Have you ever enjoyed a game so much that you’ve become almost fanatical about it? You’ll do anything to win, you want to develop and be the best player or you become dead set on completing it 100%. We set out on these noble conquests, only to find that over time we quickly become tired of taking the game so seriously and our love fades.
The issue with taking games so seriously is that to do well, you often must conform to the ‘meta’. This often includes exploiting game mechanics or grinding collectibles; hardly the most exciting parts of games. Sid Meier, designer of the Civilisation series put it beautifully when he said “Given the opportunity, players will optimise the fun out of a game”.
So how do you know you’re taking games a little too seriously, and how can you inject a bit of fun back into the equation? Let’s take a look at how to play games to have fun again.
How do you know when you’ve lost the sense of fun?
You become fixated on playtime
A massive red flag to look out for is when you know exactly how many hours the game is supposed to take to complete, and you’re counting the time down. Why does the time matter? Shouldn’t your focus be on how much you’re enjoying the game, rather then when it’s over?
You use percentage completion as a target
We’ve all loved a game to the point where we want to complete every side quest and find every hidden item. The issue is that taking this approach to every game will eventually suck all of your fun out of gaming. By nature, some game mechanics lean heavily on grinding content and this eventually takes its toll. If you’re someone who’s checking their percent complete frequently, then it’s likely you’re not focussing on how fun the gameplay is.
You’re quick to look up walkthroughs and meta builds
Walkthroughs are great because they can help you to progress through a game if you get stuck. But they can be damaging if you use them too frequently just to get a high score or complete the content as quickly as possible. Game mechanics naturally have a meta, which is the most effective and efficient way to play. Focussing on this means that you’re more interested in progressing through the game or winning at all costs, which again places enjoyment and discovery firmly in the back seat.
You get easily frustrated at game mechanics
A surefire way to know that you’re playing a game for the sake of completing it is if it makes you feel frustrated or angry when you’re playing. What’s the point of playing if it’s going to ruin your day? A lot of gamers have been there when playing competitive first-person shooters and someone camping in the corner shoots you in the back. Next; your wife dives to cover your kid’s ears whilst you go on an expletive-laden rant about how the camper is never going to win playing like that. Maybe they just enjoy camping, and it’s time you started to play games to have fun again.
How to play to have fun again
So you’ve come to terms with the fact that you’re sucking the fun out of games. You’re losing your temper whenever things aren’t going your way and asking yourself “why do I even bother playing this anymore?”. Let’s explore some changes you could make to stoke that dwindling flame and play to have fun again.
Make choices that spark your imagination
So many of us play games to escape the rat race of life and immerse ourselves in a different universe. When we’re in these digital sandboxes, we can explore the mechanics and try and different things. From creating items that can supercharge your characters’ abilities to combining moves that decimate your enemies; the world is your oyster. Don’t get hung up on what is the ‘best’ or most efficient way to play the game. Focus on what is the best way for you. And you can only find that out by experimenting.
Stop worrying about how other players are playing
With social media, YouTubers and streamers filling our brains with content and opinions, it’s very easy to get carried away by how everyone else is playing a game. Most of the time, these influencers are the ones who are responsible for identifying the meta and then sharing it with the world. At the end of the day, it just doesn’t matter. We invest in game to entertain us. If winning means less enjoyment, then you’re wasting your time and money.
Focus on the story rather than on winning
The top developers are spending serious budgets on Hollywood standard writers to create epic storylines in games today. These stories can take time to build, with detailed backgrounds for characters and side quests designed to drip-feed you information about their desires and motivations. By focusing on winning or completing the game, you’re less likely to pay attention to the stories and potentially skip key information. Settle down and enjoy the ride.
Play open-ended games
If your competitive spirit is getting too much for you when you’re playing, then why not try games that you can’t technically win. If there’s no official end point, then you haven’t got anything to race to or compare yourself against. Instead, you’re able to set your own objectives depending on what you feel like doing on any given day.
Minecraft and The Sims are examples of casual games that do this well, but you can take this approach to many titles. Rockstar go to great lengths to make a living breathing world in which you can do almost anything. In Grand Theft Auto, there’s no need to hurry from mission to mission when you can set yourself goals like seeing if you can evade the police after causing havoc and attracting significant attention. We used to play games to have fun, so let your imagination run riot and don’t get too hung up on what you think you’re supposed to be doing.
Whilst it can be disappointing when you start to think that maybe you’ll never recapture that feeling you had when playing games as a child, there’s still plenty of enjoyment to be had. The chances are you have a more stressful life now, with more commitments and less time. Adapting the way you play games to have fun and maximise enjoyment is a great way to find that love for gaming once again.