Man, I love this ga - whu?

I have videogame A.D.D..

I mean, that's the only explanation right? I play a lot of games. In the last month, I have played: Call of Duty 2, Quake 4, F.E.A.R., The Movies, Indigo Prophecy, City of Villains, City of Heroes, EVE Online, Civilization 4, Battlefield 2 (And the Spec Ops expansion), GUN and UFO: Aftershock (Which has spawned this post). I'm not sure how that compares to most people, but bear in mind I also work an average of 55 hours a week, have a girlfriend and a social life. All of which cut into my important gaming time. Needless to say, sleep is a memory.

I think I have videogame A.D.D., because I never grow bored with a game. It just happens. I will be playing along, engrossed beyond human intervention and suddenly I will lose all interest in playing. It's abrupt, instantaneous and ultimately terminal to my interest in the title. Granted, months down the line I may get the sudden, irrepressible desire to play a 'dropped' game again - but it never lasts. Ultima Online taunted me this way for nigh on 5 years, until it dropped so far behind the developmental curve I couldn't bring myself to play it anymore - too ugly, too old. Like seeing an old flame at your high school reunion who has gotten fat and lost their teeth. Good memories, but man - no way.

And oh the grief I have gotten. For whatever reason, I'm good at selling people on games they don't really have much interest in (mostly MMOGs). I manage to get them interested, revved up and into EB with their credit cards and a will to play. I stick around in-game for at least a couple days after they've started a character, then I jump ship like a prescient rat. This doesn't make people happy with me.

However, I attribute this post not to any online game, but to UFO: Aftershock. It is the rusty crowbar that broke this camel's back, forcing me to yammer about my problem to you, The Internet. Sunday evening found me as it usually does - squeezing in a final few hours of gaming time before I have to hit the sack. I got up to use the restroom, and by the time I returned to my desk, all interest in the heretofore completely addictive game was gone (No, no defining moments occured in the restroom). I sat on the couch and started reading a book. Haven't played the damned thing since. I have no intention to either. I can't explain it.

Can you?

Original Comment by: Patrick Dugan
http://www.kingludic.blogspot.com
II'm almost the total opposite, I have actual, clinical ADD, and yet when I get engrossed in a game I must play it to completion at the expense of all other endeavors. I still manage to play a lot of games typically at least one a week.

Original Comment by: Chuck Leone

I have the exact same affliction, you described it to a tee.

It's been slowly progressing over the past few years and I attribute it to a number of things, including age(I recently turned 35).

Back in the late 90's, I was completely addicted to the id software titles. I played Doom, Doom2, Quake and Quake 2 for hours upon hours at a time. Nearly completing most titles, but never finishing them. I downloaded maps and mods, but mostly played the original, single player game, trying to get through it. These games would last me for months at a time.

Once Unreal Tournament was released, I became completely engrossed in that title. Playing it at work with 5-6 employees via the company LAN introduced me to the multiplayer deathmatch experience. This lasted at least 2 years until the Xbox was released, and I was finally torn away from the desktop gaming experience and thrust back into the living room with a controller in my hand instead of a keyboard and mouse.

Halo keep my busy for several months, palying the single player game a minimum of 2 times alone and at least once with a buddy of mine. 3-4 player splitscreen deathmatch also consumed a great deal of my time with Halo, and I didn't buy another Xbox title for at least 4-5 months.

The first gen Xbox titles really brought me back into gaming on a console and I found myself playing one single title for hours at a time and for several months before purchasing another title. I attribute this to a high number of quality, innovative titles and an overall lower number of total games available on the platform.

Now a days, there are so many titles available, many of which are sequels to previous games and simply "more of the same". These titles end up lasting me a few weeks, until something new catches my attention, promising a new gaming experience. Something that I haven't yet experienced.

Many of the new titles drop in price within a couple months, also making it very tempting for a gamer to run out and get the next greatest gaming experience.

Original Comment by: GBGames
http://www.gbgames.com/blog
Ever since I was a child, I have experienced such a phenomenon.

When I first got Wizardry for the NES (I didn't know about the Apple II version), I didn't get it. I was too young to understand that part of the fun was exploring and mapping out the maze.

A few years later, I rediscovered it. I played it, "got it", and really loved it...for awhile. I would have mapped out three floors, playing it days on end, but the day I had to attend to another task and couldn't play it started months of non-Wizardry-playing. I'd rediscover it, find I had no connection to the characters in the party anymore, and start a new one. I believe the last time I played it, I had six floors mapped out.

And other games are involved in similar experiences. Dungeon Magic (another good RPG which no one else I know has heard of), Zelda II (Hey, I liked it a lot), Breath of Fire 2, Dragon Warrior, and Final Fantasy were all games that had been dropped for months or even years at a time before I (maybe) picked them back up again.

