Playing Final Fantasy for hours on end was a staple of my childhood, but now it seems there’s been a striking change in how I approach videogames.
Every so often I get the itch to replay some Final Fantasy X on my PlayStation 2, to reflect on those feelings I once had while defeating barechested bosses with my powerful Aeons. And it’s then when I see my old saves hitting the 99-hour mark, an occurrence that wasn’t out of the ordinary when I was younger. When I look back at the games I’ve spent that much time on in recent memory, the closest I’ve come is 40 hours for Ni no Kuni which—although a wonderful game—I did the minimum to complete and I can’t see myself going back and replaying the adventure.
Evaluating all the other games I’ve completed in the last couple of years, most border on ten hours, and I can recall more than once feeling like even that was a drain on my time. As I’ve become older my gaming habits have drastically shifted. When I survey my friends, who are all in their mid-20’s and 30’s, they too noticed a significant change in the way they play games, and it begs the question of “why?”
I’ve been playing games since I was child thanks to my dad’s fascination with the technology and being able to persuade him to hand over the controller once he was done. Just like most kids, the types of games and systems I owned were tied to what my parents bought, which, for me, wasn’t a lot as my family didn’t have the means. In fact, I was usually behind a console generation as it was cheaper to buy Nintendo 64 games when everyone was busy getting the newest shiny console from Sony. That’s also why I exhausted the games I had at my disposal, making sure to explore everything to make the most of what I had. But now that I make my own money I’m able to allocate funds to get all–well, nearly all–the games I want without feeling like “it’s either this or nothing at all.”
Then there’s the types and amount of videogames I was actually aware of when I was younger. I wasn’t vested in the games industry itself back then, as I was too busy playing the games I owned in between homework and watching Sailor Moon. So if I didn’t see a commercial for it, I wasn’t aware of a game’s existence. And usually the games that made it on a billboard or magazine cover were shooters I was sure I wouldn’t like, given my fascination with the RPG landscape at the time. Nowadays I’m able to experience games like Guacamelee! and Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams because I’m more invested in industry news, both indie and mainstream. It also helps—or not, depending on my wallet—that consoles are now tailored to promote a variety of games on the dashboard.
With access to more games my standard for what can take up my time has also evolved. Subconsciously I have high expectations for my gaming investment; it has to grab me within the first few hours or else I’ll add it to my shame pile to deal with later. Had Final Fantasy XIII released when I was 15, and I was told it takes 30 to 40 hours before it gets really good (as is the case), then I wouldn’t think twice about committing that time to see the payoff. But it’s been sitting on my shelf for the last three years, and it’s not until recently that I accepted that I’ll never play the game past the five or so hours I put into it. As the game industry continues to grow, the gamer in me just wants to experience all I can, and that means playing more games that retain my interest in the surprisingly small amount of time that I dedicate to gaming.
Time is the keyword. Although I went to school and had an immense amount of homework, somehow it was still manageable to dedicate seven hours a night to my favorite pastime—it helps that I was able to function on little sleep back then, too. A 9-to-5 job typically isn’t 9-to-5; we all take our work home in some fashion that eats up our free time. Then there’s the little things like cooking, walking pets, cleaning, etc. that’s part of being a responsible grown-up, and that’s just for someone who lives on their own with no spouse or children. That’s not to say that when the game comes around you’ll not find a way to make time, just ask those still playing Skyrim. But that’s not often, making the experience with those gems even more special, and something you appreciate more than you ever could as a teen.
Some would argue that you’ve become a grown-up gamer when you’re able to appreciate games like The Stanley Parable and Gone Home, but for me it’s the willingness to appreciate more on what you put in: that your time is very precious, which makes the games you choose to give that time to all the more special.