My gaming blue

Finishing a really great game can sometimes lead to mixed emotions. While games can be appreciated more than once the realisation that a compelling chapter of your gaming life is over is still a hard one.

For every part of my life, there has been a great game running in parallel to my daytime. While I struggle on with the difficulties of the day there is always a game to lighten my evenings. When that game is over it leads to what I can only explain as my gaming blue.

How and why

I’m sure this isn’t a phenomenon unique to me. Sometimes the influence of a game can be so overreaching, so powerful that I find myself unable to move onto the other games in my gaming pile, it relates almost directly the mood created. The inability to wean myself from the environment the game has created for me leads to an almost pining need to continue exploring that world, making it difficult to move to the next game, sometimes days will pass before I can pick up another title in my “to-play” pile.

It isn’t always a reflection of the tone of the ending of the game , it’s not a sulking reaction to a soppy ending, or a jubilant stop. Happy ending or sad it seems to relate almost exactly to how deeply goal-driven the game is, how elaborate the world, how satisfying the combat is. Thinking back to those happy moments in my working day spent carefully planning my next gaming session, exacting the progress to be made – that stops temporarily, and its hard to pick that momentum back up.

A rollercoaster ride

If this happens I normally take it as measure of the games success. It doesn’t happen very often. Generally even with a great game the focus is to finish to move to the next one, to seize the moment of the current experience and chain another, maybe trying a different genre after the steady saturation of the last. A game that stops me in my tracks is rare, almost every game provokes enjoyment or moments of reflection. Few pull me out of my strong desire to play with such force.

The length of time spent on each game is certainly a factor. If weeks have been committed to a particular game, or days spent familiarising myself with the tiny little details no other game has; it becomes difficult to move onto something else. Our growing replay culture extends this feeling encouraging us to continue an enjoyable experience at the expense of our other, newer games.

Moving onto the next game

The most recent example I can think of is Mass Effect 2 – without discussing the detail of why (the reasons of which have been discussed in my post onΒ video game spoilers) The profoundness of Mass Effect’s story, world and character detail has made me reluctant to pick up another title out of sheer awe, but similarly reluctant to start another game of similar size and scope, I have a particular sort of dread about rebounding to another game to fill the void created by such an entertaining, enthralling classic.

I’m interested to hear about your moments of quiet reflection after a game has ended, which titles have most inspired your moments of gaming pause?

9 replies on “My gaming blue”

This isn’t so much relating to moments of reflection, but…

When I first got my Xbox 360, mostly in order to play Halo 3, it came bundled with the original Gears of War. I finished Halo 3 in a day, and while I could point out how it felt rather short or how in a lot of ways it wasn’t perfect, it was still an intense, memorable experience.

A few days later I got around to playing Gears of War, feeling pretty hopeful about it based on the reviews I’d read. Now I still don’t think much of that game for various reasons, mostly to do with its ‘story’, but given that Halo 3’s story was a convoluted mess of its own (albeit a much more interesting and sincere attempt than Gears’), story couldn’t be the only reason that I reacted so negatively to Gears. Sure, it probably had something to do with the fact that Gears was an older game with all stuff that might entail after Halo 3’s glossy experience, but I think it had more to do with the kind of phenomenon you’re talking about. The genre wasn’t distinctive enough for me to clear my head of the expectations Halo 3 had given me, yet the controls, the mechanics, the world and the atmosphere of Gears all managed to rub me up the wrong way in some way that was irrational.

Looking back, I think Gears was very much a victim of my gaming blue. To be honest, Halo 3 never quite made it to that list of games that I really look back on fondly, so maybe it doesn’t quite count as a gaming blue in the strong sense that you mean it, but it still left me with a short period where I had to give my brain time to let go and readjust. And the more profound an experience a game offers, the longer that period seems to last.

That kind of thing happens to me all the time, but usually without another game falling victim so badly (Gears’ whole approach to story really did suck, which no doubt conspired to make things worse). It’s not a game-specific thing, either: I can get really absorbed in a particular work or franchise of any medium, pursue all its immediate avenues of engagement, and then feel kind of despondent and at-a-loose-endish when I find I’ve exhausted it, at least until a later date when I can come back refreshed. It’s like kicking dirt around outside a closed-up shop. And replays (or rereads, or rewatchings) can be fatal–being back in that world only to find that it’s just not working its magic like it did the first time around.

Last game I had that reaction to was Brutal Legend. I spent quite a few days with that on my mind after I ‘finished’ it. Attempted to write about it, got absolutely nowhere and resolved to do it all again six months later.

Thanks for the comments lads.

@CJ Very interesting point made there. I never thought about how this phenomenon could have a knock on effect to other games, but now you’ve called it out it makes an awful amount of sense. This has happened to me many, many times.

