I’ve been buying games I probably won’t play lately. I should be clear. It’s not that I might play them. I won’t.
To you, this might seem irrational, even insane. But I recognize that it’s the natural progression of my psyche through the stages of my latest hobby of consumption.
Stage 1: Denial
Things always start slow. I tell myself I’m not really interested and don’t have the time. For example, I tell myself that a point and shoot is a fine camera, and I don’t need the complexity of a real camera. Or, I tell myself that games really aren’t worth the time, except every once in a while when the next Half-Life comes along, and besides, I don’t have a PC.
This stage can last for a long time, years even, but forces stronger than one’s internal resistance will break in. It’s inevitable.
Stage 2: Casual
Of course, we all know that eventually I did break down and enter the video game world in earnest. I did so pretty casually. I had a couple of sports games and the odd shooter. My console profile pretty much matched my previous attitudes about computer games.
I tried to make this situation last, but at some level I knew I was doomed. I had been here before too many other times. I had gone from a few Jazz and Classical CDs to a collection of turntables and hundreds of vinyl albums (they were cheap) and later hundreds more CDs. I had gone from no cameras to several “serious” cameras, and a whole darkroom. I knew I was in for more.
Stage 3: Shopping
It’s always shopping that does you in. Shopping encapsulates everything the true geek loves about hobbies because at its core it is a game of collecting information. It is no coincidence that the majority of Internet Forum activity is about shopping.
Shopping is insidious because it naturally leads to a situation where you learn more and more about things you do not have. Younger geeks are safer from this, because they do not have the resources to actually go and acquire things they don’t have. I spent half my childhood scheming about how I could obtain equipment for amateur astronomy, but I never had the money to buy any of it.
Hobbies for adults are different. We have the money. The march of consumption moves inescapably forward.
Stage 4: Hardcore
The problem with constant consumption is that there is only so much content to consume. Eventually you have to branch out. You can try to collect (say) only classic recordings of old Classical Warhorses, but you’ll get tired of that soon and find yourself in 20th century aisles looking at George Crumb records.
With video games, wasn’t too hard to plumb the depths of my favorite genres. All you need is to collect one football game and the two shooters that are actually worth playing. Therefore, I was forced to go sideways. First there were the RPGs. I even learned to listen to the crappy voice-overs to get to the good parts of the game. Then there were platform and action games, which I can manage as long as there is an easy mode. Horror games? Check. Novelty adventure titles? Tried that. Artistic Japanese design pieces? Did that.
Soon, I found myself at The Exchange having lost that feeling of constant discovery. Had I really covered everything? The only decent title recently for the Xbox 360 is a ping-pong game. The DS was pretty snazzy for a while, with its lawyer games and surgery sims, but it’s really just more of the same old Nintendo being Nintendo.
If new won’t do it, the only direction to go is back in time. So I’ve been picking up older titles that I feel like I should have because of their status in the gaming “literature”. These games are important, even if they aren’t enjoyable anymore. There are PS1 games, SNES games (emulated on the PS1!) and some older PS2 games (you know, the people in Final Fantasy X just never stop talking). I tried some old PC games under emulation. The chances that I’ll actually play most of these games is vanishingly small, but one is compelled to collect. Luckily, I know where this is going.
Stage 5: Jaded
The end of the road is an extended lull. I’ll soon find myself sitting on my couch, bored with all the games, but also feeling guilty for being bored with all the games. I will wonder to myself about why I bought that comprehensive collection of historical Japanese samurai games. I’ll have to face facts, spend less time with the console, and maybe watch a movie. Life might return to the regular pattern of Halo and Madden, or I might inch through some old platform game involving a cartoon rodent with big guns. Either way, intense enthusiasm will give way to a more jaded sense of balance.
Of course, I could try to keep the ball rolling. There are all those historical consoles I don’t own. I do have a spare room in the house that would be a perfect retro game den. Also, I never did find out what all the fuss was about World of Warcraft. I think I have just enough self-respect and inner strength to avoid these fates though.
Instead, the pathological addiction will subside and games will take their rightful place next to the bikes and cameras and vinyl albums. They will be something to enjoy when I feel like enjoying them. They will be one of the many topics on which I can pontificate uselessly for hours. They will be one more activity that keeps me busy when I would otherwise be idle.