I am a gamer who doesn’t game.
I own a Master System, Mega Drive, Playstation, N64, Playstation 2, Wii, and a Gameboy Colour (I only really got it to play Pokemon). I play games on my PC, phone and tablet.
But I don’t really *play* any of them. There’s no time. I only finished Portal earlier this year, three years after I started. I’ve spent seven years playing Halflife: I made it to the final level three years ago but I saved the game when I didn’t have enough life left to defeat the boss (I was so pissed off, especially as I’d done *exactly* the same thing with Metal Gear Solid as well two years previously) – then I switched computers and had to restart the entire game again. I’m hoping I’ll get to finish it this year, so I can finally play Halflife 2 over the next decade…
My shelves are covered with games that I’ve bought and never finished – Metal Gear Solid 3, Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly, Sheep (sheep are aliens with amnesia and you have to herd them to their waiting spaceships). I’ve got a copy of Sim City 4 that’s still in its wrapper. I’ve got a copy of Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time that I have played on two occasions. I have Burnout 3: Takedown for XBox *and* PS2, and I think I’m at 15% completion.
I don’t think it’s because I suck. (Although sometimes it is. I made it to the control room of Goldeneye, where you have run down into the control room, kill everyone in your way and then run out the exit. First time I ever played it I got from one side of the room to the other and was heading down a corridor when my mum came in and demanded I turn the N64 off because we were going out. I pleaded for time to finish the mission. She said “You can always get there again”. I didn’t know at the time that I was literally five seconds away from completing the level, and obeyed. And for some reason, I would never, ever again make across that control room floor alive. And for the remaining duration of my time at home, my right to finish game levels before doing something my parents wanted to do was sacrosanct on pain of a lecture about Goldeneye Level Eight.)
And sometimes it’s because I’m a perfectionist. (In Harvest Moon: Back to Nature, you have a year in game time to ingratiate yourself with the local population – if you fail, your game basically resets and you’ve wasted a month of your life playing. You only have limited energy to move around before you get tired, so you have to plan your day efficiently. I saved it before going to sleep every day so if I wasn’t satisfied with the day’s performance I could just do it over and over again. I’m just into the beginning of summer atm, I had to stop playing it eventually because I couldn’t play for less than twelve hour sessions of gaming and plotting my next crop rotations – I’ve still got the notebook detailing my plans to date the town librarian so she would agree to marry me without taking up too much of my precious crop-watering time.)
There’s some I have finished. I kicked ass on Pokemon Blue and Gold, Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, Metal Gear Solid II, Medievil and Medievil II, Spyro the Dragon 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, pretty much every Sonic the Hedgehog game in existence but Sonic Unleashed (I’m on the final level but moved house and can’t plug my Wii into the new TV, in my defence). My mother and I jointly finished the crazy and never-ending game of Alundra (a game so massive for its time that my mum spent a week completing an entire world which contributes nothing to the main storyline and we couldn’t find in the walkthrough and still aren’t sure how she got there). We whizzed through Kirby’s Epic Yarn last summer, and finished every Star Wars LEGO game the Christmas before that.
My hazy memories of primary school are filled with satisfaction at completing all the games I played, like Crystal Rainforest, Granny’s Garden and Microbugs. Not that many games in the 90s were really meant to be finished in the days before effective saving mechanisms, when maybe one game in three would give you a password to access the last level you reached and the rest would just expect you to play continuously for seven hours if you wanted to reach the end. However, I had seven hours to spend then.
But overall, there’s more games I’ve started than I finished across most of the platforms I own. Because I don’t have time. When I got into Sixth Form, I started to feel guilty when I game. There’s email to answer, work to go to, activism to organise Facebook to update, books to read, blogposts to write.
I’d write more, but I’m an Earl (Level 19) in Stronghold Kingdoms and I need to repair my castles from the random AI attacks they’ve been subject to all weekend. It’s -10 popularity negative if your keep is unenclosed, you know.
I know exactly what you mean. I couldn’t even begin to count the games I’ve started, going right back to the 1980’s! There has been one constant though, Elite first on the BBC Micro, then later the Atari ST then the PC. Even today I regularly play Oolite, an updated, open source version of the game. There are eight galaxies to explore and trade in, but I’ve never left the first one, in nearly thirty years of playing it!
I know, right! It’s the games that are open-ended but real time that are the worst – you have to choose to leave everything you’ve created to be destroyed by the ravages of time, or to resentfully maintain it forever. Farmville was like that for me, and I’m experiencing it now with Stronghold Kingdoms – if I leave it alone, the other players will destroy all my stuff, but on the other hand I’ve reached my tolerance level for patiently clicking away on the same things every day.
We must have hundreds of games in our house for PS3, xbox360, wii – and I never play any of them, the same cannot be said of my kids.
I used to love computer gaming as a kid, but no longer like playing them, so perhaps you do grow out of them. My father never got the concept at all, so at least I get them, just find them boring.
As we’re only in the first generation of people who are getting old and grew up with personal consoles, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I know my stepfather played PS2 well into his late forties, and I think he’d play at least occasionally now if our TV hadn’t exploded and the BBC iPlayer hadn’t launched.