Starting a fresh save is fun… but at what cost?
It’s been an exhausting year. I look to video games as a way to unwind and relax, and even though my backlog is only getting bigger and bigger, I can’t bring myself to start any new games — instead, I’ve stuck to my favorite five games that I know like the back of my hand. Why?
To put it frankly, I’ve been really depressed, and learning a new game is tiring. You have to learn a whole new set of mechanics, and know what a game wants from you for things as seemingly simple as progressing through the world with navigation. I can’t tell you how many times recently I’ve been running around in circles because I can’t find the path to a new area or come up against a particularly tricky platforming jump I couldn’t make, and just gave up entirely. I’m calling this frustration “new game fatigue,” and if it wasn’t already a thing, it is now.
Okay, so I’m kind of being a baby about this. If I was really that stuck I could look up a playthrough and be on my merry way. But the problem is, I feel like Ben Affleck in that meme of him holding the cigarette. You know the one. I don’t want to have to watch through an hour-long guide to a game before I start it. I want to be able to have fun from the second I get the controller in my hand.
In some cases, this is simply a case of poor design. Maybe the devs didn’t make the way forward particularly easy to see for the sake of “realism.” Or maybe they didn’t tell the player how to use a healing item because they assumed everyone just knows that. It’s never intentional, but the people who make games aren’t perfect, and sometimes the way they implement things into games isn’t optimal for easily-digestible tutorials.
The recent trend is making the tutorial as minimal as possible, but dude, sometimes you just gotta give us instructions. It’s okay, we’ll still think it’s artistic or whatever.
But a lot of the time, I just can’t handle learning a new game because I’m tired. Fully mastering a game with complex mechanics is one of the most rewarding feelings I get when playing games, but it often takes more brainpower than I have at any given moment. Sometimes the idea of sitting down and trying to figure out how systems like menus, crafting, and currencies work in a new game makes me want to go take a nap.
There are whole games that are off the table for me because it’s just too much damn work. I have a little over an hour logged in Darkest Dungeon, which on paper I should love, but I shelved it when I realized I needed to watch like three hours of guides on YouTube to make it through a somewhat successful run. The Witcher 3 is arguably one of the best games of all time, and it’s been in my backlog for years, but the sheer size and volume of that game means it keeps getting pushed until later. League of Legends is a non-starter.
And this is coming from someone who plays games for a living. A few years ago, when I got my first job in game development, my dad bought a PS4 to support me, and said he was going to play all the games I’ve worked on. I thought this was incredibly sweet of him, but almost two years later, he really hasn’t played much of anything. He tried the 2018 God of War, and thought it was cool, but had to give up because he couldn’t figure out the combos the game wanted him to do and kept dying.
He did return to the Ratchet & Clank series, which was one of his favorites to play on the PS2 that we had growing up. One night, he called me on the phone to ask me how to complete a level, because although he was killing the enemies, they kept coming; he didn’t realize that he needed to destroy the ship they were coming out of in order to stop them from spawning.
Seeing my dad struggle so much to complete really basic game tasks gets me thinking a lot about games literacy, and how we need to design games with completely fresh players in mind, as well as build out more tools and tutorials to make the learning process go more smoothly.
I digress though. My point here is that the one game my dad was able to complete was Jak and Daxter, his absolute favorite game of all time. When he kept coming up against games that didn’t make sense to him, or felt like too much effort to try and learn, he returned to a classic he knew inside and out. He said it only took him four hours to beat, and he really hasn’t had any desire to pick up anything else. Welcome to my world, Dad.
So, do you experience new game fatigue? How do you combat it? Are you playing any games right now that feel like more trouble than they’re worth?