I have to pick, I feel the pain of all the games I don't play, of all the fun un-had. How silly, right? For very old games (Genesis/SNES or older), I feel okay just playing one new to me for 10 minutes and feeling it out. But I feel a sense of weight or commitment picking newer or story-based games, as if I must make the pick worth it against the weight of whatever I didn't pick.

    I think I go by whim - when I beat a game, I see what's available (or what's on sale) and get that. For newer stuff, I try not to buy games before I plan to play them; a backlog in my head is easier to manage than a backlog on my shelf. Anyway, the hardest thing for me is picking; once I've decided, sticking with that game is easier.

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    @“Toph”#p128288 My biggest hurdle is my self perceived “backlog”.

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    @“TaliesinMerlin”#p128343 […] as if I must make the pick worth it against the weight of whatever I didn’t pick.

    Man, that sounds tough. I haven't borne this burden myself, but allow me to share my thinking… (Of course, these mental blocks aren't always easy to get rid of, so whatever you do, don't take this as me saying “just don't think like that”!)

    The way I see it, if a game is interesting enough to you to be in a “backlog” (whether that's written down or in your head), you'll probably come to think of it again someday; get excited to play it years down the line – perhaps you read something about it, or a friend talked about it, or you found it on an old hard drive… That makes it a self-filtering mechanism: The games that you truly want to go back and play will stick around in your mind, and you'll thus eventually play them, meaning they don't need to be in a backlog. If you don't get around to playing a game, well, that means it wasn't that pressing to you – which means it didn't need to be in a backlog.

    Reading this thread (Thank y'all for being so open and vulnerable, by the way! :blush:), many of our troubles seem to be similar…

    I think the name of the game is *eliminating obligation.* This is our hobby, after all! As soon as it starts feeling like you're playing a game because you have to, or like you “should” be playing a different game, that's screwy, isn't it?


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    It may or may not help others to ask yourself the questions I did: “Why do I feel this way?”, and “What can I do to mitigate that?”

    In my particular case…

    I asked myself “Why do I feel this obligation?”, and the answer was twofold. For one, it was a social norm: “You've got to *finish* a game, or you haven't *really* played it.” More importantly, though, it was out of some perverted “respect for the art” – I wanted to give each game the time and effort I thought it “deserved”. Of course, that was nonsense: Is continuing to play a game after I've tired of it and thus gradually cultivating resentment for it to “respect art”? Heck, is saying “now is not the right time” to most games to the degree that I never even get around to them to “respect art”? Then I asked myself “What can I do to mitigate that?”, and what I came up with were the two “tenets” in the OP. Might not go that smooth for everyone, but it's worth talking about.

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    @“Chopemon”#p128327 The most important thing for me is making sure everything is accessible

    I hope I'm not straying too far off topic but I'm the same as you. I just moved and a lot of stuff is in storage or sold off. At one point I had a crt that could handle anything and all my games were displayed and consoles plugged in and ready to go. Now I just have a tiny crt with RF only input. I recently wanted to play Alon D'ar on PS2. I couldn't find the AC cable for the composite-to-RF adapter. So I tried emulating it and I got fairly far but the game now refuses to load.

    Emulation is so hit or miss it's really frustrating. This is partly why I don't like PC gaming in general. Everything is buggy and incompatible and there's so many obstacles to just starting the dang thing. Hunting around the internet all day to troubleshoot games isn't fun for me. (The other reason is there are waaay too many distractions on a PC. Social media, the entire internet, etc.) I rarely meet others who share this sentiment. Everyone I know is a happy PC gamer. It doesn't help that for most of my life I could only afford bare bones PCs that couldn't run modern games and had tons of failing hardware.

    I‘m not a variety gamer anymore. I was 10 years ago. My experimentation years are behind me, I know who I am, what I like, and I’ve self actualized. I'm 30. I know what games I want to play someday (a backlog if you will), and I know I will not have the time to complete them all before I die. (just like books)

    That isn't to say I don't play games out of my comfort zone. Playing games for me is an exercise in learning new skills. I am not into guns and stuff but last year I played through a few contra games, which I historically didn't like. Before that I taught myself how to enjoy FFX, one that I historically bounced off of and found to be cringey.

