The past month has been pretty hectic, trying to maintain a level of frequent/readable content, working full-time in a job that is really starting to need more of my time, trying to be a husband (I’m not particularly good at this one) and study a degree part-time…….you get the picture. Everything was becoming a grind, but not in a good way.
I’ve been trying to play as much of these big games as I can. Trying to get through my pile of shame and hoping to drink enough coffee to be informed enough to write reviews. Don’t even get me started the music and burger elements of the site……
The thing is, I’ve been getting worked up about not being able to do everything at once. Everything is a priority and everything is tiring. I realised that I was perhaps making things worse by playing two of the most stressful games I have to hand. Xcom 2 and The Last of Us.
Games are supposed to help me relieve stress, and help me escape. But if you’re in the wrong mindset, suddenly, they can start to exacerbate the stresses you’ve got going on elsewhere.
To be clear, I love Xcom 2 and I’d started making headway in the War of the Chosen expansion, and having a blast. However, losing my good soliders, being attacked randomly by the chosen. It wasn’t plain sailing and it started to get a little too much (perhaps I take it too seriously, eh?).
I thought that moving from that, to The Last of Us was a good idea. It was, I was really enjoying the story and characters, but for crying out loud. Those stealth sections, clickers, bloaters, gangs. It is just as relentless in a different way.
Something had to give. I was making my downtime hard work, and starting to dread whatever mission or section I last saved the games at.
Sure, I perhaps take myself too seriously when I’m playing, thinking about how I can write about a game, and being critical. But fun and enjoyment are two of the biggest factors for me when it comes to playing a game. If I stop having fun, then why am I playing?
Enter Sea of Thieves
I knew I needed something different and light-hearted, and luckily Sea of Thieves came out at the perfect time. Setting sail with friends, finding treasure, fighting skeletons. Perfect!
Yeah, it is all of that. But, there’s just something missing. I’m not against a little repetition in a game. Working together to find an island, and get the treasure is fun. That’s all there is though.
Initially, I thought that this open-ended approach with no MMO-style elements was freeing. Leaving you to almost play with minimal repercussion, no end in sight.
The thing is, it turns out I like a bit of a grind, an element of being able to dip in and out of something and feel like I’ve been working towards something, even if it’s just a few minutes here and there.
So, the stress was removed, absolutely. And those sunsets on the sea are a joy to behold, without a doubt. I just didn’t feel like I was working towards anything, there was none of that gratification that we’ve all been almost conditioned to seek…….
There’s no doubt that that’s a failing on my part. To play a game that is just good clean fun with no arduous requirements, and decide that it isn’t what I’m looking for? Odd!
The Destiny effect
I think it all boils down to Destiny. I played the first game pretty much solo for at least the first year and a half. It isn’t a fun game to play on your own, particularly when it comes to story.
That isn’t what kept me coming back though. In fact, I couldn’t give you an example of any other game that has held my attention so consistently for so long.
It was because of all the busy-work.
Everything I was doing was contributing in some way to either improving my guardian, getting new weapons or getting a shot at a new exotic. Sometimes just 10-15 minutes a day was all it took to know that you’d contributed towards your end goal. Whether that was a weekly bounty or a daily one, or perhaps you were just running a strike (that you’ve already done 100+ times) to see if you can get that legendary drop.
People love to hate the dopamine cycle. Do something, get something in return. But you know what? I think sometimes it is exactly what I need.
Having a world that you can dip in and out of and regardless of the time you spend there, you know you can put in a few minutes towards your next goal. It’s easy, it’s fun and I feel like I have complete control over everything, even if I can’t sink a few hours into it to make big leaps.
Destiny 2 and Warframe
So Destiny 2 came out, awesome, right? Well…..not quite. It was more Destiny, absolutely. But it missed so many beats and just didn’t fully live up to the original. I’ve rarely gone back, and I don’t even miss it now. I feel like Bungie really dropped the ball here (this needs to be a whole-other piece on it’s own).
Sure, it has the whole “loot shooter” element down, still. But the loot wasn’t really worth it, and the ways to get it just weren’t as good.
This has left me in “loot-shooter limbo” since November. To be honest I didn’t even think I was missing it or looking for an alternative. I was mostly looking to find myself out of the “hard-work” zone I’d gotten myself into, when I decided to give Warframe a go.
Now, here I am!
Warframe is hitting that sweet spot that I miss so much from Destiny. I’m doing grindy-tasks to get parts to build things. I’m repeating missions for drops. At the moment I’m learning and studying the intricacies of all of the inter-connected systems. Mods, currencies, warframes, weapons. I’m no longer stressed out in a game, I’m thriving!
I’m doing all this grindy busy-work, achieving a little here and there, and you know what? I’m satisfied. Sure, it’s taking me away from other games, but that’s ok. For now, I think it’s more important to not dread whatever mission or scenario I’m about to face. I’m in control, I’m not expecting nasty surprise lurking around every corner.
Right now I’m a space ninja that’s learning how to improve and it makes me happy.