For the First Time…

So where have I been?

Nowhere. Still quarantining at home for the most part. Occasionally coerced pointlessly back into the office, with masks. Figuring out how to navigate this new world of shaky supply chains and logistics, where grocery shopping for balanced nutrition while remaining as socially distanced as possible are consciously planned actions.

Juggling the bliss of pure introversion becoming a societally benevolent survival strategy with the downside of extraverts and ambiverts mentally breaking down all around me and absorbing some of that stress leakage in assorted ways.

Achieving a number of firsts in the past couple of months. (Though I use the word ‘achieving’ extremely loosely.) Perhaps ‘encountering’ would be a better term.

I lost an entire month or more to catching up with the entire saga of The Wandering Inn. That’s a first. I can’t even recall being so ‘with it’ with Worm or Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality. I’ve forgotten most of the details of the latter two web serials, but I feel like I’ll remember every single one of the Wandering Inn’s cast of wacky characters.

I guess I have to take back my initial impression of LitRPG being weird. If the writing can captivate me for that long, I have zero leg to stand on.

At the same time, for the first time, I have divested myself of Guild Wars 2. As in, seriously, consciously let go of it. The hardcore achiever collect-it-all mindset. The endless frustration about the endless lag. The twice weekly raid obligations. The mental drag of forever full bags.

Burnout had been a long time coming anyway – I might have clung on three more years than I should have. I gave the fractal update a pass. I skipped Halloween. I might get around to -very- casually dipping a toe into the latest story chapter at some point, but I’m four days late to the party and I don’t really care that much. If I don’t log in, I don’t have to deal with any of the weighty matters above. One less mental burden in this crapsack 2020 year.

I could be doing other things. Like catch up on my reading. I blazed through the latest Dresden Files – Peace Talks and about 7/8 of the way through Battle Ground – in a couple of days.

The past three months have also been a nouveau experiment in a new style of gaming.

I haven’t quite pinned down a proper term for it yet.

I mean, we’ve all heard of patient gaming by now, where one chooses to wait for a period of time before buying and playing a video game – aka doing one’s best to avoid the launch hype and the launch price.

Every so often in the respective reddit, someone pops up with the eternal lament about dealing with one’s “backlog” of games they want to play, and others return assorted advice about creating a structured list and sticking to it, limiting one’s options, reframing perspectives and erasing the word “backlog” and replacing it with “collection” or “library,” relaxing the obsession with game completion, etc. etc.

Infrequently, I chime in with a slightly more left-field strategy of cycling as many games as one desires for 15-30 mins or some other random block of time.

It’s meant as a short term tactic of satisfying the urge to try out the many games on one’s mental list of “stuff I want to play” while trusting that one might eventually bump into something that sticks for longer or worse case scenario, one covers a lot of games territory while encountering nothing captivating.

It works, for me, at any rate. I have a large amount of already collected games at any one time and ridiculously diverse tastes, so the limited focus, specialization strategies don’t work as well for me.

What I -was- experimenting with was a larger scale, variant application of this idea, and stealing some of the theme behind Krikket’s “Play to Satisfaction” policy.

The working term is “Unfettered Gaming” as inspired by the Stephen R. Donaldson poem about Unfettered Ones – the quote that keeps echoing through my mind is “Free Unfettered Shriven Free”

It’s a mouthful, but it encapsulates the idea of loosing all restrictions. All “shoulds” and “have tos” and “ought tos.” It’s the antithesis to the Five Game Challenge, which is more one of those limited focus strategies.

It’s about even deliberately playing against those mental restrictions, if one becomes aware that some baggage is bogging them down, so that one realizes the world won’t end when doing so.

Example – “I should complete all games when I start playing them.” “I want to see the story to the end.”

Heck, no. That is a LOT of baggage to deal with. The reality is that I don’t complete most games. Nor do many other people. So why put that expectation on myself? I’ll play the game up to the point I no longer feel like playing it. Once it gets too onerous, I shall decide to stop and decide on the next action.

