Obligated to Game

Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Game

EDITORIAL: Below is an editorial written by David Craig. This is his personal view point on the subject and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of NintendoGal.com or its other members of staff.

The other day, I sat down to begin a new title in my favorite franchise, and I almost immediately regretted my decision. It wasn’t that the game was necessarily bad – I personally know people that enjoyed it. However, there were several design decisions made about the gameplay that I simply abhorred. Now most people in this situation would probably put the game down, never to return to it again. Perhaps they’d even sell it back to Gamestop or through eBay. But not me. I, quite painfully, forced myself to return to the game time and time again, even though I knew it wasn’t going to get any better. Why did I do this? Because I suffer from a malady I refer to as “G.O.” -  the Gamer’s Obligation.

I won’t mention the name of the game, or even the series, as I’m not looking to start any kind of flame war. It’s entirely unimportant, anyway. Everyone feels this way about a game they were looking forward to at one time or another. Sometimes a new developer takes over and screws everything up. Other times, the game can simply feel rehashed and stale. But have you ever forced yourself to continue playing a game you really weren’t enjoying? This odd compulsion to prolong your own suffering seems to happen more often than you think, and although this ailment isn’t exclusive to gaming, our preferred choice of media does seem to be where it’s most widespread. If you don’t like a movie, you walk out, or turn off the DVD. If you don’t like a song, you change the radio station or skip the track. But for many people, even though they may dislike, or even loathe, a video game, they force themselves to beat it, no matter the cost.

So why do we do this to ourselves? Surely we can’t all be masochists? I forced myself to keep going because I had played every previous game in the series, and I still wanted to be able to hold that prestige. But in truth, there seem to be several reasons why someone might feel obligated to game. One of the most prevalent reasons is that you very likely paid $50-$60 dollars or more for the right to play a particular title. It’s perfectly natural to feel as though you want to get your money’s worth, and strict return policies mean that at best you can only trade it in if you don’t like it, usually for a substantial loss. The most obvious solution to this is to rent your games before you buy them, and many people do. However, with the cost of renting a video game from Blockbuster reaching a ludicrous nine dollars or more, some people would rather just take the risk and purchase it. The success of Gamefly and the recent announcement of Red Box offering game rentals will surely make this an even easier solution. But these services aren’t offered everywhere, and money is far from the only reason the Gamer’s Obligation exists.

Another reason can be peer pressure. It seems rather silly at first, but gamers who frequent message boards or even just have gamer friends sometimes feel pressured to play a game they normally might not have because they heard it was “friggin’ amazing.” I’ve certainly been guilty of falling into this trap myself in the past. And the pressure doesn’t have to always come from other gamers. Sometimes a game that’s released to critical acclaim can seem like a must-play, even if it’s not within your preferred genre. All too often, these supposedly fantastic games get overhyped, and you’re left feeling bored, frustrated, and entirely uninterested in continuing – yet you must. “What does everyone else see in this that you don’t?” “Maybe it gets better.” “I’ll just beat it so that I can say it sucks and sound as if I know what I’m talking about.” These are all excuses we make to keep ourselves gaming, even when turning on your console feels like sitting down to do homework.

But that’s not all. Yet another reason is competition. Whether it be achievements that need unlocking, or a mage that needs leveling up, our need to stay on top of the leaderboard is often why we feel obligated. A friend recently told me that he wasn’t particularly enjoying a certain MMORPG, but he felt the need to play it on a near-daily basis so that other people he knew wouldn’t get more powerful than him. And of course, how many gamers have you seen on message boards that will play games they hate for the sole purpose of boosting their gamerscore?

Well I, for one, have had enough. I’m putting my proverbial foot down, alongside of my controller. No longer will I force myself to play a game I don’t like. No longer will I glance at my consoles with distaste, dreading the next time I force myself to sit down and make progress in an awful video game. I realize this may mean I play a lot fewer games than I do now, but I will no longer sacrifice quality for quantity. And I encourage you all to do the same. After all, video games are supposed to be fun! They’re not supposed to stress you out. They’re not supposed to feel like a chore. I urge you, if you suffer from G.O. as I do, to join me in my rediscovery of the joy of gaming. Regret is a choice. Make the right one.