I remember the first time I realized that most of the games I own were never completed. I still have my NES, SNES, Gameboy, N64, and Gamecube. I even have an Atari 2600 that just needs a new RF switch. I have lots of games that I figured I would get back to later.

These days, I just don't play games as often as I used to. Gamasutra had an article that would lump me in with interstitial gamers: otherwise hardcore, mainstream gamers who just don't have the time to spend on games but would if we could.

So while I could technically put Wind Waker and Sands of Time on the list of games that I've stopped playing after a frenzy of activity, it wasn't due to a lack of interest. I find that I can only play these games occasionally, meaning hours of gaming goodness followed by weeks or months of none.

Well, thanks for making me sad. I'm already missing for those days when I could play for hours a day without worrying about rent or gas money. B-\

Original Comment by: Steven Turner

I've had an experience of this as well. However, I'm usually able to hold interest in a game until the very end.

An example of this comes with Final Fantasy IX at the very end boss (not the false end boss that all Final Fantasies, or at least all modern Final Fantasies have you fight directly before the last battle). After defeating the false boss quite quickly, I got hungry, and decided to just turn off the system and go get dinner. I didn't turn it back on in about a year, and at that point I was so unfamiliar with the characters I had created that I couldn't stand to try and finish the game with them.

RPGs seem to have the weakest staying power over me, since the end of the game usually means an end to the gameplay (excepting annoying mini-games). By getting to the final boss in Final Fantasy, yet not defeating him/her/it, it still feels like you've accomplished something. You've gotten to the end, and you know that there is nothing more to experience afterwards than a cut-scene. The game has been fully explored, and thus is over.

When I was younger, I easily ran through many games such as the Super Mario Bros. series which contained a change in style of each level that kept the mechanics fresh. When it came to the MegaMan series, however, I would only defeat one or two bosses, then shut off the system, not bothering to record the password.

Could it be that these games are the cause of our problems? Failing to feed us new mechanics and new systems to learn and take in before we get tired of the old? We suddenly get it, and as a result there's nothing left to get?

I really need to go back and finish all those games. They await in double digits and several systems for me to play again.

Might be onto something Steven. Aftershock had me gripped while a 14 day timer counted down to the arrival of a large battleship from deep space. Took about 8 days for the timer to get to the end, which happened earlier Sunday. Turns out it was just another battle. Bigger, somewhat cooler, but just more of the same. Maybe that's why I lost interest. I ended up stopping shortly after that.

Maybe that's why I finished Half Life 2 in one (long) sitting. More new gameplay up until the very end (gravity gun!). UO as well. The emergent gameplay of UO was stellar. Such that most of the people I knew at the very end rarely logged in to play the game is it was designed. They'd enjoy the social stuff better, and the other gameplay designed by players (Casinos, scavenger hunts, house decorating, etc).

Hrmn.

Original Comment by: Craig
http://projectperko.blogspot.com
I agree fully with Steven: I have the same symptoms, but can track it pretty clearly to the moment when the game stops offering me new challenges/patterns. I had the exact same reaction to pretty much the exact same games, except I couldn't stand HL2.

Original Comment by: plangent
http://plangent.underhanded.org
I'm still playing EVE if it makes you feel any better. :D

Original Comment by: Michael
http://www.michaelkosmatka.com
You don't have A.D.D, Jon - you're an addict gamer living in denial.

Whether or not you admit it, your unconscious has caught onto the current state of gaming's uninspired designs. Realizing Jon's playing the same type of game over and over again your superego screams - you have better things to do!

Of course, you're addicted, feeding on the dopamines which provide the child like rush of lust to the head. So you jump from game to game, caught in an endless feedback loop which ultimately - will kill you while harming others in the process.

Here's a tip:

Ignore the predicatable marketing furvor and spin of developers

Don't buy games until recommended by a trusted source.

Pass on sequals

Those essentials in place - you should have time to detox eventually awakening to a refreshed existence of clarity.

Or you could go buy WoW and join me on Draenor in my pathetic existence of virtual feedback loops and addiction.

Hey, I think I dragged you into as many games as you've dragged me into. You definitely get the blame for EVE though, but I think I was weakened by the articles here first.

I find the same thing increasingly happens to me, and I can usually tell how 'good' a game is by how long I stay interested. A game has to be pretty good, or pretty short, to get me through to completion these days. And it's not that I don't like the games I stop playing - I can think of a few right now that I definitely can give positive marks to, but that I just never got around to completing. Or that I very much like, and want to play again, but always find something else to do instead.

