July 10, 2006

Advanced Stage Hobbyist Consumption Syndrome

by psu

I've been buying games I probably won't play lately. I should be clear. It's not that I might play them. I won't.

To you, this might seem irrational, even insane. But I recognize that it's the natural progression of my psyche through the stages of my latest hobby of consumption.

Stage 1: Denial

Things always start slow. I tell myself I'm not really interested and don't have the time. For example, I tell myself that a point and shoot is a fine camera, and I don't need the complexity of a real camera. Or, I tell myself that games really aren't worth the time, except every once in a while when the next Half-Life comes along, and besides, I don't have a PC.

This stage can last for a long time, years even, but forces stronger than one's internal resistance will break in. It's inevitable.

Stage 2: Casual

Of course, we all know that eventually I did break down and enter the video game world in earnest. I did so pretty casually. I had a couple of sports games and the odd shooter. My console profile pretty much matched my previous attitudes about computer games.

I tried to make this situation last, but at some level I knew I was doomed. I had been here before too many other times. I had gone from a few Jazz and Classical CDs to a collection of turntables and hundreds of vinyl albums (they were cheap) and later hundreds more CDs. I had gone from no cameras to several "serious" cameras, and a whole darkroom. I knew I was in for more.

Stage 3: Shopping

It's always shopping that does you in. Shopping encapsulates everything the true geek loves about hobbies because at its core it is a game of collecting information. It is no coincidence that the majority of Internet Forum activity is about shopping.

Shopping is insidious because it naturally leads to a situation where you learn more and more about things you do not have. Younger geeks are safer from this, because they do not have the resources to actually go and acquire things they don't have. I spent half my childhood scheming about how I could obtain equipment for amateur astronomy, but I never had the money to buy any of it.

Hobbies for adults are different. We have the money. The march of consumption moves inescapably forward.

Stage 4: Hardcore

The problem with constant consumption is that there is only so much content to consume. Eventually you have to branch out. You can try to collect (say) only classic recordings of old Classical Warhorses, but you'll get tired of that soon and find yourself in 20th century aisles looking at George Crumb records.

With video games, wasn't too hard to plumb the depths of my favorite genres. All you need is to collect one football game and the two shooters that are actually worth playing. Therefore, I was forced to go sideways. First there were the RPGs. I even learned to listen to the crappy voice-overs to get to the good parts of the game. Then there were platform and action games, which I can manage as long as there is an easy mode. Horror games? Check. Novelty adventure titles? Tried that. Artistic Japanese design pieces? Did that.

Soon, I found myself at The Exchange having lost that feeling of constant discovery. Had I really covered everything? The only decent title recently for the Xbox 360 is a ping-pong game. The DS was pretty snazzy for a while, with its lawyer games and surgery sims, but it's really just more of the same old Nintendo being Nintendo.

If new won't do it, the only direction to go is back in time. So I've been picking up older titles that I feel like I should have because of their status in the gaming "literature". These games are important, even if they aren't enjoyable anymore. There are PS1 games, SNES games (emulated on the PS1!) and some older PS2 games (you know, the people in Final Fantasy X just never stop talking). I tried some old PC games under emulation. The chances that I'll actually play most of these games is vanishingly small, but one is compelled to collect. Luckily, I know where this is going.

Stage 5: Jaded

The end of the road is an extended lull. I'll soon find myself sitting on my couch, bored with all the games, but also feeling guilty for being bored with all the games. I will wonder to myself about why I bought that comprehensive collection of historical Japanese samurai games. I'll have to face facts, spend less time with the console, and maybe watch a movie. Life might return to the regular pattern of Halo and Madden, or I might inch through some old platform game involving a cartoon rodent with big guns. Either way, intense enthusiasm will give way to a more jaded sense of balance.

Of course, I could try to keep the ball rolling. There are all those historical consoles I don't own. I do have a spare room in the house that would be a perfect retro game den. Also, I never did find out what all the fuss was about World of Warcraft. I think I have just enough self-respect and inner strength to avoid these fates though.

Instead, the pathological addiction will subside and games will take their rightful place next to the bikes and cameras and vinyl albums. They will be something to enjoy when I feel like enjoying them. They will be one of the many topics on which I can pontificate uselessly for hours. They will be one more activity that keeps me busy when I would otherwise be idle.

Posted by psu at July 10, 2006 08:20 PM | Bookmark This

For years I carted around shelves and shelves of paper (yes paper!) rpg's. Many of them I never ever played. Torg. Shatterzone. Paranoia. Some of them I didn't even want to play. Warhammer. Others. I finally recycled a large quantity of useless books I'd been lugging around. I still have a smaller pile of the ones I actually enjoyed that I feel like I may someday maybe play when I have kids and haven't been able to let go of.

Posted by Doug at July 10, 2006 10:39 PM

Wow, you must be hitting rock bottom if you're playing games on the PS1. I can't recall a single game I really enjoyed on that system.

