With great gaming, comes great responsibility

Thought I‘d start a discussion about something I’ve been pondering/struggling/noticing about myself recently. At some point in the past several years, I‘ve subconsciously decided that playing games is something Important that I must do with my life. Like, when I’m old I want to look back and have played all the games. I‘m not really sure quite how I feel about this yet, whether it’s something I need to knock on the head or really lean into.

What it amounts to is that playing games sometimes feels kinda like a job to me, or at least something I should be doing with my free time. So, if I spend an evening browsing the web, or watching TV or something, I'll be a bit annoyed that I wasn't playing a game instead. Or even if I spend too long on a game that I feel like is just an endless timesink rather than a valuable experience. In a similar vein, I often agonize over which games are the important ones I should be playing, make lists, try to prioritize them and sometimes even force myself to play games which don't really appeal to me much because they are highly regarded.

I think this is just an aspect of my personality, I have a similar approach to a lot of things in my life but gaming in particular has ended up on this weird pedestal. Like I have to remind myself, this is just what I am doing with my free time - I don't have some greater purpose here. It's not like I even really contribute much to the discourse or dwell particularly on my thoughts about the games I've played.

So, I was wondering is this phenomenon anyone else here has experienced? With games or any other media? Of course I understand that people here _do_ work on or play games in a professional capacity - so I'll also expand the question to ask how people manage the separation between leisure activities for work vs for yourself, and how one shapes the other?

I try to view my life as a project to make myself the most interesting person I can (mainly for my own benefit, I spend a lot of time with this person). And playing a whole bunch of cool games is a part of that.

I do feel a certain guilt when I feel like I'm overly fixating on one thing at the expense of other things. I'll worry that I know too much about games and not enough about dance or mecha anime or soviet cinema. But mostly I try to just let myself float between whatever interests me at the time, try to learn about it, and eventually float over to something else.

That's how I've tried to deal with that guilt, by just trying to accept that I am fickle, that any amount of knowledge is better than none, and that I am naturally going to be interested in different things at different times in my life. I just got into boxing for some reason.

Boxing is cool. Watch some boxing. Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier. That's my recommendation.

This is definitely an easy trap to fall into with any hobby. I don‘t necessarily feel this way with games, but I’ve felt it for a variety of things in the past, particularly when first exploring a new genre or medium: suddenly I feel the need to know about all aspects of 80s J-pop just because I found a few idols I like; or I need to read every book by this or that guy before I can say anything about it, etc.

Probably it's a result of the fact that everything is just sitting right there at our fingertips, available to access at all times, so there's this feeling of, "Well, I _could_ play anything I damn well please at this moment," instead of just having to reckon with whatever is around. I have been reading a lot of Jorge Luis Borge's non-fiction recently, and I would consider him extremely well-read, and yet he's always mentioning things he's never read, either because he doesn't have access to it where he is, or just because he hasn't got around to it. And yet everything he says is genius anyways, because he's a smart guy and you don't really need to have read (or played) _everything_ to have interesting things to say.

My feeling is this sort of feeling starts to fade when you get older, as I definitely felt it a lot more strongly in my teens and early twenties than I do today. Different stuff takes priority, and at some point it dawns that the sheer _amount_ of stuff you looked at or interacted with doesn't mean much. In all honesty, I have a feeling that a lot of it just takes up space in your memory, crowding around and making it a big chaotic mess, or otherwise most of it just disappears and it's hard to recall a single aspect of this game you played. Maybe I just have a cloudy sort of mind, though.

I'll just say, every hobby is more fun when you take the pressure off yourself, and the point of hobbies is to enrich your life through play. Turning hobbies into work just makes all of life into work, which sucks.

I had a similar experience with films back in the day when I was trying to break into film reviewing. I would try to watch a film almost every day, and try to work my way through the film canon, new releases, and trying to find under appreciated foreign films. It was around the beginning of Letterboxd as well, so I was a power user and wound up creating a lot of the foundational lists and got one of the largest followings on the site for the time. My goal was to experience every great film and write a review online as a personal diary too. I got to a point where I was treating Letterboxd like a freelance job and on top of that I tried going to the right parties and hob nobbing to try to get connections or recognition but it was not very effective for me. I was at a point in life where I valued myself and my work too much to compromise it for a terrible low-paying or exploitative gigs… which is probably why it didn't go anywhere.

[I had artistic integrity.](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2e2dJG4SvbE)

Long story short, I burnt out. I got to a point where I wasn't happy with the movies, I wasn't happy with my criticism, and I just stopped cold turkey. I archived my backlog of several hundred reviews but it took more than a year before I watched a movie for fun again. I had to sort of un-learn how to watch movies so I could enjoy the art form again. I value having a good relationship with art and that means kind of setting boundaries with it.

In the meantime I found games to be a great substitution, because my relationship to them feels much lower stakes. If I spend an hour and a half grinding in an RPG, I don't feel the need to spend another hour analyzing and writing a review of that experience. I can simply play games to unwind or get that sense of discovery that I used to get before I went psycho mode on movies.

I had a similar experience. I was watching a normal amount of tv and then realized that even the shows I enjoyed left me feeling like I‘d wasted my time—and I got really burnt out on the streaming hype cycle of “must-watch” shows that the corporations decide we must watch. This coincided with the time I happened to start discovering “weirder” or “better” games (not that there’s anything wrong with “vanilla” tastes, and not that the games I was playing were that weird). I noticed that I felt fulfilled after playing something like Persona 5 or >!D*** S****!< or Planescape Torment or Disco Elysium in a way that I never felt after watching a good show. So I consciously made a shift along the lines of what you described—this feels important, and this is what I want to spend my down time on. That decision lead me down a long string of events that delivered me here.

tl;dr yeah I get you

I will keep going as long as I am fulfilled by it. I often joke Gaming is not fun, it is work. I like being challenged, learning new mechanics, re-thinking new ways to explore. I believe that in the end it matters that you make most of your time on the planet, but if that time was spent entertaining yourself, that’s a life well spent and you’re far better off than most. Daily reminder that just by having access to video games and internet, you’re in the minority of world wide privilege and wealth. But there’s always a part of me that questions my life choices, will I be on my death bed thinking, “I should have not played so many video games”? I try not to think about it that way too much, so long as I’m working towards my values and real life goals like starting a sustainable land trust and hopefully a family.

I may have taken that in a different direction but I think about this stuff a lot, so there’s my two cents. It’s my hobby. If ya don’t use it ya lose it— so I’d like to think it keeps me on my toes… so long as I’m not just playing the same game over and over.