Coping With Videogame ADD

I’d been aware of the problem for a while now, but the severity of it didn’t hit me until I started flipping through the Activity Log (a piece of internal software that monitors your playtime) on my 3DS. Sonic the Hedgehog 2, 0:01, Donkey Kong, 0:01, NES Open Golf, 0:01, PICROSS e2, 0:02, and so on for a number of titles as I scrolled from the bottom upwards. What my 3DS’ Activity Log revealed was what I’ve known for a while. I have videogame ADD.

As someone who has sat and played through hundreds of games, read dozens of books, and read hundreds of comics, I know that I’m more than capable of sitting still and paying attention. I mean, I sit and write blogs on a regular basis, so Cave Story should be no problem! What I’ve come to believe is that the root of my problem is this new, digital age we’re living in.

With resources like the eShop, PSN, and XBox Live, there are thousands of games at the tips of consumers’ fingers. Throw in the plethora of mobile games across tablets and smartphones, and the options multiply exponentially. It’s staggering just how many games a person can have on a single device these days. My 3DS alone has upwards of 60-70 downloaded titles stuffed into the various folders on its desktop. While these digital marketplaces are incredible outlets for classic games and smaller titles that would languish as physical releases, it’s splintering my ability to ingest and enjoy each and every title.

Being torn between Super Mario Land 2 and Attack of the Friday Monsters! is a bit of a first world problem, of course, but honestly, as a videogame enthusiast it really does suck. It’s sort of like suffering through a pixelated version of buffet syndrome; the wealth of options becomes more constricting than freeing because there’s too much to choose from. There is a plus side to my little conundrum, though; conservation.

With each new Pokemon game that comes out, I buy both versions at launch. Part of me is just being a collector, but the other part is looking forward to beating one version and saving the other for some unspecified point in the future. I love knowing that I have a great game to fall back on later when the mood strikes me; it’s like an electronic safety net. With the frustration of great variety comes the luxury of being able to focus on the games I really want to play and saving others for later. Maybe I was quick to judge my gaming ADD as a problem!

All kidding/positives aside, the main negative of my situation is bouncing between games really kills the rhythm of each one. Videogames,not unlike books or movies, are meant to be enjoyed as a singular experience. Spielberg didn’t intend for Schindler’s List to be viewed in pieces along with Seinfeld re-runs, nor did Dumas intend for you to split reading duties between The Count of Monte Cristo and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. While I don’t think every game is necessarily expecting this sort of investment of a person’s time and attention, I do think that some titles require dedication to see it through in order to fully appreciate the creators’ intent. Honestly, there’s no way to properly appreciate a game like BioShock if its being played intermittently between play sessions of Angry Birds Star Wars and Pokemon White 2.

This whole situation makes me think of the dying art of album listening. With things like iTunes out in the world, a lot of people now simply download a single song as opposed to entire albums. It would be impossible to appreciate the intricacies of an album like Soundgarden’s Superunknown if all you hear is Fell On Black Days. The artists sort their music into a specific order with the intention of the listener hearing the songs the way they want them to. A lot of radio stations will play Green Day’s Jaded and Brain Stew together because there’s no real gap between them on the album, for example. Without taking in an album as a whole, the finer details are ultimately lost. The same is true, to me, for videogames.

So while the idea of gaming ADD might be unique to myself, I have the feeling some other people might suffer from it, too. To them I say, never fear, because there’s always a way. I tend to play games in accordance with the level of anticipation I have before release and/or what genre it is. In order to tackle the troubles I’ve been experiencing, I try to stick with the genre I’m most in the mood for and play any neglected games that match it. RPG time? Then pull out Mario & Luigi and have at it, and so on. No matter what, though, I think we should all take the time to play our games to completion and walk away with whatever we were supposed to feel from them. With that, I’m finally going to go see how Sonic Adventure ends!

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