@Deftangel Amazing how a really great game can silence you, both creatively and also with desire to play other games. I’ve succumb to this particular problem also!

Some of the best gaming experiences are the ones where they stay with you even whilst you’re away from the game: your emotions are so close to that of the protagonist(s) that you’re eager to dwell in the gameworld whenever you can and experience more new things. The environment and it’s inhabitants feel less like a bunch of code and art assets and more like a place, and consequently the story’s end can make you feel like you’ve served your purpose and now the game’s kicking you out. A lot of games have a New Game+ mode that lets you begin anew with stats carried over from the previous play, but even then the fixed narrative is jarring: no-one knows you, no-one remembers anything that happened on your last replay, you were never really there.

One good example I’ve had has been with Atlus’ Persona games; one of my favourite RPG series. Building relationships with NPCs is a common narrative trick to generate an emotional pull, but in these games it links directly to the gameplay (the effectiveness of your relationship affecting the strength of your Personae) and so there are scripted events where you will go out with other characters and build a rapport by responding appropriately to their opinion and mood. The idea is to build strong relationships with many NPCs before the game’s over, and by the end you feel more connected to the people you’ve spent time with…however, this is then thrown away as soon as you begin a new game. You’re a stranger to someone who was once your best friend or partner, and the whole experience seems fake and hollow.

Okay, I’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent, but the central point is that your familiarity with a gameworld and everything in it is quite precious, and to throw it all away on a replay or with a new game is rarely easy. Er, unless the game was rubbish in the first place and you want to erase the memory forever. πŸ˜›

Back in the day I used to pace myself while playing the Lucasarts adventure games, for no other reason than I wanted to savor the experience for as long as possible. I never understood the mentality that suggests games need to be rushed through as quickly as possible. (I’ve had a few Facebook friends brag about completing Mass Effect 2 in two sittings. Great way to get your sixty bucks’ worth, guys!)

Anyway, in contemporary games I sometimes get a sense that a major set piece is coming up and have to pull away from the game a little. In ten minutes a major milestone may have come and gone and I might not necessarily be prepared to put it behind me.

Sometimes, when playing through a particularly challenging but rewarding section of a game, I’ll take a break, load up a saved game and then play it through again, just to experience the sense of exhilaration once again.

And yes, once a game’s over, a certain sense of loss accompanies your triumph. Another game completed, another game you’ll never get to experience fresh for the first time.

But then there’s always another one just around the corner…

My most recent experience of this phenomenon was undoubtedly Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, not necessarily for the game’s set-pieces or the events of the plot, but rather the incredible advancement of the character’s stories — their motivations, reasoning and development across the game, and combined with what occurred in the original Drake’s Fortune just blew me away and I definitely had to take the time to stop and ponder the experience. Assassin’s Creed II had just released and was waiting to be played, particularly since I was also doing that exchange I’m in the middle of on my blog, but even so I had to delay playing that because of the profound effect Uncharted 2’s experience left on me. Just speaking about it now makes me wish I was seeing what Nathan Drake, Elena and company are up to. Needless to say, bring on the third game!

On a tangent, I think Mass Effect as a trilogy is really interesting in the way it allows you to continue your character’s story. While I’m yet to get my hands on it, I assume such a factor makes the experience even more enthralling and personal, and thus would leave a more powerful impression on you at the end of its experience. To me it’s an interesting distinction between that series and something like, say, the Fallout games or Dragon Age where, right now at least, once those games are over there is no continuation (aside from DLC, which I’m not sure counts or not).

And judging by your reaction to Mass Effect 2, and the reasons behind such a reaction, I definitely think BioShock will leave a similar impression of you as I suggested on Twitter. Whether it does or doesn’t remains to be seen, of course, and I know I maintain a bias towards it that could be clouding my judgment. But, like Mass Effect and similar games, it’s approach to narrative, character development and world building is amazing and I definitely look forward to hearing what you think when you eventually play the game (and indeed its sequel). Great post Michelle, very easy to relate to. πŸ™‚

I have a different gaming blue that comes from playing mostly Capcom games and that is when you finish the main game you are probably only about ‘half done’ and I know I don’t have enough of my life left to beat all the extra modes, unlock all the extras and top leaderboards. πŸ™

Bang on. When I finished Bioshock I spent days thinking about it and talking the nuances over with friends. Every game in the Half Life series has had the same effect. It’s not just games though. A really good book or film can do it, too. Maybe games causing this is a sign of just how far they’ve progressed?

I’d even go so far as to say I’ve had the extreme thought of “I wish I’d never played it, just so I could experience it fresh all over again.” Retcon, anyone?

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