    I built my lifestyle around playing retro games on hardware. My crt is beside my bed. My pc monitor is in my bed. Whether I live in a van down by the river or an apartment, I always prefer bed-centric setups. my bed is my comfy couch that I use my computer in.

    Here's some tough love. Not directed at the OP, but at all the people who somehow complain that they can't bring themselves to play the video games they own. Right now my right eye is completely swollen shut from a bee sting. So this post may have a stinging energy to it. Hopefully it doesn't go overboard, I'm not here to hurt anyone's feelings, more like a wake up call for those who want to have the personal integrity to "actually" play video games.

    again, this is me talking to a theoretical twitter person, not any one individual:
    also disclaimer, I am not a medical professional.

    I think if someone has mental blocks regarding games, they should take a look at their lifestyle. It's common twitter for people to complain about this stuff, but I'm tired of it. For me, the only thing stopping me most of the time is the weather being too hot to run heat-producing electronics, or needing to conserve solar power. So when I have a window to play, I fricking play.

    Pacing is important. Don't start too many games at once. This is where mastery of self comes in. You gotta have self control, like all things in life. If you have a balanced and healthy life, you'll be able to play what you want. Some games I don't have to see the ending. Most games, I do, because I consider it a personal accomplishment to see things through to the ending. I'm not allowed to have a correct opinion unless I've "actually" played a game on it's own terms.

    I wasn't always like this though. It wasn't really until I'd moved into my van that I really started beating games. My entire life I was undisciplined. It was fine hopping around and tasting things, it took me a long time to come to terms with who I am and what I like. I beat the classics, mostly. Like before smash brawl, I beat games in all the series of all the characters that I hadn't beaten yet, so namely that was when I played through Metal Gear Solid 1-3.

    Feng Shui is also very important. This is something everyone gets wrong, and I don't have space to explain it all. Your furnishings are your lifestyle. If you set up your furniture to funnel you to certain activities, your life choices will reflect that. Modern society doesn't have the space or furnishing vocabulary for retro gaming anymore. What the loudest voices of the retro gaming scene have built is a compromise for those who live in two story homes and can have entire rooms dedicated to gaming.

    The real solution here is look back at what we used in the past and emulate it. Make your CRT the centerpiece of your home. Make a desk setup. Use only one console at a time. Organize your roms by release year instead of alphabetically. Don't put the console on top of the CRT.

    Starting something new does take brain power. I *had* severe depression growing up. I had "ADD symptoms". If those are what's holding you back, then those are what needs to be addressed before you can live a healthy life.
    You gotta know yourself and know your limits. There's also just a lot of games I know I don't need to play anymore, in the context of the ones I've already played. You want to plan out the bell curve, where you begin a new game, learn the ropes and get in the swing of things, and then you can pick up that game on a whim more quickly, or even on the go. But you don't want to start a new game on the bus. On-the-go or distracted gaming is for things like grinding, quick practice runs, or one stage at a time.

    Once I started doing power lifting, my gaming improved a ton. It gets the blood pumping in my brain. Your gaming centers of your brain are a part of your body, so physical health can contribute to your gaming motivation.

    To be blunt, I don't have much sympathy. It's your life, you put yourself here. Having video games and internet puts you in the top percentage of privilege in the world. Take responsibility for your life. It's not that complicated. Gaming isn't necessarily fun, it's hard work. It's good for your brain.

    So I guess the thesis here is if you can't bring yourself to play games, but you really want to, then you need to strengthen yourself and your convictions. Maybe ask yourself if you need to play games or own games, even? You can have an identity built upon games, but no longer play them. At that point you gotta be honest with yourself.

    Play the games, or do not. It is your choice.

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    @“Reverse Kaiser”#p128266 Lifehack: You can play any game you want if you have enough cocaine.

    I prefer raw cacao.

    I am very project-oriented. Doing stuff without a sort of guiding structure makes it all fall apart and I feel like it‘s a frivolous waste of time or something. Can’t watch Shin Kamen Rider without reading the Ishinomori manga concurrently with the show. Gotta watch 31 Zatoichi movies to get through chapter three of Alain Silver's The Samurai Film. This sort of thing.

