Old Dog, New Tricks

Been nearly a week, and no screenshot. Yep, I’m aware.

I’ve just been mulling on the seed of a post and thinking, and thinking, and thinking more deep thoughts without the discipline to sit down and work my way through it in writing.

Obviously, that changes today.

See, it kinda starts like this: The Steam sales begin. Usually, this is a cause for celebration and a little unbridled overspending and fond dreams of being able to play all the things.

For some strange reason, this does not happen.

Instead, I end up feeling a sort of existential dread at the contemplation of picking up -more- games, which would be unfamiliar to me and require learning whole new control schemes, game strategies, lore and trivia, whatever else there is.

Total War: Warhammer’s various DLC calls to me, because all the new races look cool. I fully intend to pick up some spendthrifty version of Total War: Warhammer 2, because I am a lizardman fanatic.

And yet, and yet, it strikes me that I would have to re-learn the immensely obscure Total War unit control commands, before I can get close to any sense of enjoyment out of the game again.

Ditto Mordheim. It’s on 75% off. This is my usual Steam sweet spot price point for anything I want that is $10 or less. And yet, for a couple of days, I held back on the urge to pick it up because, “Eh, I’d have to spend a few hours learning the precise rules/strategy/mechanisms governing however the game’s apparently quite hostile RNG worked.”

I managed with Blood Bowl a ways back because once upon a time, long long ago, I read the actual Blood Bowl miniatures paper rulebook cover to cover a number of times, perused the Living rulebook in digital form now and then, and by the time it came down to playing the computer game, it was mostly dredging up from the old synapses vaguely familiar rule memories.

I entertained vague ambitions of playing Dota 2 at a presentable enough level to be able to better appreciate the spectacle sport of the International every year. Didn’t quite happen.

Having never quite developed gaming reflexes via the RTS route, my mouse click control scheme dexterity wasn’t quite cutting it, on a fairly basic level being able to move my character out of range as fast as I wanted or turn on a dime, or even just to keep moving. The prospect of practicing enough to get up to an acceptable level to enjoy the game was not an appealing one.

On a sort of general malaise level, this pall of despair afflicted me for the past couple of days.

It seemed easier to fall back on “games” of incrementing numbers.

Just log back on to GW2, bring out the WvW thief that has reached a “not 100% horrible” standard of passable (win a few, lose a few, stealth away from most). tap a few dolyaks, take a few supply camps, and then watch the pips keep rising every five minutes until the target number for the week is reached.

Pop on to Pokemon Go, catch a pokemon here and there (+ X pokemons), spin some stops (+ Y items), try to stay in a gym for intervals of 10 minutes (+ Z coins), do a free raid pokemon daily (+ X special pokemon, +Y special items), unsoweiter.

Spin up Dragonvale on the iPad, and go on a finger-touching frenzy collecting coins to increment more numbers.

Spin up Crusaders of the Lost Idols on Steam and just idle away to collect more and more gold, click here and there to increment DPS numbers and let it autorun to higher and higher levels that let you collect more and more gold… until you plateau and decide to press the big red reset button…in order to do it all again, just a little bit differently.

Yet at the same time, the black despair made itself known. “Seriously?! This is your definition of “game-playing” now?” it seemed to say. “Why is the prospect of learning something new so depressing, all of a sudden? Why does it appear so difficult to contemplate doing?”

For the past few days, I have felt in somewhat kindred spirit to a subset of players, some of whom I used to know when playing MUDs. They’d profess to be bored of the one MUD they were playing, but when it was suggested to them to try other MUDs, all they really wanted to do was find MUDs that were just like the old one, the same underlying systems they were familiar with, that they didn’t have to relearn, just with a different wrapper.

My problem, of course, is that I’m not exactly like them and I don’t want to play the same games with different wrappers. That’ll be too easy. That’s like just start playing all the WoW clones one by one, or something.

I want to be playing different games with different wrappers.

I just feel like I have no time to actually spare to learn to play all these different games.

Especially when I have already comfortably learned how to play a bunch of games, all of which are depth monsters in their own right when it comes to learning enough to “be good” or “be expert” at them. (e.g. *cough* GW2, modded Minecraft, Path of Exile *cough*) not to mention, pretty durned grindy (but in the desirably repetitious sense, just alas, time-consuming) if you get caught up in the core gameplay loops.

I didn’t actually reach any kind of satisfactory conclusion to this brooding.

All I did was let go of the reins of my wallet, picking up Mordheim, Stories: The Path of Destinies, Battlevoid: Harbinger (this one was a random on-a-whim experimental cheap purchase) and Shardlight.

