What should I play? My eyes glance over to my shelves, adorned with an ever-growing back catalogue of games that are yet to be completed, or worse, yet to even be started. As I scan my library, I see masterpieces such as God of War that I’ve barely touched. Games I’m an hour away from completing sit longingly, having loitered on my pile of shame for months or even years. There’s a bevy of perpetual multiplayer games, begging me to throw them twenty minutes to improve either my character’s skills or my own.
A tough decision needs to be made, but I’ve never been particularly good at those.
Hoping for inspiration, I switch on my consoles and browse every icon to absorb my complete range of options. Beat Saber jumps out as a title that I am itching to play, but that means going to the effort of rearranging the living room for VR play, so that’s probably not going to happen. I could choose The Witcher 3 where I’m five hours into my three thousand-hour adventure, much to the frustration of my best friend who insists I should just quit my day job and take up a life of side-questing and Gwent. Then there’s always the option of just beating up on Level 9 CPUs in Smash Bros.
Hundreds of icons flash by, and inevitably an old friend rears its annoying head. Hello, decision paralysis. It’s then that I suddenly realise that half of my evening free time has already vanished. Again. Oops.
In 2019 we are overloaded with services and platforms vying for our ever-dwindling free time. We have PlayStation Plus, Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass, and the smorgasbord of excellent free games that they offer. I have friends insisting I should join them in Apex Legends and other free-to-play games. We have games that now expect near-daily commitment from players in the live-services field, and obligations to keep up with friends in open-world cooperative titles.
The numbers can be daunting. My PS4 shows 60 potential games for me to choose from. That’s dwarfed by my Xbox One that tempts me with 94 installed games, not to mention 103 other games available for install at my leisure. There are dozens more waiting for me on my Switch, a digital mountain sitting over on Steam that I’m choosing to ignore, and my commitments to my part-time job as a Pokémon Go master trainer.
Between freebies and a constant deluge of quality new releases, we are spoilt for choice, and it’s more difficult than ever to decide what to play. I have no doubt this will only become more prevalent as we start to see major industry players bring in their own cloud-based services. We know of Microsoft and Google’s plans, but I suspect it won’t be long before we see many others throwing their hat into the gaming subscription ring desperate for a piece of the pie.
Too Many Games, Too Little Time
We all wish we had more free time, but many of us likely have more than we think and just don’t use it well. I expect I’m not alone in losing time mindlessly scrolling social media or just zoning out to ponder the mysteries of the universe, but the increasing pressure of modern society means there’s always more that needs to be squeezed into those precious few hours.
Those hours become an increasingly rare commodity as the years go on, but if you’re anything like me, your game buying habits haven’t quite adapted accordingly. The video game industry moves so quickly, zipping from one big release or topic of discussion to the next. In this social media age, there’s a perceived pressure to keep up with the cultural zeitgeist, to stay engaged and informed on all the latest games, lest you be left out of the conversation.
Just recently, you couldn’t open Twitter without seeing someone’s viewpoint on the topic of game difficulty. Fuelled by the releases of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twiceand Yoshi’s Crafted World, we had plenty of thoughtful and introspective discourse into difficulty, accessibility, entitlement and gatekeeping. I picked up these games eager to join the conversation, but by that point, the discussion was about as dead as my character in Sekiro.
The talking points invariably change, and it’s impossible to keep up with absolutely everything. We’ve all experienced this futility with video streaming already. Spending eternity aimlessly scrolling through Netflix, Stan or Foxtel hoping for something to jump out, all while glossing over our ever-expanding watchlist of shows other people tell us we must watch. Half an hour later you’ve settled on re-watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine for the tenth time because deciding on something new is too exhausting and you can always do with a little Terry Crews at the end of a long day.
Discipline and Compromise
My gaming library has ballooned to the point that I will never catch up. When faced with this reality, I tend to fall back on my comfort games. We’ve all got that game or two. Perhaps it’s constantly replaying something with no end like Fortnite. Maybe it’s the comforting mindless shoot-and-loot grind of something like Destiny. In my case, it’s going back and replaying Resident Evil 4 for the fiftieth time, or just sneaking in a few bouts of Smash Bros.
There’s nothing wrong with falling back on old favourites, and there’s a soothing sense of contentment about accepting the fact you’ll never see and play everything. Having said that, I’m cognisant that improving my time management and decision-making processes will result in more time available for playing games and less time staring at dashboards.
I’ve recently forced myself to choose a maximum of three games to have in rotation at any one time. I pick two I really want to complete and only swap them out once they’re done. The other is a staple game that I’m always happy to fall back on when all else fails. Experiment and see what works best for your own level of crippling indecision. I’ve found this has helped me to dedicate time for the games I’m enjoying the most while keeping room open for new and exciting games either from a quality or discussion standpoint. It also helps me accept that sometimes I’m just as happy to put aside the rest and gorge on some comfort gaming.
We’re lucky to be in an age of gaming where so many outstanding titles are more accessible than ever. Whatever the mood, wherever the location, however much spare time we have, there’s something that will no doubt fill that gaming-shaped hole in your life. We just have to do our best not to waste that time flicking through menus.