The Grind


If I were to take all my Steam games that I’m yet to complete and put them all into one category, that’s how many games it would include. 80 games, not including games that have no defined career path; arcade titles and multiplayer only games for example. That’s just on Steam. On top of that are numerous boxed games for a variety of different formats, from 90s PC RPGs to PS1-era platformers. And the thing is, aside from the odd few that came in bundles or those impulse purchases that proved to be truly terrible, a part of me really does plan on completing all of them.

Shadow Hearts, the PS2 JRPG that I bought on a recommendation but never had the chance to play? I’m going to complete that. Planescape: Torment, the critic’s perennial top-ten-of-all-time entrant? I’m going to finish it. Even Dangerous High School Girls In Trouble, the much lauded indie title from a couple of years back that I tried once and couldn’t figure out. One day I’m going to figure it out and I’m going to damn well get those high school girls out of trouble. Part of my mind, the part that is completely ignorant of the concept of time, genuinely believes all that to be true.

Clearly it isn’t.

In a way I envy those people who have found the one game they want to play and never stray from. It must be so much easier for the legions of people who still religiously log in to Counter Strike or World of Warcraft every day, knowing that it’s their only gaming demand. Unfortunately my compulsion, for all forms of media, is to sample as much of everything as is actually possible. There are cycles, to be sure. I might spend a couple of months favouring FPSs before moving on to RPGs just as I might favour Industrial music for a period before gravitating toward whatever genre the Fuck Buttons are meant to occupy. But the number of genres that I identify as not being interested in is small (mostly MMOs, and only then because of the time they might take up.)

Even more, I envy those who can just walk away from something they’ve put numerous hours into because they feel they’ve done enough. My former flatmate got to the final boss fight in BioShock, died a couple of times and then just quit. His reasoning was that the boss fight was shit, the ending was likely to be shit and it wasn’t worth spoiling the good part of the game by trying to grind out the bad part. He was entirely right, the boss fight and subsequent ending were complete and utter shit, but fuck me sideways, you don’t just quit…

Or maybe you do. Or at least, he does. I can’t. Not that this is a declaration of change; it would be pointless to fight it. There is a cautionary lesson here though. The last few nights I’ve been sat down with Chime, Zoë Mode’s music based block matching game and, as always when I’m playing these casual titles, there’s a nagging feeling that I’m not using my free time effectively – that I’m not making any progression.

That’s a dangerous thing, to feel the need to constantly resource manage your gaming habits to effectively clear any back catalogue. Perhaps then I need to accept my gaming mood, even if it’s just a few hours with a simple block matching game, and if because of that I never get round to playing the PS3 action RPG Folklore then so be it.

Got your own unhealthy gaming compulsions? Share ’em in the comments.


3 Responses to “The Grind”

  1. 14/09/2010 at 08:25

    I can identify with everything you just said.
    I too have about a hundred games I fully intend to finish (including Planescape Torment). I too have this nagging feeling I’m wasting my time when I’m playing casual games (like Chime, which I impulse-bought recently and am somewhat disappointed with, cause it has so few tracks, and it’s basically tetris).

    And even though I know I still have a huge back catalogue of games to play, I just keep buying new ones. Like Recettear. I wants it! Even though I know it’s probably made of endless grind and it’ll set me back another few dozen hours. Or Just Cause 2! Even though I know it’ll probably boring me out of my skull after the first five hours, like all sandbox-style games do. Or Amnesia! Even though I know I’m too chicken to play it for longer than five minutes at a time.

    And despite this huge back catalogue and the constant stream of new titles, I frequently get this feeling that none of them will do. That I need something really engaging and immersive, something with high production values but with a great story and actual depth. The Inception/American Beauty/ of video games, so to speak. And when you think of it, there’s really not a lot of games that fit this description. I’m actually struggling to come up with one.

    • 2 Phil
      14/09/2010 at 13:53

      Yeah, Chime is pretty limited, but works as an after work game that you don’t really have to think about or get that involved in.

      Recettear looks good, but is exactly the sort of large scale RPG game that I’ll never actually play because of the time investment (see also: King’s Bounty). The thing with Just Cause 2 is that all the actual missions are complete shit, so your enjoyment of the game is entirely dependant on how much you can think of trying out in its playground.

      As for the Inception of video games (or the Citizen Kane of games, which seems to be the popular shorthand) I dunno. Team Ico have probably come the closest. Maybe Portal. Part of the problem is that it’s not good enough for games to recreate a film’s story styles but need to do something on their own terms (ie. for a game to be of that status it would have to be something that could only work as a game.) It’s a complex issue all by itself, and something I’ve been putting off writing a post about since this blog started.

  2. 3 Issi
    14/09/2010 at 15:49

    As you know i played a lot of tropico 3 this year, and even though i’ve completed all the missions, i still like to go back and waste a few hours on it every now and then to have a go at some ‘new idea i really gotta try!’, and in the vague hope of getting the average citizen happiness up to 100% (its probably not possible)

    Also I notice that the games you love the most, you get round to finishing with quicker. But if you’re in hurry to get on and start the next one, how can you stop to really appreciate one. People who get completely obsessed with one game, or quit spontaneously are able to do so because they’re living in the moment of that game, they’re not on some ulterior mission to complete every game they’ve ever had.

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