Then I just installed them and a couple of others I’d been intending to get around to try, and “played” them for the space of a half hour here and there.

Some were easier to grasp than others, so it wasn’t all like the despair was suggesting, aka the “why bother to even start” kind of feeling.

Some were most definitely not easy-to-grasp. *cough Mordheim cough*

“Playing” that mostly comprised of diving head first into a campaign, clicking past screens of gobbledygook that was probably going to be important when actually serious about strategy, wandering aimlessly for about four turns, stumbling one or two guys into an enemy team that surrounded them and was patently going to beat them up (and by extension, the rest of my team because they would then be outnumbered, with a clueless boss of a player controlling their moves) and wussing out to “play through” the basic combat tutorial and realizing, “oh my god, there are more tutorials to go through that -would- be important to learn, but definitely, not tonight.”

I guess it’s a phase that I’m just going to have to give time and space to pass through.

In the meantime, I guess the Steam collection just incremented by a couple more numbers, so even if they never get played in the future beyond this, that’s -another- kind of a game too.

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7 thoughts on “Old Dog, New Tricks

  1. Bhagpuss says:

    I do find the learning process entertaining and absorbing up to a point but I prefer it to involve variations on a theme rather than discrete entities. For me, playing all the WoW clones would be (has been) fascinating because of the way they *aren’t* exactly the same. You have to come to know a type of thing intimately to begin to see the ways in which example of the type differ but once you acquire that intimacy the differences yawn wider all the time.

    When I was a child I played a lot of card games, as most kids did back then. Even though kids pick up rules quickly, few wanted to learn more than a handful of the many card games that we could have played because, well, we wanted to PLAY. In the end perhaps it comes down to that. Are you looking for something to play or something to learn? At different points in your life the answer will change.

    Of course, I think you’re far, far more interested in being *good* at the games you play than I have ever been. I’m always content to learn just enough to start enjoying myself and leave it at that.

    • Jeromai says:

      Alas, “enjoying myself” only starts to kick in for me when I start to not suck at whatever game I’m messing with.

      Failure states somehow induce immense frustration in me, which I suppose is useful for enough motivation to fix the causes of the failure, but not so useful if I lack the time to actually execute the fixes in a proper manner.

  2. You’re not alone in this. Lately, I’ve found if a game isn’t fairly intuitive and easy to pick up in the basics, I just don’t have the energy to mess with it. It either has to really hook me with something that entices me to learn new systems, or it has to slowly introduce systems in a way that don’t overwhelm me all at once.

    I just don’t have the time to install a game and spend the first 2 hours slogging through how-to-play. My brain turns off after a short period of time anymore, and I, similar to what you described, go back to what feels comfortable and familiar.

    I really have to be inspired or in the mood for a particular game to want to sit down and learn it all anew. Or, like I noted, the game has to enthrall me that much.

    • Jeromai says:

      I think you’re on to something when you mention energy and time. I think that’s why I’m so reluctant to even try starting up a new game, my imagination just skips ahead to “how long is this going to take me to play?” and mostly wussing out at the answer.

      It is a bit of an overwrought imagination though. When I actually started up said games, I found most to have an intuitive tutorial-like beginning that ramped things up slowly. But it was that initial hump of, “I don’t think I have room in my life to learn -more- games!” conflicting with my usual innate desire to experience more novel games.

  3. BobTurkey says:

    Maybe gaming has become like a job? Maybe see if you can take a fortnight off, i.e. not playing. Bet ya can’t πŸ™‚

    When you cant check out Factorio. You like building games and this will tickle that nerve.

    Personally I tend to have Crusaders of the Lost Idols windowed in the background and play something else mostly (Factorio right now, Oafmatch before that). Crusaders of the Lost Idols is the best of the idle clickers i’ve found. The regular events, new crusaders to unlock and wacky humour seems to hit me in the right spot. Even better now they fixed the graphic loading issues.

    • Jeromai says:

      A fortnight?! Impossibru. That will set back the WvW backpack by two weeks that I can’t spare! πŸ˜‰

      If I don’t have any pressing goals, I probably could just switch to catching up on reading and Netflix and so on, but a fortnight off isn’t going to work out while on an active raider’s schedule (twice weekly is more like it.)

      No worries, Factorio is on the wishlist. In my usual patient gamer habit, it’ll probably be a year or two before the price drops sufficiently for me to grab it though. Keep checking in. :p

  4. […] some ways this seemed kind of regressive, as Jeromai at Why I Game recently pondered – why do we continually return to the comfort of what we know when there is so much new to […]

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