If you knew me a few years ago, you would most likely consider me a “core” or “hardcore” gamer. As the owner of a DS, Wii, PS3, and an adequate PC, I would not only purchase and play every single AAA release, but also every “under-the-radar” game that would fall by the wayside of a “mainstream” gamer. Games like Zack and Wiki, Little King’s Story, Retro Game Challenge, and pretty much every single forgotten game on Steam? They were mine, all mine, and I tried my damnedest to give each of them at least a little bit of love.
Cut to the present. Throughout the course of the year, I’ve pretty much sold or traded in all of my Wii, PS3, and DS games due to personal circumstances, barely log into Steam to play anything due to lack of time, and only manage to play what I can as per the responsibilities of this website. Sounds like a complete 180 from my shiny-new-vidjagames-saturated life just a few years ago, but you know what? If you asked me now if I were a hardcore gamer, my answer would be a resounding yes, perhaps even greater than my past self.
In my past life, I most certainly played more games and kept up with the releases religiously. My routine would be as such: I’d start a game in my free time, and then when I was getting bored, I’d switch to another game, and so on. Usually I would end up playing seven to ten games in one sitting, and it was completely natural to me. At least two days a week I would get on Steam and play Team Fortress 2 for at least a couple hours each night, and when I was bored with that, I would likely move onto another game in my endless Steam library (pictured below), the same routine occuring as before.
And why wouldn’t I do that? I was living with my parents, had little friends, a relatively mundane job, and enough disposable income to cater to my muse. All of the hard-to-find and rarely played games I accumulated were trophies; the notion that games such as The Metroid Prime Trilogy and the KORG DS10 would be worth something eventually was an irresistible proposition, especially to a “hardcore” gamer like me.
Sure, I didn’t finish 90% of the games I bought; in retrospect, I lost interest in a good portion of them immediately following the release of the next big title. But hey, the fact of the matter is that I kept up with the industry, and at least had some experience with the biggest games, enough to at least discuss them informally with other fellow gamers. Really, that’s all that matters right? The sheer library of AAA titles and the marginal knowledge of each of them is all that it takes to really become a “true” gamer, after all.
That entire viewpoint started to change when I started taking up more hobbies and getting progressively less displeased with my life. Among other things, I took up surfing and the fine San Diego art of craft beer, and suddenly found my time preoccupied with more than just trying to scope Targets for every single diamond in the rough they had on clearance for insane prices. Less time meant less gaming, and my rampant battle royale of standout video games was slowly but surely beginning to dwindle. I started devoting my time to one or two games at once, and better yet, even went to my backlog to complete games that had previously been thrown by the wayside because I didn’t have the patience to see their brilliance (apologies, BioShock).
This weird-but-strangely-logical method of “playing games and finishing them” reached a head when I started writing for good old DualShockers. Now, not only was even more time dedicated to writing about games, but actually finishing them was a job requirement, more or less. With how many interests I was juggling, it felt like I’d need spare time for my spare time.
However, that was immensely beneficial for my love of video games. The lack of real time, combined with the privilege of getting an inside look at the industry and seeing video games from an analytical, personal point of view made me realize that before, I never truly loved video games; I only loved the idea of video games. The notion of quantity over quality, and the penis size contest that was owning a vast games library; that’s not what being a core gamer is all about. Sure, I “played” all my games, but I don’t think I ever had the patience to enjoy them, at least enough to leave an impression in my brainspace. I couldn’t even tell you how many games I didn’t play on those years; they’re all but forgotten to me, with no emotional resonance whatsoever.
Instead of forcing me to forget about gaming as a hobby, the lack of time has made me appreciate the medium even more, and evoke emotions in myself that weren’t present previously. Concentrating my remainder of energy on one game, savoring it, and appreciating it enough to garner insights and intriguing discussions from it; that’s what hardcore gaming is to me.
It’s apparent now more than ever, with a season absolutely riddled with legitimate GOTY contenders. Instead of trying to juggle three or four massive games with a demanding,exhausting 9-6 job and a games journalism gig on the weekends, I’ve decided to play one game this chaotic season: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. I’ve managed to play only a few hours, but I am savoring every minute of it, and not stressing about how I can only play a certain amount every night, before I give equal time to Skyrim, or Uncharted 3, or Saints Row 3.
This is what I recommend to all of you out there with too many games and not enough time: slow down, relax, and concentrate on one title at a time. I know there’s an irresistible, inexplicable pressure to finish them all as soon as possible, but video games aren’t a race. Ultimately, they’re here to entertain you, invoke pleasant thoughts in your head, and maybe even endear themselves to your heart. The hardcore paradox is like the “cool” doctrine: you don’t truly become a gamer until you start having fun with what you’re doing, regardless of what everyone else thinks of your “questionable” decisions. Chill out, lay back, and enjoy!