So here’s a question. Does anyone else after not playing a given game for a period of time — a small period, not talking months here — end up developing some sort of mental block about jumping back into it again?

And again, to be clear — I’m only talking about a matter of days. In this case, it started with a combination of being a bit sick and having another game come in over the top and run roughshod over any more intentional plans I might’ve had.

The plans involved playing more Death Stranding Director’s Cut. Warframe had other ideas. And now despite being mere days, the barriers seem to be up in full force where going back to Death Stranding is concerned.

Perhaps time alone isn’t the culprit here though. The point I left off in Death Stranding was the culmination of the first area of the game. Without saying too much to spoil the specifics, I’d like to at least acknowledge what an amazing job Hideo Kajima and his team did of pacing, escalation of threat, and then relief in the penultimate sections of the first area.

The game conspires to send you on what is, by far, your longest journey to date. Some of it across familiar terrain, where sure, you can segment the trip down into pitstops at the places you’ve been before, but eventually, you’re going to have to break new ground untethered from the relative safety of the Chiral Network. It’s rough terrain to cross, and it includes the longest contiguous section of BT-infested land you’d have ever had to deal with to date.

This shot of the map is only showing a small portion of the journey. It started from Central Knot City, much further to the North East than what can be seen here.

Even adequately equipped to deal with the trials and tribulations of the journey as I was… Before the end, I was starting to have doubts. ‘If these BTs carry on… in this density… for too much longer, I’m going to run into problems…’ or, ‘I’m running low on repair spray and this damned timefall rain just won’t stop.’

And just as those thoughts really start to take hold, to become almost oppressive… You break through.

The time corrosive rain stops. BB and your Odradek settle, letting you know the BTs are behind you, and you crest the top of a rise overlooking your destination with mostly gentle slopes the rest of the way… And the soundtrack lets loose with a new song — Asylums for Feeling feat. Leila Adu by Silent Poets.

There is a little more yet to do before the end of this act of the game, and it was also amazing. You get a good deal more story and understanding, sure. But I think I would have to put the journey to get there well above as an experience. Top 5 moment in gaming, without a doubt, and goes to demonstrate most clearly the best of what gaming as an interactive media can be.

So you might then wonder how on earth can put a game experience like this down afterward.

And if I hadn’t been sick or been pulled by friends in other directions, I may well not have and just carried on.

But those few days of gap expanded into a week. Now almost two. I still want to play more, and yet I am hit by a strange reluctance to actually go ahead and hit that ‘Play’ button again.

Maybe now that I’ve got this out, I’ll be able to bust through and just click the damned button. Tomorrow… Definitely, certainly, positively maybe… tomorrow.


Naithin

Gamer, reader, writer, husband and father of two boys. Former WoW and Gaming blogger, making a return to the fold to share my love of all things looty.

11 Comments

Roger Edwards · April 24, 2023 at 11:34 pm

I find that this happens with my gaming quite a lot. I bought Hogwarts legacy upon its release and played it solidly. I then finished the main story and then moved on to tidying up some minor content. I must point out that I was still engaged with this game and was not fatigued with it in any way. But then an update for Warzone 2.0 DMZ was released, so I migrated to that with the full intention of returning to Hogwarts Legacy. But it never happened. I then moved from DMZ to The Hunter: Call of the Wild, which had caught my attention after I saw it being streamed. So I played that game for a while only to get side tracked back to DMZ, due to the start of season 3.

Looking back, this seems to be a regular thing I experience. I was utterly into Red Dead Redemption 2 when it launched for the PC back in late 2019. I drifted away for no particular reason in spring 2020 and only returned to complete that epic game earlier this year. The odd thing is that I don’t consider myself to be easily distracted in other aspects of my life. I have always been able to apply myself to my work and in my hobbies, such as writing. Perhaps this is more to do with the psychology of game design and the way they appeal to us. Do we see them as ephemeral by nature? Or is this more to do with our own personality? Are gamers wedded exclusively to one game, such as an MMO, more likely to order the same meal every time they dine out for example. It certainly offers a lot of food for thought. 

    Naithin · April 24, 2023 at 11:50 pm

    I think there really is something different when it comes games. Certainly I find your description matching closely to my own experience. I can focus and buckle down where work or life calls for it, sure.

    But put some games in front of me, and it’s more of a crap shoot as to whether or not I’ll finish any of them. Heck, I even had a similar experience as you with RDR2 specifically — although at least in that case, I knew it wasn’t precisely what I was up for when the PC version came our way.