The whole process means I'm really torn on the whole 'games getting shorter' trend, real or imagined. I have significant fond memories of plowing through 30/40/50/80 hours of 8- and 16-bit RPG madness - and I admit, I have been known to play through more recent games in a day or weekend, but it's becoming less common these days. Yet a game like Gun, which has incredible atmosphere, a good story, and 10-15 hours of 'content' has enough for me to finish the whole thing, feel good about the title, and still retain my interest. Of course, I borrowed Gun, which takes the edge off a bit.

The real struggle for me, in today's world, is that $50-60 price tags on games that are definitely shorter than my past favorites make me feel like I'm betraying my inner gamer. Which is one reason I'm really liking the Xbox Live Arcade and the WildGames site (especially Fate) - they're smaller games to be sure, but I find that I feel like I'm getting more out of them, and I get a whole bunch of different gameplay experiences out of it.

Of course, I still bought Civ4, but I find I'm looking more and more towards smaller games for entertainment. And the GBA/DS, which often seem to retain some of that experimental quality. My perfect gaming world would have hundreds of different 16-bit budget/quality games available for download into a console for $10-15 a pop - not just ports of classic titles like the Revolution seems to have planned (though that's cool too) but actual original creations.

Wow Mike, not even Devastator knows what it's like to be that deconstructed! (*lonely rimshot*)

Seriously though, you're probably right - although I don't think WoW's my cure... I mean, I have a level 40 Tauren Warrior hanging out on Skullcrusher, likely still perched on the roof of the bank in Orgrimmar - naked and penniless. The day after I hit level 40 and bought my mount, I cancelled the account, liquidated all my items, and gave everything to a co-worker who was still playing. In less than 24 hours I went from powerlevelling to cancellation - and there was no catalyst.

If my superego knows the score, I wish he'd jot it down somewhere for me to see.

Original Comment by: Doug Inman
http://ren-tek.net
I had the same problem as Steven Turner - I got fed up in the middle of the final sephiroth battle in FF7 and have never seen the ending. It's sad, but I also know i'll never bother with FFX, simply because everything about that game is becoming grating and annoying. I've been in the middle of HL1 since 2004, the and final boss on castlevania ps2 for longer, and I just don't really complete games.

On the flip side of the coin, i've finished Ocarina of Time around 3 times, PoP:WW twice, the 2nd time on hard, Soul Reaver 3 times, Pokemon 2 times minimum, and even Sonic Adventure around twice. The best games are played to death, while the game thats the current 'best thing ever' is fairly often thrown over during an excitable coffee break for a quick round of Street Fighter.

Great topic Mr Hayter, glad i'm not the only sufferer.

Original Comment by: Mark

I accidentally posted this in response to a different news item... my bad.

I see a pattern here.

A game which does not have significant gameplay variation throughout the game needs to have something else to keep the player involved. For some games, new gameplay situations are adequate. Others go ahead and give the player new things to do. Some rely on stories.

None of these on their own is good enough to sustain a game through even a month of regular play, in most cases. But if you give a game new ways to play and new story developments, or new ways to play and new situations to play in, or new situations that come directly from the story... you might be on to something.

A perfect game will, among other things, provide consistently novel gameplay at a pace that is slow enough to allow the player to master it, but quick enough not to lose interest, and fill in any gaps with an appropriately themed and fairly original story. For this reason it has to be somewhat intuitive - an overly complex system will take too long to master.

Very few games have done this, however. Either all the options are available at the beginning, and the new scenarios are too far apart for the threadbare story to link them together, or it tries to sustain everything with the story.

In response to the above comments, and at the risk of sounding like an armchair psychologist, I think what's happened is that players set the goal of getting to the final boss, or getting to level 40 and buying a mount, and once they achieve this goal, no matter that there's gameplay beyond it, they don't want it. They've achieved their goal and they feel no need to keep working. This, in turn, implies that the game had stopped being "fun." Habit or addiction or the desire to achieve a goal had become the primary motivation for continuing the game, which had become an (admittedly pleasant) task. The games you keep coming back to are the ones that are fun, or which do not cause the player to set such a goal. A game in which you really don't know what's coming, a game whose engine more resembles a toy than a tool... those are the games that people not only finish, but keep playing later.

I don't know if that's accurate, but it sounds good. Let's go with it.

Original Comment by: Wandering Taoist

Mark's comment reminded me of Psychonauts.

One of the reasons I held on to Psychonauts until the very end was that it was so varied in its gameplay. Yet it was very coherent in terms of the story. Simply said: there was always fun - the spies in The Milkman Conspiracy, the strategy game in Napoleon, Sasha's shooting gallery, fight with Kochamara etc. - it was like several games rolled into one, all of them vaguely similar, yet uniqe. It was a feast in every sense of the word. Maybe it was short, but it was RICH. An unforgettable experience, I was so looking forward to what will be the next world like - and it was new, fresh, fun, intelligent and BETTER than the previous one. Used the already learned abilities, yet used them differently - thus keeping fresh enough to hold attention.

