video game difficulty stress not one only way to play, gamer's block

I’ll be completely honest with you. Even though I cover video games for work regularly, for a long time now I’ve had a hard time sticking with the games that interest me, of which there are a lot.

I know many people have this problem where you start a game, aren’t immediately hooked, and then drop it a few hours later. For a long time I attributed this to stress, over having too many games to play and just being unable to keep my mind focused on one thing at a time. With so many games to cover and pay attention to on a weekly basis, it can be difficult to stay focused on just one game at a time. First world problem, I know.

As I tried to narrow down what specifically was causing me to pick up games and then drop them, I started to think more about the social pressure involved with playing games, especially as someone that covers them on a daily basis. It often feels like you’re expected to play a game a certain way or you’ll miss out on the true experience of what the game is offering.

So I took some time this past holiday season to just sit down and try different games that I had once given a shot and quickly put down because they didn’t hook me right away for any number of reasons.

The first one I tried was Diablo III.

Diablo III: video game difficulty stress not one only way to play, gamer's block

The reason I didn’t try Diablo III for the longest time was because every time I went to start it up, I was focused on collecting the best loot and doing the grind to make sure I was ready for the endgame portion. At least, that’s what my friends and social media kept alluding to as the point of the game.

When I started the game this time around, I set my own parameters for how I wanted to experience it. I set aside worrying about getting to the endgame portion of Diablo III and collecting all the best loot to just experience the world and story on offer.

This led to me actually enjoying the experience much more than I thought I would, and in doing so introduced me to a new genre of games I really hadn’t spent much time with before. Now I’m working my way through Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem with the same set of parameters and finding a lot of enjoyment in it.

After Diablo though, I started up Ori and the Blind Forest.

I’m actually a big fan of a lot of the indie platformers, but some of the more challenging ones have put me off. I don’t mind a challenging game, but a challenging game coupled with the issue of starting games and not finishing them often led to my dropping a game before I could really get hooked.

So I committed one of gaming’s cardinal sins and started the game on Easy mode so that I could give it a shot because I very much wanted to experience the game’s stunning visuals and beautiful soundtrack, and I wasn’t really looking to play the game for a challenge. Once I made that small change to my mindset, I ended up getting hooked into the game and completing it over a couple days.

Ori and the Blind Forest: video game difficulty stress not one only way to play, gamer's block

Over the holiday break I completed quite a few more games, experiencing them the way I wanted to experience them and not the way the internet or my friends expected me to. I lowered the difficulty scaling on Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey because the grind was unbearable and made the game entirely tedious to play. I turned on the cheat mod for Sekiro because I wanted to experience the world and story and learn the combat at my own pace.

I played through SOMA on “Safe Mode” because I had heard so many good things about the story and wasn’t really interested in the whole “hide and seek” aspect of the game. I played through The Occupation once, stuck with the ending I got instead of constantly worrying about messing up, and checked out the other endings online to see the alternatives.

I’m not adverse to challenging, scary, or long games. I’ve completed extremely intense titles like Alien: Isolation, I’ve reached the highest rank in Rainbow Six Siege, and I even recently completed my first souls-like in Remnant: From the Ashes. It’s not that I’m “bad” at games, it’s really just down to the fact that there’s so much to experience, and limited time to do it, so a lot of times I’m not specifically looking for a challenge, but an experience. I realize now that playing games the “expected” way doesn’t have to be the “right” way.

I know, it sounds like a completely obvious thing to do — to just play the game how you want to play it — but for me, and I’m sure many of you, there’s a looming sense mentally that there’s a specific way to play game X or you’re not getting the full experience of it.

However, once I broke that mindset and just started playing games the way I wanted to experience them again, that removed a lot of the stress that was blocking me from trying new games that I wanted to play, or sticking with the ones I started. I wasn’t worried about completing every last bit of the game, beating a significant challenge, or discovering everything on offer — just that I got what I wanted out of it and moved on to the next experience. I wouldn’t review a game in this way, but I’ve been slowly removing that personal block and finding new games, and even genres, that I now enjoy.

Nick Calandra
Editor in Chief of The Escapist. Previously founder of OnlySP and Gameumentary. Patiently waiting for the Red Wings to be good again.

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