Am I just not interested in the gameplay? But still keen on finding out what happens next? I shall check out a written synopsis or skim through a Youtube Let’s Play, and call it done.

Am I stuck? Do I not know where to go? I shall use a walkthrough and disregard the “real gamers don’t use walkthroughs” guilt trip glomping around in the back of my mind.

Is the game too hard? Too frustrating? I shall find a cheat. I shall lower the difficulty. I will MOD the shit out of the game until I like it again.

(Which is, by the by, how I spent 2-3 weeks in the past months playing ARK singleplayer. The default setings are bullcrap. Harvesting and resources and dino taming settings were tweaked to be easier. I played until I bogged down, realized the weight limit sucked, and turned up the player weight and dinosaur weights.

No point owning a bunch of Brontosaurus if carting things from them is annoying as hell with 250 weight limit. Yes, the tamed dinos have all overrun the place. #firsthousesyndrome
This new slightly more sizeable compound brought to you by a 1600 weight limit and the resources stone and wood.

Argentavis speed is terrible? Mod it for classic flyer speed. Classic flyer speed still too damn slow? Fiddle with the config file for TWICE the speed. Now I can actually solo fly across the island in decent time.

Wheeeeee!

It’s not at all cheating oneself if one will actually stay -longer- with a game when doing so. Ditto Sunless Sea and ship speeds. So goddamn turtle slow.)

Am I truthfully just no longer interested in the game for the current moment? As in, not likely to click on the icon in the next week or so?

I used to just keep the game around… just in case. Well, part of deliberate unfettered gaming is to loose that fetter. UNINSTALLED.

Gone from the hard disk. What’s the harm? I can always re-download it again when I get the urge to play it again. The save files are mostly all intelligently maintained or cloud saved these days.

And truthfully, if I don’t come back to the game within a week, I have probably forgotten how to play it and will usually have to start a new game rather than pick up half way in a save I don’t remember at a difficulty that is now too ramped up for the unfamiliar.

This part is probably the biggest personal mental habit that I have been deliberately working against to break. I hoard. I cling. It’s what I do. I accumulate stuff. I accumulate installed games all over the place until my hard disks are crammed full.

I am slowly, ever so slowly learning, that the world is not going to end if I just make a little virtual note that I might play X game again someday, and then strip the thing from my hard drive and have the Steam list a bit more greyed out than usual.

“I should play this game properly” “I want to be optimal” “I need to learn the exact ratio of X to Y in order to make this as efficient as can be” “I can’t enjoy this game unless I’m playing it in a properly approved best practices manner.”

Yes, some people enjoy doing so. That’s how they play their games. All power to them. You? You don’t have time to do so. Learning to be an expert is going to take longer than you’re likely to stay with the game in the first place, given your distracted honeybee mind.

So if your virtual city’s roads look like a Mayan hieroglyph…

… and your new highway flyover is daring the city’s denizens to commit suicide if they accelerate up it too fast…

…you know what? They’re just going to have to deal. (Anyway, it makes all the cars and lorries slow down before they attempt the sharpest angle turn of their lives. It’s fine.)

So my Steam games activity list has looked something like the above for the past month or so. A new game “for the first time” every couple of days.

Whatever I feel like playing, I play.

However I feel like playing, I play.

Whatever I don’t feel like playing, I don’t play. (And uninstall it after some time.)

Whenever I don’t feel like playing, I don’t play. (And do something else, like reading, or watching Youtube videos, or eating, or even *gasp* exercising – on a small scale, with microworkouts.)

It’s been harder to blog about because I’m not about to write a first impressions post or paragraph for every last random game I play. And then drop happily after a couple hours or days, having enjoyed most of my time spent with most of them. That becomes an obligation and we’re doing Unfettered Gaming here.

That’s the whole point.

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