Doug's Column: The Cost of Chasing the Zeitgeist

We all have our tastes. Whether that’s food, dress, entertainment, or habits, everyone has a certain way they like things.

I’m a creature of habit. While I’m open to trying new things, I’d as much have the same thing for lunch every day just to keep it simple. When it comes to games, the same thing applies: There’s a reason I’ve logged hundreds of hours in Pro Evo Soccer games since 2005, and that’s because they suit my tastes to a T.

Where this becomes a problem is in my desire to be a well-rounded individual. I love games; I love following the news of the industry. Ever since I started reading Electronic Gaming Monthly on a monthly basis in 1999, I’ve loved knowing all the Ws -- who, what, why, where. And even as I’ve grown older, I’m still fascinated by knowing what mechanisms drive sales of games around the world. I want to experience all facets of the gaming world, both the business side and, of course, games from various genres. Whether out of intellectual gaming curiosity or obligation to try the Next Big Thing, I feel obligated to play different games, even if there’s no guarantee I will love them. And what good is trying to be part of the conversation if you don't have any first-hand experience?

It's because of this: The third factor at play that I’m personally running into is, well, being an adult, and finding constraints with time, money, and other demands. Am I a better person for sitting down and pouring time into Grand Theft Auto V versus going out and running to get in shape? Am I having more fun playing games by trying free PlayStation Plus games instead of firing up PES again? How does this change  my bottom line as a person?

I’m not a psychologist by any stretch but this situation seems like a gaming id, ego and superego. The id just wants to roll around and get stinky with more of what I already like; the ego wants me to be a well-rounded gamer, versed in everything from Battlefield to Bastion; and the super-ego is wondering just how much I can spend on games this month if I want to go visit friends, travel, or go drinking.

Maybe I’m alone with this problem. Or maybe I’m not alone but just bad at striking a balance or making hard decisions about my personal time. Maybe I want too much to feel like I’m not “left out of the conversation” about a new game. Maybe I have ideals and goals for myself that are impossible to meet. And maybe I’m just overreacting a bit.

In a way I’m glad I’m in Japan and neither the Xbox One nor the PlayStation 4 is coming out this fall because it means putting off a hard decision about whether to invest in a new system or not.

I just feel like I’m at a breaking point. I feel that I’m letting down myself and others by not having finished certain games, or not having played them at all. And to put $60 into something you don't complete feels like a big waste. I’ve felt underprepared in Game of the Year discussions past; is that guilt worth killing myself now just to play lots of games? I want to see what others see in games that I’m not a huge fan of, but I also want to enjoy my time playing games and bank on sure things. I've written it before, but I can tell when a game can get its hooks into me. That feeling where a game’s mechanics match up with my personality and how I like to play games. For example: I tried the Diablo III demo on PS3  and was hooked. But can I justify buying that game -- especially since especially since I already own the PC version and haven’t touched it since last June?

Most of all, I think we’re at the point where there are too many games to play for how much time we have as adults. For the record: I think I’m going to pick up Pro Evo Soccer 2014 soon because I’ve played PES 2012 for hundreds of hours and want an update. FIFA doesn’t tickle my fancy, and I know that PES is what I want out of a gaming experience right now. It will be money well spent. But I think I’m going to sit on the sidelines for the other cavalcade of AAA titles this fall. Tyler and I have a shared PS3 account and I know how bad he wants to jump into a few of the upcoming holiday titles; however, I'm not sure I want to join him. I know it means leaving “the conversation” behind, but I have too much else to worry about in my life, and it's adding stress instead of making my life richer.

I have my tastes and I’m comfortable with them. I like expanding them, though I think I've pushed too aggressively in the past year. It’s piled on top of what I already enjoy playing, and hasn’t always moved off my stack of games to complete. I have an enormous backlog to tackle,PlayStation Plus has provided quite a few excellent older games,  and I need to correct course in some regards anyway. I think I need to rein in spending overall, and especially on games I’m not sure I’ll like. And for as much as I love gaming, I can’t spend as much time with it as I could in the past. I’m living in Japan, for crying out loud, I need to take advantage of that while I can. I know I’ll always be a gamer -- I don’t plan on throwing everything out. Instead, this is the time to focus on what I really like, while dashing in experimentation.