The Time Between

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).

Edgeworth Gasp
Oh no, anything but that!

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!).

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe

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!

11 thoughts on “The Time Between

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  1. Oh man, this spoke to me! Hah, I just finished Doki Doki recently and it hit me so hard emotionally that going straight into Undertale and Yomawari (a horror title) has been really rough. I actually took the same path you did and switched completely to older games. Ive been streaming DOOM and I even reinstalled Left 4 Dead 2 and Half Life just to clear my head from the damage that Doki Doki caused!

    Haven’t been wrecked that much emotionally in a while, Undertale has been cool in short bursts but it’s definitely hard to focus on story games.

    Also Rocket League is always great.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t played Doki Doki myself but I had a friend who checked it out and definitely could only watch comedies for a bit after that. I’m in the between-games mindset from a pretty lighthearted title currently, but I’ve definitely had those times where trying to recover from something heavy left me listless for a time.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The end of lengthy RPGs hits me right in the feelz. I’ve spent so much time invested in the world and love the characters… it’s a sad moment when I know it’s time to move on. Not gonna lie, I almost cried after I got the platinum trophy Lightning Returns, haha.

    Good luck with the work thing and I hope you got some sleep!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did get some sleep, thank you!
      I definitely get the RPG thing. That type of game often requires such a significant time commitment – by the time it’s over you’ve spent literal days in that world and it takes some time to come back from that.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I find that I gravitate to multiplayer games for this sort of time period after I finish one game, but am not ready to start something new yet. Playing a few online matches is a good way to spend some time with my hobby each night even if I’m not quite ready to invest in a new campaign/story mode. I know you said online multi isn’t your thing though! I definitely prefer local multi too, but it is hard to gather friends for that as I’ve gotten older which is a bummer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, as much as I prefer local multiplayer it’s not something I get to enjoy much these days. As a kid I’d play with my siblings, cousins, parents, and in college I had my roommate and all of our friends. My wife and I play occasionally but our tastes are pretty different so what little multiplayer I’ve had recently was online.
      That definitely makes sense as a way to use the time between single-player delves, though. After spending so much time investing in a game on your own, hanging out with others can recharge your batteries for your next dive into something with a lot of narrative to push through.

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  4. I know exactly what you mean about being caught between two places and then not doing anything at all. It always takes me a little while to ‘get over’ a game and then move on to the next one.

    I recently finished Finding Paradise and that completely floored me, so I decided that the next thing I started would be something emotionally lighter. But now I’ve stopped playing it… I can’t stop thinking about it!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You played Investigations and DIDN’T immediately move on to Investigations 2?! SACRILEGE.

    Seriously. Investigations is the worst AA game. Investigations 2 is the best. You can’t just leave it at Investigations. Do yourself a favor and play the second one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be honest I didn’t know about Investigations 2 – I’m a somewhat new fan of the series so I’m slowly learning about the fandom. I will certainly look into it now!

      Like

  6. I actually never have this feeling, except after finishing tv shows. But what I do have is that I am not able to play the same games over and over again. If I play a single player game it is mostly because I really wanted to but there is a possibility that I wont be playing that game for a long time afterwards. Not because I dont like the game but because I just dint feel like playing it. Thats something I really want to change though.

    Like

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