The Unavoidable Pull Of Our Favourite Games

We’ve all got them. Those games that we play for months on end, long past the completion of their story mode. For most of you, it’s probably a multiplayer game. Whether that’s the multiplayer mode of a game like Call of Duty (take your pick which one, they’re all still relatively active) or a purely multiplayer focused game like an MMO – World of Warcraft, for example.

Destiny appears to be the most notable culprit at the moment. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that it is a kind of sci-fi hybrid of the two games mentioned above.

I didn’t even quite finish the story content, never mind getting caught up with the “end game” and the post release content. But it’s huge, which is why the games media is still talking about it regularly. “Oh, not another article about Destiny!” you might lament, as you peruse your daily games coverage but the truth is, those articles are probably still read by more people than any other articles that week. Despite the game having very obvious flaws, and almost all of its steadfast fans acknowledging those flaws, the way it plays and the appeal of encouraging you to share that experience with others obviously win out for many.

So even though Destiny is patently not a fantastic game, it has that almost magical ability to make people keep coming back. Partly, that might be due to there being less competition for your time than might traditionally be the case. Some of the big annual franchises that have seen releases since Destiny seemed to miss a beat slightly, not quite presenting the enticing, polished product we might expect. But still, Destiny is something of an enigma in that it is roundly criticised, even by those who obviously love it. Even I, who abandoned the game three quarters of the way into its story mode having done little but complain about the repetitive reuse of areas and missions, think back on it fondly.

The situation, though, goes deeper than Bungie’s latest shooter. It’s psychological. It’s something within us that latches on to these imagined universes and draws us back. For some, that undoubtedly manifests as an unhealthy addiction. For the vast majority, though, it just results in a handful of games, over the years, that you’ve dedicated more time to than you would care to admit.

I played Flashback on the Mega Drive for more hours than I could count (and many times again since its initial release). I rented Zone of the Enders enough times that it would have been financially more responsible to just buy it – and all so I could play the demo disc of Metal Gear Solid 2 that was in the box with it (I never played more than 5 minutes of ZoE). Combat Flight Sim, Interstate ’76, Delta Force, Gran Turismo 4, Sensible Soccer, Assassin’s Creed II and many, many others have all taken up much larger portions of my life than I’d happily admit to. I’m sure you’ve all got your own lists, too.

My current (extremely “first world”) problem is Elite: Dangerous. I’ve played dozens of hours, since the beta phases. I’ve invested in new hardware to improve my time with the game. Invested. Like it’s not just spending hundreds of pounds on toys to help me pretend I’m a better spaceman. Every time I look at the pile of unplayed games on my shelf – games that are much-praised – I end up spending my precious free time back in the cockpit of my spacecraft instead.

I intended spending the Christmas break finally getting stuck into The Last of Us Remastered – a game that I’m regularly told is one of the best ever. The Last of Us is, by all accounts, a masterclass in interactive storytelling, with a genuinely impressive narrative and delivery. On paper, it’s everything I would usually rush to play. This is a game that I really do want to play. And yet, when I found myself with a spare couple of hours and a choice to make, I chose not to. All of this is in addition to another pressure that most of us have to contest with: limited time to play games.

There came a point, a few years ago, when I was reading the debates about game length and value for money that seemed to be everywhere at the time. I realised that I’d much rather a game only lasted for 5-6 hours than it tried to stretch proceedings along. I have limited time and a desire to experience as much of gaming culture as I possibly can – shorter single player experiences that just get the story out the way, let me sample the mechanics and systems and then end with a nice finale are much easier to justify than embarking on an undertaking the scale of, say, Dragon Age: Inquisition.

The thing is, though, my limited time would be far less limited if I could just keep my feet on Earth and avoid the gravitational pull of my Cobra MkIII and Elite: Dangerous. Although, thinking about that situation, I notice the excited idea arise that less time playing Elite would mean I’d have more time to play Football Manager.

And still, The Last of Us Remastered sits on my PS4 hard disk. Waiting.

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14 Comments

  1. It’s a lovely article and one that most of us can empathise with, I’m sure. I have a raft of top-drawer titles just waiting for my grubby mittens and eager eyes but I’m completely transfixed with Don’t Starve (Reign of Giants DLC) and Don’t Starve Together (the beta for the co-op game on PC).

    Sure, I’ll get back to LittleBigPlanet 3 or start Far Cry 4 or Valiant Hearts or continue with Hohokum… the list goes on… but I’d far prefer my lovely little Don’t Starve game right now. It makes me happy and that’s what this wonderful pastime of ours is all about, surely. :-)

    • Indeed it is – I recently suggested that I both love & hate destiny in equal measure & I think that’s pretty accurate. Whilst I love playing the game (& the interaction that brings) & log in almost daily to play some more & complete some bounties etc, it does bug me that it’s keeping me from my pile of shame & games that sit still wrapped wanting to be played. My conscience tells me I should play them, clear down my pile & enjoy some new experiences, but my heart makes me not change discs & instead return to the Moon. Or Venus. Or Mars.