Most retro gaming is just bad unless you like the redoing lots of content with the instant death. Much better to go with emulating the older consoles instead so you can instantly save. Even then most of the old stuff just doesn't hold up to todays games.

In any case, just to keep you in step 4 a bit longer, here's a list of games that I would recommend to myself today if I hadn't played them before.

Gamecube: Zelda: Windwaker, Mario Kart, Paper Mario, Pikmin 2
PS2: Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal, Katamari Damacy, Sly 3, Shadow of Colossus
xbox: Psychonauts, Beyond Good and Evil, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time(1)
PC: Diablo 2(with expansion), Deus Ex(1), Wizardry 8, System Shock 2, Half Life 2, Master of Orion 2, World of Warcraft (if you dare), Homeworld 1, Fallout 2, Heroes of Might and Magic 3, Starcraft, Warcraft 3, Planescape: Torment (walkthrough required), Divine Divinity
PS: There was something worth playing on it?
N64: Zelda: Ocinara and Majora's Mask, Banjo Kazooie, Mario 64, Conker's Bad Fur Day (walkthrough required)
snes: Chrono Trigger, Zelda, Lost Vikings
nes: zelda 1/2
ds: Phoenix Wright, Zelda: Minish Cap

Posted by garyh at July 11, 2006 01:36 PM

I think one of my favorite games of all time was E.V.O. on the SNES. I preferred the first Ratchet & Clank title, though going commando and up your arsenal were good too. I really enjoyed a lot of games on the PS1. I tried playing them more recently and what was killing it was the size of my TV. When I first played the ps1 the graphics were fine because the tv was small. That said I loved Parasite Eve. But then I like dark opera and geiger art.

Posted by Doug at July 11, 2006 02:29 PM

Pete let me borrow the PS1 Silent Hill... I also have a few old Final Fantasy titles that I'll never play, including the one that has Chrono Trigger on one disk.

Posted by psu at July 11, 2006 02:59 PM

E.V.O. was a pretty cool title for the snes. I had forgotten all about that. I suppose you could consider it a precursor for the Spore game coming out. I still have to try out that first Ratchet and Clank even though since I've played the later 3. I can't stand the Jak & Dexter games though. Never enough time.

I just realized the oddest thing, I have no idea who is really who on this site. I rarely pay attention to the poster name and so you all appear as a bit of a single conglomerated personality to me. This blog is a bit unusual from the others that I read in that it has multiple posters and isn't about news topics. The closest thing to this that I read is probably penny arcade but they have icons that help differentiate each other (and it works quite well, although I suppose the comic helps them too). I didn't even notice there's more than two people (faisal, etc) until I just checked.

Posted by at July 11, 2006 03:55 PM

I guess I found out pretty quickly that there was more than one poster, but I have only recently begun differentiating between psu and peterb. I never noticed that fasail had joined the bunch! (Or maybe I just missed him/her/it/them).

I tried a Jak & Daxter game too. It was fun for a bit but got old (and too difficult for my easy pleasure). I think the first ratchet & clank was the best. But that could be because it was the first I played.

I had that exact ff3/ chrono-trigger disk. I finished chrono-trigger twice, and got about 5 minutes of ff3 played. Couldn't stand it. The only final fantasy games I've enjoyed are 1 (wouldn't anymore I think), 7 (absolutely loved it), and was it 9? I think so. The one where it looked all cartoony again. I hated, I mean hated 8. Finished it anyway. I kept expecting it to get better. It never did.

My recent aquisition was a used gameboy advance. Other than the difficulty seeing the screen I've enjoyed it so far. Zelda - minish cap has been a lot of fun (with liberal referral to walkthrough).

Posted by Doug at July 11, 2006 05:04 PM

I have FF7. I ran across the big major plot point in the game on the net though, and I lost my motivation to play it through.

It's amazing how many elements of all the JPRGs I've played are in the first 2 or 3 hours of that game though.

Posted by psu at July 11, 2006 05:59 PM

Oops...guess I forgot to put in my name in that previous post. Looks like a name check needs to be added. You should also really hide/obfuscate the email address as it's a spam magnet. Good thing it's optional.

Anyways, I've actually been reading this blog since the beginning and while I've always known there's 2 posters it's just difficult keeping them separate in my mind.

I've played quite a few of the final fantasies (1,3,5,6,7,9,10) but they're not quite my favorite due to random battles, slow gameplay due to waiting, and me being a completionist which requires a walkthrough to not miss things (and I hate using walkthroughs).

Posted by garyh at July 11, 2006 06:28 PM

I'm so not a completionist, I never even found one of the characters in ff7! I kept going into shops and going "what are these guns for?" But then I finished it in 2 days straight.

Posted by Doug at July 11, 2006 11:06 PM

Intersting, I read a post recenly on anohter blog about how abunance creates a lower desire to enjoy what you have. Its a problem they say is generated by Netflix, which allows you access to a lot of movies with no late fees. This results in just ordering them, and never watching them.

Why? because you can.

Posted by Aaron at July 21, 2006 09:51 AM

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