Video games with back of the box bullet-point-worthy features like “a vast, open world” or “hundreds of hours of gameplay” tend to terrify me. Gamers typically see those grand statements as a major plus when it comes to their hobby of choice, a way of getting the most bang for their hard-earned buck. Partially because my own gaming habits are changing and partially because I know my own “Must experience everything!” nature far too well, I now find myself shying away from games that offer what is arguably too much content.
I know there are many out there who would consider everything I just said as blasphemous, but sometimes I feel like some of the games I’m most interested in end up getting ignored because I know I’ll never finish them or, even worse, I’m too intimidated to ever start them after a purchase.
When Skyrim first arrived on the scene a couple of years ago, I found myself experiencing a dichotomy of emotions. I was at once excited to play another epic Elder Scrolls RPG and gut-wrenchingly afraid of ever stepping foot in that virtual world. I wanted to lose hours of my life to questing and murdering trolls, but I also started thinking about how long, exactly, tackling that kind of an adventure an hour or two at a time (my typical play time) would actually take me. Then I started thinking about the fact that I spent around 60 hours in Oblivion without actually completing the game’s first story mission. And what about all of those other, much shorter games that were available or coming out soon that would have to be ignored or added to the backlog as I continued my adventure as the Dragonborn? It’s a terrible way to look at gaming, I know, but it’s something I’ve noticed myself thinking more and more frequently in recent years.
I decided to wait until an “ultimate edition” of Skyrim launched, arguing that I’d probably have time to play the game once all of the various bits of DLC were finally made available. But said version has now existed for a number of months and I find that it is still missing from my collection. The release of games hasn’t slowed to the point where I feel a comfortable amount of time remains open for epic hours of Skyriming, and I doubt it ever will. I know it's a stupid way of looking at things, but that's just how my brain works as of late.
That’s why I find myself in a bit of a conundrum this week. Minecraft is launching on the PS3 and Terraria is finally arriving on the Vita, a console I imagine is perfectly suited to that particular game. I never got into Minecraft for similar reasons to those listed above. It’s the same reason I never allowed myself to play World of Warcraft. I know that if it sinks its hooks in, I’ll utterly belong to the game for months on end. Not a bad situation for Ryan of old but, nowadays, I just can’t fathom letting myself get so lost in a single game that I have to completely ignore everything else that comes out for the next several months.
I know this because I actually played Terraria on PC a good while back, well before any of the content updates that have been subsequently added following the game’s initial launch. Even at its most basic, Terraria took absolute control of my life for a number of weeks, stealing away every spare moment of my free time as I dug deeper into its massive world and built my perfect castle and NPC hotel. The moment I realized I was getting behind in other games, not to mention life in general, I forced myself to quit cold turkey. And now the developer wants to give me a version of the game I can play on the toilet, lying in bed or secretly at work, too? No-freaking-thank you.
See, that’s the problem. I speak about all of that content in games like Skyrim, Minecraft and Terraria as if it’s a bad thing when, for the vast majority of gamers, I know that it’s a huge selling point. It’s a weird middle ground to find myself in, absolutely wanting to dip into all three of those games while simultaneously never wanting to boot them up.
If their content was more limited, would I be more likely to play them? Absolutely. Do I want those games to feature less content just so I can get a more concentrated 10-hour experience and move along to the next game? Probably not. There's a place for mega-games in this virtual landscape of ours, and I'm just upset that I'm no longer able to enjoy them like I used to.
When Minecraft and Terraria arrive on the PlayStation Network tomorrow, I know that I will be caught in the midst of an internal debate as to whether or not I should give them a purchase. I’ll probably bring them up in the store page and hover over the “buy” button more than a few times, as I’ve done with similar massive games in the past. My fear is that I’ll buy the game and then it will just sit there on my hard drive, never touched because I’m afraid of the type of gaming recluse I know they have the ability to turn me into.
Then again, why not take a break from my norm? I don’t have to treat gaming like a buffet, eagerly moving from one small course to the next in order to feel like I’m getting a sampling of everything that’s available, even if I’m never there long enough to actually get the taste of it in my mouth.
It's sort of a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation for me. I wasn't always like this, so maybe another switch will flip in my brain and once again alter the way I handle these situations. Here's hoping said switch returns me to the way I used to be, just a guy who played whatever game he felt like and did his best to enjoy the ride whether it was five hours or five months.