Lessons from Gaming Burnout

Over the last few months, I’ve found myself playing video games way less than usual – basically, I’ve felt burned out by gaming and the relentless news cycle around it. Subsequently, I’ve been looking elsewhere for my day-to-day entertainment, hence how my posts on this site have recently leaned heavily towards films. The last new game I properly played through was the Pokémon Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl remakes, which I partly did out of curiosity and obligation, seeing as the original two Nintendo DS games are second only to The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess as my favourite games ever.

Obviously, not playing games or keeping up with them as much isn’t some end-of-the-world situation – far from it. However, this sort of burnout is quite new to me (at least in terms of gaming), and I’ve been thinking about some interesting reasons as to how and why it has happened, and how this might correlate to changing trends in the games industry. It’s not that I’m never going to play games again – but I think the way I engage with them (and other mediums) might’ve definitively changed.

So, I’ve gone into more detail on all this below. To stop it being too much of a ramble, I’ve tried to divide it up into individual conclusions I’ve taken away from this gaming burnout. I’m probably not the only one who’s run into this, so perhaps some of you can relate to these points. Let’s see…

My Changing Playstyle

Now I think about it, I’ve been increasingly gravitating towards different types of games for some time now. Just look at my personal favourite games of the last few years: 2018 Celeste, 2019 Pokémon Shield, 2020 Resident Evil 3, and in 2021 The Medium. Outside the outlier of Pokémon, all of these are relatively short 5-10 hour experiences at heart. They’re film-like in a lot of ways, with character-led stories containing strong central messages and themes. You can finish them within a weekend, a day, or even one sitting.

With the exception of The Medium, these games all have exceptional replay value too. For me, replay value is different to game length when I consider longevity. For example, when I replayed Resident Evil 3 over and over, it was out of love for that experience, whereas the idea of putting the same time investment into one of the newer Assassin’s Creed games feels like a lot more work. This isn’t to say the new Assassin’s Creed games are bad (from the amount I played, Odyssey was fantastic), but they seem like much more daunting prospects. I find it easier when the content is segmented, such as the chapters of Celeste, the cinematic pace of Resident Evil 3, or the game-by-game nature of GWENT: The Witcher Card Game. They feel like they are more considerate of the time a player can put in.

This pattern continues if I look at the games I have reviewed or talked about in blog posts over the last year. Catherine: Full Body has a relatively short 10-15 hour story, but can be replayed repeatedly for different endings. Super Crush KO has an appealing bubblegum aesthetic and is divided into numerous arcade-style levels, making it very easy to pick up and play. A defined length goes a long way, so that I know I’ll feasibly see the end of a game and have that cathartic sense of completion. One good example is the 2018 God of War, which I finally got around to playing a while back. I enjoyed it a lot, but soon realised that the sheer amount of side quests did not appeal to me, and diverted my attention to the satisfaction of finishing the main story.

I’m Less Tied to Trophy-Hunting

As a completionist and a collector, the whole idea of Achievements, Trophies, and similar ecosystems have long appealed to me. Particularly on PS4, I’ve often been drawn into going for those Platinum Trophies that mark collecting all the other Trophies for a game. Over the last few years, though, that pull has lessened, and I think that is due to dipping my toe into more platforms. When you are going between a Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series S, PC, and more, the sense of being anchored to any one of those dissipates. With that, the accomplishments are broken up across platforms, and the cohesive appeal of them has less of a hold.

Perhaps the journey should count as much as the destination

The game which really signified this to me was Control, which I played on PS4. I liked it, though I didn’t love it – but after finishing the story, the Trophy list looked very achievable, so I kept playing to go for that Platinum. The last few trophies, though, were wearisome time sinks because of the way random quests appear in that world. After running around in circles for a long time trying to get the quests to spawn correctly, I suddenly realised I just wasn’t having fun anymore, and well… What was the point? From there, I stopped playing Control, despite that Trophy percentage being oh-so-close to 100%.

It might seem obvious to just stop playing like that, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who has become embroiled in the completionist way of thinking and inadvertently let it override the fun of gaming. I’m glad I’ve stopped being so invested in systems like Trophies – now I only go for them in games that I’ve enjoyed so much that I’d like to keep playing and go for the extra goal of 100% or a Platinum Trophy; e.g. Horizon Zero Dawn or Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Being Okay With Missing Out

The reasons above have all contributed to me gaming less, and also seeking out different types of games. Particularly in the last decade, open-world games and games-as-a-service have become especially prominent, and with so many reportedly fantastic ones to play, it’s hard to know where to put your time. This is, I think, why I’ve instead diverted towards shorter, more manageable games, and just opted out of keeping up with every popular release – as it’s frankly almost impossible to do so!

