Many of us have been there. You’re cruising along playing game after game, reading articles on gaming, listening to podcasts on gaming, anxiously waiting upcoming releases….and then you stop. For whatever reason, your interest wanes. You find yourself not as excited to play the latest game, and sitting down to a gaming session feels like going through the motions. You start wondering if there isn’t something else you should be doing with your time.
Few people drive forward in anything they do without a second thought, and it’s perfectly natural to second-guess your interest in gaming. Let’s face it, if you participate in all the activities outlines above, that takes a significant chunk of your time. I recently clocked the amount of time spent on gaming-related activities (not including writing a blog, which is less typical of a regular gamer), and between reading about games, listening to podcasts, and playing games, my total time came out to 15-20 hours/week over the last month. That’s an average of 17.5 hours a week; over a year that turns into 910 hours! That’s almost 38 entire days spent thinking about games. Even if you blend those activities into other activities (I listen to podcasts while working out for about 4 hours/week, I relax with friends while gaming for about 3 hours/week), that still amounts to a heck of a lot of time playing video games.
I’ve had periods over my 26 years of gaming where I completely stopped gaming. This is not something unique to me; even many video game journalists admit there comes a point in their lives where they stopped playing. For me, there were a number of factors, but top of the list was that I just didn’t feel like playing anymore. It was healthy for me to take a break and do other things, and I eventually came back.
Maybe you’re concerned about your own waning interest in games; you don’t want to stop gaming entirely, but you need to find that spark to keep your interest. Here are some tips to overcome those bouts of disinterest:
- Don’t obsess about playing all different genres just to round out your gaming education. This was my primary downfall, and though I was doing it so that I could speak intelligently about different genres, in the end it was killing me because there simply are some genres that I really don’t like. Learn to accept that fact and move on.
- Realize that it’s ok to not finish a game. It’s very tempting, once you’ve put 7 hours into a game that’s only 12 hours long, to grind it out and finish it. You stopped having fun an hour ago, but you’re more than halfway there! To quit now would mean a wasted 6 hours, right? Wrong; actually, it’s quite the opposite. By playing the game for those first 6 hours, you gained an overall feel for the game experience, and probably got to try out most if not all of the key mechanics in the game. If you commit to grinding through the last 5 hours, then that’s 5 hours you could have invested into a game you actually enjoy. Endings usually suck anyway.
- Dial back the amount that you play games. Sometimes, it’s simply a reflection of the fact that you spend too much time gaming! Try measuring the number of hours you game each week, and cut it by 25%. If after a few weeks that doesn’t work, cut it by 50% and see how that goes.
- Don’t let gaming become a rut. I encourage setting up regular gaming sessions with friends, but make sure your default after work or school isn’t to just fall on the couch and turn on the system and veg out. Of course it’s appropriate to do that every now and then, but once it becomes a rut then it can loose its luster.
- Engage in non-gaming activities. In the words of the great (but somewhat crazy) Timothy Leary, “turn on, tune in, and drop out.” No, he wasn’t speaking about video games, and yes, he did go a little crazy later in life. OK, a lot crazy. But the message is sound; get rid of your preconceived notions of what you’re supposed to do, and step outside your comfort zone. Set up times to do other fun things that don’t involve staring at a television, tablet, or phone. Go outdoors. Exercise. Read a book. Take your dog for a walk. Volunteer for charity. Experience nature. Video games can be great fun, but they can also stop you from experiencing all the other wonderful joys that life has to offer. Then, when you sit down for your next gaming session, you’ll find it that much more rewarding.
I’m guilty of each of these five points at one time or another, and even recently I found my interest in gaming waning. But by following these simple tips, I quickly became interested in playing again, and things have improved. Ultimately you should do whatever you feel makes you happy, and ideally that makes the world a better place, and video games can absolutely be a part of that. Game on.