It sounds like a strange thing to say, but it took me several years to recognise that I was becoming bored of games. That feels hard to believe because boredom is, theoretically, very easy to recognise. You are very quick to notice when you’re bored at work, or in a group of people, or when waiting in line for something. But with gaming, it can be much, much harder.
Gaming has been a huge part of many gamers’ lives – mine included. I’ve grown up playing games, and have gone through large chunks of time where there wasn’t anything else in the world I’d rather be doing than playing. Gaming has given me new experiences and shown me new possibilities that I couldn’t even have imagined when I started playing. And it’s also brought me closer to my friends – either by playing with them directly in multiplayer or by simply sharing experiences of games, or swapping recommendations of what to play.
If you’re like me, it can be incredibly hard to recognise you’re bored of gaming in many cases, simply because we don’t even want to entertain the notion that it could be possible. Many gamers don’t want to confront the truth that they are bored of their favourite hobby as it means admitting to themselves something they thought would never happen. But only once you accept you have a problem can you find solutions to address it, start loving gaming again and make better use of your free time.
Ultimately, recognising you’re bored of gaming requires you to be mindful of your play and to analyse how you’re feeling before, during and after. To help, here are five symptoms of gaming boredom to look out for.
1 – You quickly bounce off games
The start of any game should be an exciting time. You are introduced to the game’s world, its characters and its gameplay mechanics. The best games immediately capture your attention and make you hungry for more, like a TV show pilot or a page-turning first chapter in a book. It is a time where you should be dying to find out more and keep playing.
Of course, not all games get this right. Some have slow openings, some have steep initial difficulty curves to get over and some just straight-up aggravate you. It’s understandable why you might quickly decide these games aren’t for you. But if every time you are starting a new game you can only make it to an hour or so before you want to stop, that’s a good sign that it’s a problem with you and your mindset, rather than a problem with games more broadly.
2 – You are constantly watching the clock
Like any type of media, sometimes games drag on too long. Once its full range of mechanics is out on the table, or when it just stops showing you new things, then it’s understandable that a bit of boredom might kick in. This is perfectly natural and is the fault of the game itself as the best games don’t allow this to happen.
However, if you’re constantly looking to see how long games take to beat, or worse still going into a new game armed with that information, and with a countdown already started, then you may have a problem. Gaming should be immersive and a chance to lose track of the time, not something you hold a stopwatch up to.
3 – You lack the energy and drive to start playing
Nowadays, I do almost all of my gaming in the evening – once work is done and kids are in bed. Unfortunately, this is also the time of day when I’m at my most tired and my motivation for doing things is at its lowest. For a long time, I’ve found it hard to drum up the motivation to start playing games in the evening, despite it being my one chance in the day to do so. I’d initially been satisfied to put this down to the fact that I was just tired, until it hit me that I was rarely too tired to start a movie or watch something on YouTube or go for a run.
The real reason, as I now recognise, is that gaming wasn’t fully exciting me. Yes, the tiredness likely didn’t help, but gaming had lost its ability to pull me through that and get started. Gaming – or any hobby – should be one of the things you look forward to most in a day. If you’re not looking forward to it, then there’s a good chance you’re bored of that activity.
4 – You get to the end of a session and feel like you’ve wasted time
Many people have a very small amount of spare time to do the things they really want to do. Once the long list of other priorities has been completed or accounted for, you’re typically left with only a fraction of the day. Spare time is precious and should be used wisely. But that doesn’t mean it has to be used productively – not all of this time has to be used upskilling or starting a side hustle. It is important to take time in your day to relax and enjoy yourself doing whatever the hell it is you want to do, without judgment.
The problem comes when you stop playing and just feel nothing. No excitement, no achievement, no wonder or surprise. Nothing but the feeling that you’ve made a bad use of time and would have been far better off doing something else. If this happens once, it could just be an off-day or a bad section of the game you’re playing. If this repeatedly happens, then that’s something bigger.
5 – You get frustrated or angry when playing
Even worse than feeling nothing is feeling downright bad when playing. There are lots of reasons why you might feel negative emotions like frustration and anger when playing games. It could be due to bad game design, repetitive gameplay or an overly difficult challenge (a potentially common feeling if you’re playing a multiplayer game you keep losing at).
This is the hardest symptom to unpick because it requires you to trace the source of that frustration and anger. How often is it occurring? What is causing it to occur? How quickly do you reach those feelings? Are you giving the game the benefit of the doubt or are you quick to judge it?
If you are repeatedly feeling angry and frustrated across multiple games that others believe are well designed or well balanced, then that might finally be the sign that you are bored of games. Either that, or you have a very short temper or overly high expectations.
How to spot these symptoms and what to do about them
Now you know what to look out for, what next? The best advice I can offer is to keep a diary or journal around your play. Start logging how you feel before, during and after your play sessions. Write down notes around each one, and keep doing that across the course of several weeks. After that period come back and assess what you’ve written objectively. Are these the words of someone who is loving games or is bored of them?
If you decide the latter; take action. To get started, here are 25+ things to try if you’re feeling bored of games. Good luck.