The Endless Cycle
I know I haven’t updated all summer, but that’s because my Steam progress was marred by the black hole that is Overwatch. So fuck you Overwatch, you addictive team based-son-of-a-bitch, for derailing my quest to complete my Steam Library.
With that said, I started to wonder about games like Overwatch or League of Legends, and why I get sucked into those experiences. It’s almost like a check list that my subconscious starts marking off when it wants to numb itself from societal responsibility.
- [√]: Is it skill based?
- [√]: Can I beat someone’s ass in it?
- [√]: Can it be played in a reasonable amount of time?
- [√]: Is there a progression bar I can raise some how?
- [√]: Is there a chance my ego will alter my self perception of my actual skill level
Great, let’s play!
I’d like to say the passion started with Street Fighter, like every other competitive gamer out there, but my obsession for these types of games started with Magic: The Gathering. Hours were spent researching and play testing different decks to see which cards in my collection worked and which ones did not. If worst came to worst, you hustled for the really rare but incredibly strong cards for a bigger edge. The prize for such diligence was a sip a from the cup of victory. Mostly though, I got served a face full of defeat.
Defeat tastes like shit, but victory… oh god sweet victory…
It’s difficult to explain how much I like to win, but there are a few articles floating on the internet about the psychology of winning, specifically the dopamine release that’s associated with competition. Angela Grippo, wrote an article for Psychology today on “why the brain likes a winner”
An important brain chemical that plays a role in our experience of positive emotions is dopamine. This chemical mediates various emotions, such as pleasure, happiness, and excitement, due in part to its actions in a brain area called the nucleus accumbens. This brain region is activated in several circumstances involving positive emotions and pleasure, and can influence the thrill that one feels after a victory.
Looking at my gaming habits from this point of view makes me feel like a crack head, but it’s not far from the truth. A majority of my college years were spent playing hours of Tekken, Street Fighter, and Soul Caliber just to take my skills to Chinatown Fair so that I could get someone to waste a quarter playing against me. Did I just beat some rando down the winding roads of Mt. Akina? You bet I spent hundreds of dollars learning those corners to do so. Improvement and training were only side effects of on my quest for my next hit of triumph.
“But PaJamieez,” one might say, “Arcades are dead. No one makes games like that any more.” Oh but they do, imaginary inquirer, they just got smarter with it. I find that in my older age games have to compete not only for my wallet, but for my time. For example, in a typical 24 hour day I spend seven of it sleeping, forty-five minutes of it getting ready for work, nine of it actually working ,and two of it commuting back and forth. That leaves six hours for going to the gym, making dinner, cleaning the apartment, and maybe squeezing in a game session. Suddenly, a sprawling adventure game doesn’t seem as attractive as eking out a quick win for an endorphin rush.
These micro-games, as I informally call them for lack of a better term, are everywhere looking to steal bits of precious time. How bad is my addiction? I have Overwatch installed on my PC, along with League of Legends, and Heroes of the Storm just waiting to get played. On my mobile phone, Clash Royal lets me get my victory fix while on the train. All the while, imaginary progress bars go up and I’m feeling more accomplished than if I played some Alien: Isolation for half an hour just to lose all my progress after a cheap Alien kill.
PLAY SOMETHING ELSE.
I always have to repeat the mantra when I get sucked into the competitive side of videogames. Last time, the Guild Wars 2 PVP scene completely tarnished my love for that game. It happened twice, the first time happened after the fall of the guild I joined, I some how managed to become a homeless despot of The Mists. After getting sick of the meta, I rediscovered it years later with my current girlfriend, but eventually The Mists took hold of me again once the new content ran dry. It was then that I realized I spent a year and half playing one game.
The trick I deduced was just to catch myself right before going over the edge. Regular people can play these games and easily switch to something else. The rush of the win isn’t everything, and there’s more to videogames than just defeating another player in the honorable arena of combat. With Overwatch, I just caught myself delving into the madness of getting better, taking random matches too seriously, and just stopped having fun when I didn’t get my win. I simply had to just play something else.
Now I’m back to playing Alien: Isolation, and have gotten a lot further than my initial play through. The story’s starting to ramp up and the tension is running high, but that fun is for another post…
Blog / Library / General Updates
Thanks for giving this a read guys! So while I have been Overwatching over the summer, I did get to spend some time with a few of my Steam games. Right now a lot of focus is going into Alien: Isolation, which you’ll learn more about as I progress through the game. However, I also experienced two player RPG mayhem with the wonderful Rizza Silverbow, in the way couples can only enjoy themselves: constant bickering and random adventures. Hint: We’ve been playing Divinity: Original Sin. Though we’ve hit a spot where we’ve kind of run into a wall. (Perhaps a restart is in order.)
I’ve also got a chance to play I am Setsuna, the Tokyo Factory RPG from Square Enix, and have recently hit a brick wall with that game as well. With all the new games floating about, I buckled down and stuck with one of them. Here’s the current update
- None (Womp Womp)
- I am Setsuna
- Divinity: Original Sin
Till next time, everyone! PLAY OTHER GAMES!