    Right now I've picked some devs that I've liked for decades and I'm going through the stuff that I never played and playing stuff that's related or on the periphery. For example: I'm going through Black Isle/Obsidian so in order to get to Planescape Torment I had to play Baldur's Gate to see the cloth it and Icewind Dale are cut from. Gets me playing stuff that I would just skip in favor of playing just whatever.

    A recent allowance is the ability to reduce the difficulty to just blow through stuff I just want to experience briefly and/or quitting when I "get it" and I'm not having a good time (Monolith project - Shadow of Mordor). I've also increased my opportunities to play something by having an appropriately selected game for every device I own so I'm not tethered to just my desk that I hate being at. Infinity Engine stuff on my low end trackpad laptop, boomer shooter/immersive sim on my desktop/whatever on console (they share a desk), retro console stuff on the Retroid, RPGs on Switch, random shit I get for cheap on Xbox/360 on the non-permanent 360 setup that I haven't gotten around to creating.

    I spent a very long time playing only Destiny 2 and luckily the latest expansion burned me so bad it knocked me out of the trance so I'm back to creating projects for the first time in a few years and it's nice! Anyway, that's my convoluted tactic.

    @“treefroggy”#p128373 as always, a beautiful post.

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    @“treefroggy”#p128373 You can have an identity built upon games, but no longer play them

    this is something i've slowly been realizing over the past 5 years or so, and have been figuring out how to do. like you said, so much about living the life you want to live and doing the things you want to do is about environment, and creating the right environment requires work and sacrifices in a way that just wanting to do something and trying to force yourself to do it without really probing into what goes wrong each time then complaining about it doesn't. (To be clear I'm talking about myself in my late teens and early 20s, not anyone else.) I have a lot less of this figured it out then it sounds like you do, but I'm also a bit younger, so hopefully I'll figure things out more eventually!

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    @“saddleblasters”#p128375 as always, a beautiful post.

    That was a pretty sloppy stream of consciousness / rant lol, did no proofreading. glad you enjoyed it, sorry!

    I think a lot of the crippling inability to play games when you want to is a mental health / general wellness issue. The term is "Executive Function".

    And if you're posting on social media about motivation, you're not alone, this is an issue with society over the past couple decades, but you should get off of social media! Cause it's not helping! You're doing social media instead of the thing you want to be doing!

    My thing is I only play games for homework if there‘s a good reason too. Like I need to see how it compares to what I’m working on, someone on the podcast recommended it, or I‘m judging it for a competition. There’s no other good reason to play a game if I‘m not enjoying it, so I simply stop when it’s not fun. The key is realizing when I‘m “doing homework” vs doing something for fun, and I’ve gotten better at recognizing that more quickly.

    I played these games til I "get it" and then move along. I'm a person who feels he needs to have literacy in a variety of games which makes me keep diving in to stuff I'm not inherently interested in, which probably helped kick me into this "quit homework when you can" mindset.

    I also have what Chopemon has - every game I own is right next to the console that plays it, and I also play on real hardware, but even with that I won't play a bad game for too long unless there's really something neat about how it looks or sounds or whatever - in those cases I focus on visuals and enjoy that til I feel I've gotten enough out of it.

    Steam backlogs seem like the worse problem but as listeners of the podcast will note, I don't have this problem because I don't play games on steam very often! This also makes it much easier to quit a game from my office chair though.

    Not every game has something interesting or cool or special about it, that's what I'll say ultimately. If you aren't enjoying it, or it isn't calling out to you to play it, just give it up! Unless you have actual reasons you need to play a game, move along until you find something that hooks you. For me it's always a nice surprise when I suddenly realize I'm playing something for fun instead of homework, and then I stick with that game. Or something that doesn't consume my brain and doesn't annoy me, that's also good.

    I tend to have a genre, platform, or vibe of game I want to play, and I load something up in that vein and if it isn't working for me I grab something else or watch a movie instead. Anyone who doesn't have a room full of garbage can do this with roms or whatever too.

    But don't feel like you have to play everything you got in a massive bundle or everything on game pass or whatever - who would you be doing it for? If it's not for yourself, for your enjoyment, and it's not your job, don't make it a job. Nobody is gonna pay you for it!!