I mean, I barely keep up with the GWENT Journeys/Battle Pass!

I have no doubt that games such as Elden Ring and Fortnite are widely acclaimed for good reasons – and I have nothing against those genres – but whereas I used to try and play as much as I could, I’ve become okay with taking a backwards step and accepting the Fear of Missing Out – or FOMO, as it is known. Again, like the Trophy thing, this might seem obvious – but FOMO is a real thing. This is especially the case nowadays, where talking about media is sometimes just as popular as actually consuming it, and there can a distinct pressure to be part of that crowd. Ironically, I’ve found that the more you miss out, the more that FOMO goes away, and you instead focus on the particular handful of game spheres you enjoy the most. After all, they’ll often still be there months and years later (and the games will often be cheaper/improved too)!

This all ties into other mediums as well – TV in particular has become such a tidal wave of new releases that it’s similarly difficult to keep up with everything. It’s shows like Doctor Who that keep me invested, as the one-episode-at-a-time format makes it easier to keep up. Also, I enjoy the week-to-week speculation that shows like it have. Another example of that is when Game of Thrones aired, and there was the constant audience theories in between episodes!

Earlier in this post, I talked about the similarities between the overwhelming amount of releases in the worlds of both gaming and TV. Indeed, films have been becoming my go-to at an increasingly frequent rate over the past 5 years or so, as I find their contained nature very appealing. It feels satisfyingly cohesive to watch a film start to finish and tick it off the to-watch list, and then dive into conversation about it with other people. Hence my Film in 500 articles!

Getting Back into Gaming

After several months of burnout, I’m feeling like getting back into gaming more soon. Because of everything I’ve mentioned above, though, it’ll be in a different way. I think my tastes will continue to adapt towards the shorter and cinematic games out there, such as the upcoming A Plague Tale: Requiem. In terms of the longer, open-world games, it’ll be particular ones that I pinpoint playing – Horizon Forbidden West is one that I still have on my to-play list, as I am a huge fan of the first game. Forbidden West is one of those situations where I’ve stopped worrying about playing it straight away, and am instead waiting for a longer period of free time in which to immerse myself properly into that world without distractions.

The sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is of course another one I have my eye on, but now I might not pressure myself to play and complete it immediately upon release. Admittedly, this is something I’ve been guilty of in the past, and that self-made pressure has occasionally had a negative effect. Of course, then this brings in the issue of avoiding spoilers, but I am of the opinion you can limit this danger with a logical approach to which sites you spend time on.

That’s right, I’m gonna play the sequel to Breath of the Wild. Shock, I know

Furthermore, it’s games like GWENT, which I talk about a lot on this site, that are easy for me to drop into intermittently, and I imagine I’ll coming back to it for years yet! I’m ingrained into that meta and game, and enjoy keeping up with it. This is thanks to the manageable progression systems, and the regular but not too frequent speed of updates.

Speaking of The Witcher; in the immediate future, I’m going to gradually attempt to get through the 3 The Witcher RPGS from CD Projekt Red. After reading all the books, playing ridiculous amounts of GWENT, and watching the so-far-two-seasons of the Netflix show (and generally just being obsessed with the universe), I think it’s logical to see what the fuss is all about when it comes to the games.

It seems that the games aren’t canon, being a weird mesh of adaptation and sequel to the books. I’m intrigued to see what I think of this. In comparison, the changes that the TV show is making to the books haven’t all worked for me – though I do think it is an impressive show overall! I’m hoping to post updates of my thoughts on the games in the future, either whilst playing or upon finishing each one. Already having a foothold and interest in the world of The Witcher definitely makes tackling an expansive RPG more palatable.

The purpose of this article isn’t to criticize certain types of games or the people that play them, as the sheer variety of experiences is a brilliant part of the medium. It’s that variety that means even when someone like me has burnout from certain games, there’re always other types of games to play instead, and that’s brilliant. Hopefully this autobiographical explanation of how my gaming tastes have developed has been interesting!

Everyone has different preferences, when it comes to games or anything else, and if there’s one message I’d like to sum up this post, it’s how that’s totally okay. It’s fine to get burnout from the hobbies you love, and it doesn’t not make you any less of a fan if you aren’t always keeping up with the zeitgeist. Maybe that seems obvious, but I don’t think it always is, and it’s certainly easier to say it than to enact it.

Thanks for reading, and have an amazing day!

4 thoughts on “Lessons from Gaming Burnout

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