Finishing a video game is an excellent feeling. After struggling against the game’s mechanics, fighting your way through the most difficult challenges the developer could muster, you finally make it to the final boss and emerge victorious. The story has been told, the plot holes (hopefully) filled, some people kissed maybe – it’s a great moment. As a gamer there’s a huge sense of accomplishment that comes with that. Particularly so if the victory is accompanied by a special cut scene or trophy or some other reward for completing the game.
After that sense of accomplishment, though, is often a terrible crash. You may feel the desire to play the game and yet have nothing left to do. There’s a want perhaps to move on to a new game. Maybe there’s even a specific title you’re looking forward to. But until that next game comes along, you’re too attached to the previous and have a hard time moving on. Every game you try to revisit before the next new thing comes out feels hollow and overly familiar. This is The Time Between Games (TM).
I’ve spoken before about this sensation I sometimes feel after big events that I refer to (because of my theater background) as post-show depression. This lesser version of that hits me after I finish a good game, but before I can move on to the next one. It is a difficult combination of the aftereffects of engaging with something satisfying that you don’t want to be over and the anticipation of something you’re so excited about that you can’t think of anything else. Being caught between these two places is something like being paralyzed, and I find myself simply not doing anything at all.
For me, this sensation began after I finished Ace Attorney Investigations. I played two Ace Attorney games back-to-back, Apollo Justice and then Miles Edgeworth. This series has become one of my favorites and there are still titles I haven’t played yet, but I wanted to take a break after Investigations to prevent myself from burning out. I don’t want to get a quarter of the way into Spirit of Justice and then stop playing for a significant amount of time. So instead of moving on to a new game, I decided to explore titles I’ve already played.
I spent some time on Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – honestly more than I thought I would. There’s a sort of simple joy in Mario Kart races that keeps me somewhat engaged even in single player mode. After a long day at work I can just lay back in bed with my Switch in handheld mode, hitting Bowser with bananas while listening to a tabletop let’s play or a video game discussion in the background. There’s only so many tracks, though, and after a bit of time it was hard to stay engaged without other players to race against (and no, I don’t do online multiplayer. Give me couch co-op or give me nothing!).
I tried briefly – oh so briefly – to get reinvested in Stardew Valley. Unfortunately it didn’t take the game long to leave me disappointed. I enjoy older farming simulators, early titles in the Harvest Moon series, for example. But newer titles, designed to run “endlessly” and by extension slowing down the game’s social progression, have too much to do with no clear guidance on why. I like to work towards specific goals and an endgame – I want the game I am playing to have a clearly defined stopping point where I “beat” the game and can then move on to the next thing. If there’s no finale, how can I get all mopey about it and experience this sensation I’m feeling now?!
I don’t have much more to say about this topic today, primarily because I’m falling asleep at my computer. Work is crazy busy this week and I’m spending a lot of my free time preparing for my City of Mist game this weekend, so those factors are definitely contributing to my video game woes. I’d love to hear from you, adventurers – do you have a hard time recovering from the ending of a good game? What does it take for you to move on? Can you revisit old titles to kill time between new releases? Discuss it in the comments below – as for me, I’ll get back to you all after I’ve had a good night’s sleep!