      It’s not that the games waiting to be played are in any way bad (quite the opposite in fact), but Destiny quite firmly has its hooks in me & I know I’ll definitely have a good time if I chuck it on (& also how much I am likely to get done in the precious time I have available to me). That is definitely what it is about for me.

  2. I’m actually a bit jealous of people who haven’t played TLOU yet, it really is fantastic.

    I don’t have many games I go back to (not into MP as much as I used to be), although I’ll occasionally come across a small/indie game that I’ll be playing alongside a big AAA title, and it’ll often take preference – albeit sometimes because I’m a bit tired and it’s not as demanding, or when I know it’s not worth getting stuck into a bigger game when I only have 40-50 minutes say. Trophies also help me to move on to something new – generally speaking if I’ve got all or most of the trophies for a game, I’ll move on. That’s not to say trophies dictate my gaming, but it usually means I’ve got all the challenge/value out of a particular game.

    CounterSpy was so addictive that I found I was playing that instead of TLOU multiplayer, which is a credit to it.

    One game I would still happily return to is Modern Warfare 2 (multiplayer), although sadly every time I do I’m reminded how the hacking ruined it. Even a couple of years after other CoDs were released there used to be about 45,000 people still playing online, whereas Ghosts for example only has about 8,000 just one year later.

    • Ahhh, mw2, when that was out, I was still in school. More or less everyone played it.

      It was the peak to me, last game IW made before half of them left, and Hans Zimmer did the soundtrack.

      • It was brilliant, I put 31 days into it, and I’d still play it now if it weren’t for the hacking. So annoying that some people can ruin something they actually enjoy.

    • I’m yet to play TLOU. I keep hoping the remastered version will be either ridiculously cheap in a sale or out on PSplus soon.

      • Think it was £18 before Xmas in the first Christmas deal ;)

      • Unfortunately my Driveclub refund didn’t come through in time for it. Next time though..

  3. I can testify to DA:Inquisition’s length, my save is sitting at 35 hours, and I’m over half way with the story, but that’s only because I recently decided to stop doing every single side quest because I want to complete it and move on to another. Its astonishing value for money though.

    Even though its a huge game, i’ve had it since it came out (roughly), played it alot but only in small sessions, sometimes just half an hour, I find that keeps things fresh.

    It’s very rare that I’ll buy a big, boxed AAA game while I am still playing another, I think I’d get confused and lose immersion. I have FIFA 15 for the odd game, and that’s the only other PS4 disc game I have, and Halo mcc on the xbox, the rest have been sold/borrowed/traded in of some sort, so I can afford to pre order my favourites.

  4. I find my playing time is so limited nowadays I actively avoid open world games.
    Due to my desire to experience all the game has to offer (I was one of the few that had 100% completion on Oblivion) I just don’t have the time to spend 100+ hours on a single game.
    Also one of the reasons I’m far more discerning about the games I buy nowadays.
    And why online gaming no longer appeals (I don’t have the time to dedicate to be competitive in online games any more)

    • I feel exactley the same way, buy im currently obsessed with Assassins creed, both unity and rogue and im generally not bothered about getting any other games at the moment

  5. At the moment TLOU is that game. Completed it on normal and went to play through again with the upgrades and accidentally wiped my save game so started again in Easy to blast through and upgrade again. NEarly finished a second complete run and plan to go through again on a harder mode.

    Previously I’d have said Half Life 2 as I have played that game through more than any other game. Perhaps TLOU will challenge it in the near future….

  6. I know the feeling…. been hammering The Crew since launch and been trying to get Breadwinner Trophy after my stats got reset thanks to Ubisoft as it is part of the plan and will be regularly every month! Anyway been playing it again to try get my daily faction 10,000 bucks. It is challenging but the game itself is fun. Although I do hate when there is a maintenance or if PSN went down which happened too many in one month last month! I fear for these silly online trophies in the future including this silly trophy on The Crew where you have to race for a total of 4hrs…. I got disconnected at 45mins or so…. very annoying.
    I have had my share for Multiplayer longetivity such as The last of Us, Homefront, Crysis 2, Kings of Fighters etc…. They always take up my time but these games are so much fun and yes I am after the Platinum xD although I still play The Last of Us multiplayer and did spent hours on Fifa 14 FUT even after obtaining the Platinum.
    I wish Ubisoft can fix the statistics as I would like to see how many hours I have sunk in The Crew
    I also remember playing Gears of War multiplayer trying to get 10,000 kills online and it was a brilliant fun multiplayer sadly I didn’t get the achievement as it glitched on me :(

  7. A lot of the time I end up going back to Battlefield 4 on my PC. The game may have been broken for months after launch and required me to upgrade my already good PC to play it properly, but something about it keeps luring me back. I love the way Battlefield plays, squad play in particular. It’s great fun playing with friends.

    Elite Dangerous is something that tempts me greatly. I’ve already pledged to Star Citizen and can’t decide if I should invest in Elite Dangerous. Don’t think I could commit the time to the two of these games.

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