When Does a Game Stop Being Fun?
It's all fun and games until you hate the games and the fun is long gone.
I really loved Overwatch.
For months – coming up on years, even – I couldn’t get enough of Blizzard’s multiplayer team shooter. I absolutely adored playing as the game’s plethora of colourful characters, and found myself having a renewed passion for the game whenever one of my friends would pick it up and join in on the fun.
I even got into the game’s intense ranked community, and adapted as each new season brought with it a multitude of changes and adjustments; both to heroes, and the mechanics themselves. Everything was going brilliantly, and I’d gained hundreds of hours out of a game which I’d only spent a little money on. And then I lost interest.
I knew the exact moment at which Overwatch lost its sense of fun for me, because a similar thing happened back in 2008 with Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare. In that multiplayer shooter, I remember chasing the camouflages for each of my favourite weapons, and watched as my rank grew ever higher. One by one my friends moved on to new games, but I couldn’t stop reaching for those digital rewards like a donkey chasing an unwinnable carrot. Every match ended up feeling like a chore, before I suddenly snapped and said, aloud, “Why am I playing this if it’s not even fun?” And with that, the PS3 was turned off, and I did something else. That something else was probably just as meaningless, but it marked a key point where I just couldn’t be bothered with the grind.
So now we’ve got Overwatch: an incredibly fun game which is continuously being supported by the great guys over at Blizzard. In fact, the 2017 Summer Games event has recently begun, bringing with it fan-favourite LucioBall and a whole host of colourful costumes. But I just can’t bring myself to play it anymore.
With the latest competitive Season, I went all-in. I flew past my playtime for even Quickplay in a matter of weeks, and chased the invisible dragon in the form of my competitive rank. For ages I couldn’t seem to break out of Gold, but, eventually, I achieved Platinum status. But it wasn’t enough. I wanted to hit Diamond, and so I played day-in, day-out, trying with everything I could to solo-queue my way up the ladder. Time and time again I lost, and watched as my rank plummeted far below even the Platinum threshold. I was burned out. Defeated. So, like Modern Warfare before it, my multiplayer addiction very suddenly dwindled into disdain.
Modern shooters are set up in a way so that players can enjoy them for years beyond release, and the good ones are continuously supported so that long-time fans can come back repeatedly and enjoy what got them hooked in the first place. Perhaps it’s because I have somewhat of an addictive personality, but for me this almost always spirals into a twisted determination to be one of the very best. The thing is, sometimes this requires more effort than is justifiable. Honestly, if I’d managed to wrangle a bunch of friends and practised, I might have made it into the higher echelons of Overwatch’s ranked system. But it began to feel monotonous and way too much like work – something a game never should. Hell, I can’t even enjoy a casual game of Overwatch now without feeling burned-out.
I suppose the point of all this is: don’t overdo it. With the relative freedom of being a student, I’ve had my fair share of binge sessions when it comes to games. By this point I’ve put a silly amount of time into Overwatch, and I don’t necessarily regret any of it, but it’s rendered the game unplayable for longer than a match or two. The same can be said for some of my friends and FIFA; they played the game so much that they began seeing the microscopic faults and unfair systems stacked against you, so they literally threw out the game disc in favour of new experiences.
Of course, this is all entirely subjective. For some people, grinding away daily is all part of the fun. Especially if you have a group of like-minded friends, I can see climbing the digital ladders of progression to be a genuinely fun task. But for me there always comes a point at which the brick wall can only be slammed into so many times, before I simply lose all interest in a game I otherwise would have enjoyed.
But hey: maybe that’s just me.