Video Games and Coming to Terms with the End

090917-gee-poster-2I recently realized that the active season of my life in which I played video games was coming to a close. I say “realized,” but more accurately, it was a decision. I decided I would close the curtain.
To recognize the stature of said decision, you must first understand a few things. Make no mistake—I love video games. I have been playing them since I was four years old, when my parents bought me Donkey Kong Country for the Super Nintendo. That was over two decades ago, and I’ve only picked up momentum ever since. I have completed hundreds and hundreds of video games.  I’ve had cursory or incomplete exposure to many more. I’ve played Super Smash Bros. competitively. I’ve tried my hand at every conceivable genre and style of game, ranging from MOBAs to point-and-click narratives, platformers to MMORPGs, FPS to RTS, and everything else you can imagine. I even tried text-based video games online for a while towards the beginning of high school. I’ve convinced other people to try video games. Through video games I’ve made and maintained the majority of my friends. I’ve been 404652865inspired to write and pick up art so that I could have a more w\holistic appreciation for the characters and worlds which my mind has so eagerly inhabited in those digital worlds.  Video games have been a quintessential, irrefutable cornerstone of my core existence.
I love video games.
Even to this day, if you were to look at my recreational palette, you’d see that I just started my first (and only) playthrough of the Dragon Age series, recently completed Transistor, occasionally play Battleborn online with friends, and I’m looking to pick up Mirror’s Edge Catalyst in the next couple of weeks. The industry—as an industry—has never been of greater interest to me, and I’ve kindled a great sense of pride and honor at being able to witness the growth of video games as an art and sport.
So, it might come as a surprise to hear me say it, but I have now begun wrapping up this chapter of my life. In spite of the many reasonsBorderlands-Meme-borderlands-2-34713719-858-1000I have to love video games, there has been a years-long dread that has slowly picked up steam since my early college life, now half a decade passed. It is a creature not unique to me.  In our world, we handsomely dub it “Gamer’s Guilt.”
I have many more responsibilities now than at any other point in my history. Money is tighter, my career is demanding more attention, and my arrays of recreational entertainment have expanded. Least of all to mention how thinly spread I feel towards my ocean of crafts and hobbies (I’ve always been a Jack-of-All-Trades). While I cannot deny that video games helped propel my writing aspirations—a hobby I have been biting down on with increasing intensity as time goes on—it is now to the point where the disadvantages outweigh the benefits. I tried to play games competitively, but I simply don’t have that kind of spirit in me. I find myself less and less interested in the gameplay of games and more interested in the narratives, which, if it comes down to it, I can find online. “But that’s not the same thing!” You admonish, mimicking my own words from not so long ago. And you’re right. But it’s close enough for me.
CF_kk_sliderIn my arsenal of hobbies, I’ve already dropped guitar. That was like peeling off nerves, not because I was good, but because I wanted to be good. However, it was stealing time from my writing, my drawing, my gaming, my education, and my physical fitness. So I let go of that longing, knowing that I am not designed to be an indefinite hydra of skills (not to mention the F Chord is the bane of my existence). Now I face a similar issue, and games are getting the axe.
But I do feel the need to clarify something. I keep using these scary words and phrases like “closing the chapter” and “getting the axe,” but video games will not be completely, absolutely exiting my life. At this point, I’m not even sure that’s possible. I’m closing the door, but I’m not barring it shut. If at some point in the years to come I might be fortunate enough to adopt gaming as an active hobby again, I very well may. Albeit, even at that point I can only see myself being a casual gamer (gasp with me).
I will not be departing cold-turkey, but instead will steadily trim off my residual video game “responsibilities” up to the release of what I’m considering the grand finale. I must first resolve aforementioned items that are already on the grind, such as the Dragon Age trilogy (I promised someone I would do this eventually). Then there are a few noteworthy games still on the approach which I must play, if only because of the attrition I’ve endured awaiting their arrival. For example, there’s no way I’m not playing Final Fantasy XV when it drops. I’ve been waiting ten years, I’m not gonna stop now. The previously named “grand finale” I speak of is another such game: the third and final installment in the main line of the Kingdom Hearts franchise. In the meantime, I still have tickets for this year’s Pax West which I fully intend to enjoy.
smash-bros-villager-meme-just-standing-thereOnce all is said and done, the active status of my gaming career will be concluded. However, just because I will not be an active gamer does not mean I will suddenly start recoiling at games like they carry the next Bubonic Plague. I expect I will still play Super Smash Bros. on occasion, as it is one of those universal games which never seems to go out of fashion. Likewise, I will maintain my long-running tradition of playing through new installments of the Tales franchise with a certain gaming friend until we either mutually end the tradition or there are no new games coming on that front.
This is to say, I’d be about five-percent of the gamer I was in high school and college. While it does sadden me a little, I know that for me at least, it is to be a welcome change. I’ll be able to buckle down on other aspirations and life goals that have been otherwise neglected or received unsatisfactory attention.
508da389e6355Before I conclude, I want to push one last point. Do not believe that in my writing this, I am in any way condemning video games as a waste of time or something that we must eventually outgrow. I don’t believe any of that. This is a result of my own set of life conditions and convictions, where the place I am and the place I want to be do not coalesce peacefully with a strong presence of gaming in my life. But I owe too much to games to talk down on them, or reprimand people with completely feasible reasons to continue playing and adoring this industry which has come so far.
I look forward to seeing what video games become with virtual reality on the cusp of a breakthrough. I await the ideas, stories, and worlds which will come in the generations to follow. I will admire and support from afar, with a trace smile and a proud heart.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For further reading on taking a break from gaming, please read40 Days of Without Video Games: What Happens When I Unplug

Cooper D Barham

Aspiring author, marriage and family therapist, and active behavioral health technician, Cooper fills his world with God, music, videogames, anime/manga, drawing, reading, writing, and some physical stuff in between. If you ever want to talk about the big or little things of life, fire him a message. Helping others through tough times is both his passion and way of living. 'Got it memorized?'

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