Original Comment by: Paco

So... if you AREN'T playing UFO: Aftershock anymore..can I have your copy?

Original Comment by: David Graham
http://manofconstantsorrow.blogspot.com
I totally know the feeling, I picked up indigo prophecy for the pc on a friends suggestion, started playing and got sucked in, by the time I stopped playing it was 3 am, I stopped went to bed and haven't picked the game up again in probably 4 weeks, and I just don't feel any compulsion too.

I think it might be the fact that its single player and there is nobody else to talk to while playing the game on the PC, the community aspect is gone. I still constantly play CounterStrike: Source and I've been playing WoW again, I've got a level 35 Dwarf Pally on Emerald Dream and the only reason I have been continuing to play them is because of the social aspects I think, playing with my friends and working towards a common goal.

The community/friends aspect is the only thing that CS and WoW have in common, they're completely different games and I play them with different friends. Friends is the only thing I can think of that keeps me coming back to the games.

Original Comment by: Psychboabble
http://www.celestialheavens.com
Hehehe, I just wrote on exactly this thing in a review of a Heroes IV map (a game which I have been playing fairly solid for the past 3 years!). My guess is you reach this point earlier than most (cutting and pasting a section of the review):

Even the most enjoyable of computer games can get boring after a while. At the heart of almost every game is a high element of what might look to be tedius repitition to an observer, but to the person who is spending hours playing the game this tedium is serving a higher purpose and is thus enjoyable. Think about it. Spawn camping in MMOs, playing endless rounds of deathmatch on the same maps in an FPS or RTS, following the same 4X path in every Civ game you play, cow level runs in Diablo II, trying to teach the new baby Sim that the potplant is not a toilet, wending your way thought the familiar D&D levelling path and fighting enemies graded on roughly the same difficulty curve in just about every RPG and, yes, endlessly fighting small variations of the same battles in Heroes of Might and Magic. But each of these tedius, repetitive, actions entertains us because they are being done for a higher purpose, levelling up, getting phat lewt, increasing your l33t skillz, mastering strategic niceties, saving the world from pixellated megalomaiacs and so on.

The problem with this is that because the fundamental mechanics are often so boring, especially once they have become instinctual, games must convince us that this higher purpose is worhtwhile for us to be entertained. The second we sit back and say "wait, why exactly am I paying $30 a month to level grind my character so I can end up with a slightly cooler bunch of pixels" the game loses its entertaiment value (note, I've never actually played an MMO, but I've heard the experience described :). Once we detach the in-game, digital, higher purpose from the game mechanics and can see what we are actually doing in a game it quickly becomes exceptionally boring.

Psychobabble: That's likely the primary reason multiplayer FPSs tend to keep my interest the longest. In a standard MMO, finding a higher purpose can often be difficult. Truth of the matter is, if you play at an average pace, you will be 'worse' than those who've played it longer, and 'better' than those who haven't. Thus, the higher goals usually fall to other tasks, like hoarding good loot, managing an awesome guild or hosting events. When all the higher goals within the design of the game have already been met - before you even install the game - then something is already missing. By way of the game, you can only hope to become as good as everyone else.

But with multiplayer FPSes, there's the distant possibility that you could become the best. No one is ever going to break the level cap of an MMOG. Period. Yet there's the chance that someone, somewhere, someday will frag the Hell out of Fatal1ty. So people keep loading up de_dust and playing by rote, watching their errors get shaved off and kill counts go up.

Some people might argue that clocking 8 hours a day in CS isn't any different than running Molten Core a dozen times for the epic loot, but it really is. Perhaps the solution to my gaming woes, is figuring out if my raison du jeu is a total command of patience or a complete dedication to excellence.

Friend of mine made a comment once that all the MMOGs I've ever extensively showed him were in the wrong genre. I love MMOGs, so I asked what he meant. He replied, "They're massively multiplayer online single player games, man. Everyone plays the same game next to eachother until you get to the end. Then you reroll."

I thought he was off his rocker, but sometimes... Sometimes.

Original Comment by: Dib O

Perhaps why you lose interest isn't the game, but having figured out the system. While a lot of it can be due to age and a lifetime of gaming experience (been there, done that), you could be the type that enjoys the discovery of how the designers put everything together, and how the game plays out. Once you understand that, there's no more discovery, and no more fun.

I think a lot of the people reading here are like that, and in a lot of areas of life. How many of us have a pile of unfinished projects that we started like gangbusters, only to let them fall by the wayside. The fun is the figuring out (and the understanding that we can do it, should we choose to), not the end product. I do sometimes envy the singleminded determanation of those who have a vision, and work tirelessly to carry it out. They probably collected all of the stars in Mario 64 the first time through.

 

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