    I was feeling a need for shorter-form narrative content like GRIS, but RDR2 was good enough that it grabbed me for a while despite myself. Although I still haven’t gone back to it yet, it has been on my mind again independent of this conversation.

    Although as a PS: I do find that I rather easily fall into a habit of ordering the same meal, or at least, something within quite a limited range of options, when I dine out. Hah.

      Nimgimli · April 25, 2023 at 6:53 am

      One thing that makes games unusual, imo at least, is that there are SO many of them and they take so long to experience and more come out every day that you’ll never be able to play all the ones that interest you (or at least, I won’t) which makes it really tempting to just move on to something new. Like in the time it takes me to play a 50 hour game, probably 3-4 more 50 hour games that I’d like to play come out.

      Maybe this is just me, though, since I’m such an omnivore when it comes to games and kind of want to PLAY THEM ALL! :)

        Naithin · April 25, 2023 at 10:54 am

        Aye, the sheer volume of ‘good’ options is certainly a factor I reckon.

        No matter how good whatever you’re currently playing is, it can still feel like (perhaps even subconsciously) an opportunity cost against every other option you could also be playing.

        I find it helpful when I get a hankering for a particular genre of game, but even then, it doesn’t entirely remove the opportunity cost factor. Hah.

Krikket · April 25, 2023 at 2:20 am

If I’m away from a game for more than a week, that’s when the struggle really hits. Worse, if it stretches to a month or more, then I almost inevitably start over, which makes actually finishing games exceedingly difficult.

I continue to be very grateful that my husband talked me out of doing a “Complete A Week” blog project this year.

    Naithin · April 25, 2023 at 11:01 am

    After even a week, is the feeling that you’ll have forgotten how to play or where you were and what was going on?

    If yes, that’s very much a block I understand as well, although generally would take longer to appear for me. But once it takes hold… It’s a pretty big one to bust through sometimes.

    I did restart Death Stranding for the Director’s Cut, and that was mostly down to, well, all of the above. I started the original version not long after it launched on PC, and felt I wouldn’t remember enough of how to play to manage for where I was.

    In retrospect… Probably could have. The onscreen prompts are very good, but I still would’ve forgotten some of the story detail I’ve now got to see again.

      Krikket · April 26, 2023 at 11:09 am

      I won’t say never but typically, I don’t have a 7 day period with zero time for gaming. Which means that I’ve either picked another game to play, or I’ve chosen to do something else with that time, which means the game I had been playing isn’t as compelling as I would like it to be, and that’s usually when being spoiled for choice starts rearing its head. I mean, couldn’t something else be more fun?

      Either that, or I walked away at a point that was proving frustrating, and every time I think of starting the game up, I’m like “Oh, I was dealing with that.” and deciding against it.

      The month point is where I no longer trust myself to be adequately conversant in how the game actually works or where I am in the story. Those tend to be the games where I was playing faithfully, until something new and shiny came in and distracted me.

meghanplaysgames · April 25, 2023 at 3:46 am

I get this all the time too!! I’ve noticed it a lot with multiplayer/online games lately. If I feel “out of practice” I get this weird paralysis where I can’t bring myself to get back into the game and play after a break. It’s annoying, because as soon as I sit down and force myself to play I think “why did I put this off for so long?” But I wish I had an actual solution to getting over this mental block…

    Naithin · April 25, 2023 at 11:05 am

    You have pretty much perfectly detailed my relationship with returning to games like Monster Hunter. Hah.

    Although perhaps interestingly, for the MH series, this applies whether I intend to play co-op or singleplayer both.

    But then something in the Dark Souls series, no such barrier, I’ll jump into one of those again, no matter how far progressed the save, after months and months no worries.

    And I probably do have more time/experience with DS than MH, sure… But it’d be close.

Nimgimli · April 25, 2023 at 6:49 am

This happens to me sometimes, and like if I put myself in your shoes, what would have done it to me this time is, you got through a challenging section of the game… very nearly too challenging. And then to safety where you could relax.

If it were me, in the back of my brain would be a little voice whispering “I’m glad that was over but will the next section be such an ordeal? Or maybe a bigger ordeal and one I can’t surmount? Maybe I should just stay here in this safe place and end on a high note.”

Like for me, it would be a matter of trying to avoid the effort of the next challenging section.

That’s not the only reason I stop playing after an enforced break, but it is one of them.

    Naithin · April 25, 2023 at 11:12 am

    You know, there might be a good element of that.

    Also, it felt very much like what another game might give you as an end of game sequence. At least in emotional range, if not in actual difficulty (looking back in retrospect).

    I do wonder now if that feeling almost ‘gave permission’ in a way to put it aside and jump to other things, too.

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