Oh, kind and sturdy shelf that houses the shining plastic cases holding my discs and cartridges of joy: I may not have indulged the satisfying click and clunk of opening you in days, months, or years, but I do love you still.
Sounds familiar? If you’re anything like me, you might occasionally switch up your commitment to playing a video game midway through. (And perhaps never finish it.)
Don’t get me wrong, I love an expansive world with many possibilities and experiences waiting in code for me. But I often can’t seem to finish the game. Why not, you may ask?
Let me take you on a journey that answers this question for me, and may do the same for you…
I was always very lucky growing up. In particular, I was blessed with a Dad who thought that Sony was the best tech company ever. Radios, TVs, record players, a camcorder, speakers, you name a Sony product and my Dad thought it was worth the credit card bill. And he wanted nothing more than the whole family to join in.
Enter the Sony Playstation 1, which was first released in the UK in 1995, and in my life from around the millennium.
If you don’t know, this Japanese grey block can whizz a holographic disc and, through technological magic, bring an interactive story to your screen.
Once my big brother was old enough, who was obsessed with anything that made blaring loud cartoon noises, a Sony Playstation 1 was purchased and hooked up to the TV in no time.
I wanted nothing more than to join in the fun and be as damn cool as my brother and Dad. But could I steer a car around a Gran Turismo track? Could I avoid the obstacles in Crash Bandicoot? Could I even finish the first level of Mickey’s Wild Adventure?
And so began my obsession with watching and cheering from the controller sideline.
Fast forward to my teens in 2012: games and consoles had evolved alongside the ever-growing tech world, I had a bit of money and a love for vibrant stories and nerd culture, and second-hand console and game stores were everywhere. My Dad helped me to buy a preowned PS2 and PS3 and I used the money I had left to purchase a hefty amount of video games of all genres.
Loe and behold, after much practice, I still sucked. (Big time.)
Call of Duty was a game my friends and I would whip out after a couple of vodkas and orange juice, Mirror’s Edge caused me to throw my controller to the end of my bed, and the Assassin’s Creed load screen was far more familiar to me than any parts of the actual map.
And so, my friends and I would go back to to the simpler games of the PS1 and PS2. Kingdom Hearts, various Harry Potter instalments, and arcade remakes on the N64.
One fateful News Year’s Eve, at the tender age of 17, we had a Tekken tournament (a classic 1 v 1 fighting game). And I kid you not, I beat everyone. Not one person at that party could kick me down.
Was this a fluke? Had I become a new woman? Was I to be a professional Tekken player one day?
Again, absolutely not!
However, in ageing I had gained some actual brain skill, which meant that I no longer had to look at the controller to see what buttons I was pressing – I could do it by instinct.
Encouraged, I got my very own copy of Kingdom Hearts and set to the task of actually playing the whole game, full walkthrough on my laptop next to me so as not to miss anything that could help me not be terrible.
And I wasn’t, I was actually really good.
And I was really good at Harry Potter Quidditch, and then Final Fantasy, and then Spyro, and then the world was my oyster. Any game was at my disposal!
Fast forward to my 20’s, my boyfriend has a PS4, graphics boast to be in 2K, and decisions now affect your gameplay more than ever.
He tried to get me into the first-person shooters with him. Spoiler alert: I still suck (sorry COD, Overwatch remains the only FPS getting my money).
I’ve decided that I love to play role-playing games (RPGs), where you assume the role of one character and try every game going in that genre.
I can now play games I used to watch from the sidelines. I understand how to rotate weapons and toggle my buttons and the idea of exploring the entire map is a regular occurrence.
And so now I have my own PS4 and Nintendo Switch, as well as a collection of RPGs that I love very much: Horizon Zero Dawn, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and I could go on. However, they all sit on my shelf ¾’s played.
Whenever I play these games, they give me exceptional joy… until I’m suddenly distracted by another game – All this despite my completionist need to get every achievement in a game now that I am capable!
You see, I can now participate in an experience that I once assumed I would only glance at from the sidelines. But which game do I choose? How long do I play for? How much do I value sleeping tonight over finishing this battle? And so what should I do if I don’t want to play this game anymore in favour of another?
I have decided, it is nothing worth worrying about. And I don’t feel guilty about it. And neither should you.
Didn’t get to the last level of the game? Who cares!
Are you having a good time, feel like you are getting your money’s worth, and experienced some emotion, sense of achievement, or growth? Then you got exactly what you needed, and you can come back to those games for whatever you may need in the future.
And so to those ¾ played games: I will finish you (maybe), I do love you, and I thank you for the service you provided me so far. You made me feel like an achiever, helped me advance my questionable hand-eye coordination, made me laugh and cry, and gave me an opportunity to bond with the people around me.
And so I’ve come to this conclusion about my game guilt: I will play you in my own time, on my terms, and only when I feel like it. You may still be on my shelf gathering dust, but every time I look at you, I smile and think that one day I will come back to you. Maybe today’s the day!
Let me just try and do this 9-star mission on Monster Hunter World first.