I was listening to the Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast last week on my commute to work. One of their topics was about being in a pop culture rut and how to get out of it. As the topic rumbled through my brain and searched for a connection, it finally dawned on me. I am absolutely in a rut when it comes to my digital gaming life. It isn’t the first time that I’ve been in a rut in my life, but it is the longest and I’m not sure how to break the cycle. Maybe through the act of admission, I will be able to come up with some ideas.
I was in the same thing with Magic for a few months. The summer, a less than inspiring block in Theros, and other things to keep me busy had me wondering if maybe the game had run its course and maybe it was time to move on to other things. I even went to a nerd night and forgot my bag of cards at home. Thankfully, Khans is being released and I’m really excited about the prospects. Even though I did horribly at the prerelease, it was still fun to see new cards and strategies and it has absolutely energized me to play again.
Here’s the dilemma. I come home from work, open my laptop, check Facebook (and do the daily spin reward thing for Bejeweled Blitz), then open Hearthstone. Actually, the ritual starts in the morning when I open Hearthstone to check on daily quests. Less often than I used to, but it still happens. If the quest is win 2 with a certain class then I will start the quest in the hopes of finishing it to get gold for packs. I will play Hearthstone, even if I don’t really want to play the game, and it will often frustrate me. If it frustrates me to the point of tilt, then I will open Marvel Puzzle Quest to see if there is anything there to keep me occupied until I calm down. In between cooking dinner, administering baths and showers, and giving kisses before going to bed, the routine follows more or less the same pattern.
How do I know that I’m in a rut? Well, to begin, I don’t even really like Hearthstone all that much. After playing the World of Warcraft trading card game and realizing how much more Hearthstone could have been, I just don’t have much fun playing the game. When I lose, it causes me frustration and when I win, it isn’t joy. I just feel relief that the game is over and yet I keep going back to it over and over again. While I do enjoy Marvel Puzzle Quest, there’s no reason that the game should dominate my gaming as much as it does. Like Hearthstone, it is meant to be an interlude while you’re on the toilet or taking your lunch break at work.
It’s not like I don’t have other things that I’d like to do. I posted last week that as a cheap gamer, I’ve built up quite the library of games that I haven’t finished. Heck, my library of games that haven’t even been opened is very impressive. Yet, these two mobile games suck me in and suck up all of my free time. I think that is part of the danger. Because they are able to just be picked up and played for a few minutes, they become the go to in between all of the night time activities. It is much harder to just pick up Skyrim or Fallout 3 for ten minutes at a time and they aren’t exactly kid friendly, either. Granted, some of the things that I’m grumbling at the screen during Hearthstone aren’t kid friendly, but those are out of ear shot of the kids and I’m not as concerned about swearing because we often have the conversation about right place and time.
I’ve identified the trigger. Now, I just have to figure out how to break the cycle. The obvious solution is to just not log into the games anymore, but that’s one of the symptoms of being in the rut. If it was so easy, I’d have already done that. I have tried (not with Marvel Puzzle Quest, because I enjoy that game and the conversation and imagination that it sparks in the boys) to uninstall the game and I just keep coming back to it time and time again. Usually, it is my brain saying, “Go ahead, see if it has gotten any better”, which it never does and, at this point, I’ve just resigned myself to playing the game the way that it is and complaining about it at every turn. I really am turning into one of those old guy gamers.
One of the things that I’ve heard are to go outside of your comfort zone. I have done that in the past and it has shaken me out of my funk. I picked up 3 really interesting and cheap games on Steam last summer and they showed me again what can be good about gaming. Another thing that I’ve heard is to go deep into my comfort zone, i.e take out Portal 2 and just immerse myself in the wonder and beauty that is that game. I was able to break back into Magic with the release of a new block, but there’s nothing that exciting I know of that on the horizon when it comes to games. I just don’t know which way to go to shake things up. What about you? What do you all do out there to get rid of the gaming blahs?