Recently I finished a run through of Shovel Knight. In fact I just wrote an article about it. However, instead of continuing my singing of its praises, I want to focus on something that this game has helped me to fully realize. Playing certain games as you get older becomes much more difficult. And I am sure that some of you are automatically thinking “ Pfft, I’m currently playing (insert game that it is very limited in genre aka “Call of Duty”) and I rule the school at that game!” Wonderful. But that is not what I am talking about. What I am talking about are the games that require one key fundamental asset: Patience.
When I was younger, I can honestly tell you I was much better at games in general. Sure I’m not a n00b now, but when I was but a wee lad, I seemed to have a much greater air of confidence about me. I struggled here and there, like never beating level 3 of Battletoads….that will always be my cross to bear it seems. Yet as I get older, going back to older games like Mario make me feel like I just lost several steps along the way. I could always go back and play it continually until I get my groove back but that is where our first problem lies.
As a kid there was one good reason I had patience, I had an over-abundance of time. I lived in a small town outside of where I actually went to school so I couldn’t hang out with my friends as much when school was out, it never took me long to finish my homework, I played maybe one sport a year which never required much commitment. I had way too much time on my hands. Fast forward to adult me and the story is very different. I work a full-time job now, I have bills, I have new responsibilities, and a relationship to maintain, with all of this being before I even have a kid. I have to be far pickier with my free time and how I use it.
So how does my lack of time affect my patience when it comes to games? Well it’s a bit of a cause and effect chain/circle. Eventually in a game I am bound to get stuck somewhere on something, be it due to difficulty or simply my own stupidity, it is going to happen. This causes frustration for everybody when they get stuck, but the difference here is that because I only have X amount of time to play a certain game, getting stuck somewhere and not being able to progress forward will actually enhance that frustration. I can only play this game so long before I have to cook dinner or take the dogs out or go to work or even just go to bed. With that frustration enhanced, my skills begin to plummet. Mistakes can be repeated, and areas that I had no issue with earlier suddenly become harder. This adds even more frustration and my patience is almost non-existent at this point. It causes me to do something I used to never do, rage quit. In fact, I rage quit on Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 the other night just because I couldn’t beat Galactus. It’s a shame really.
This frustration has another side to the coin. The lack of patience with games is bad enough, but what happens when I have to choose my game based on the time I have? I’ve already made it very clear that my free time is limited these days due to adulting, but it goes a bit deeper game wise. Many games these days require a god-awful amount of time commitment. This can make choosing certain games somewhat overwhelming. As a kid I had a lot of time, but not a lot of money, if any at all. This meant that when I bought a game, I could play let’s say Final Fantasy VII all the way through with very little concern, getting as much as I could done in an afternoon/evening/weekend and be proud of the progress I made. As an adult, staring down the barrel of huge games like Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3 can be very overwhelming and can actually cause a feeling of dread. I have no doubt that I will enjoy these games, it’s just that I know that it is going to take quite a long time to finish it. Add on top of this the fact that now that adult me has what kid me did not, money, and now we have a new issue: Massive backlog. Every so often I go and count just how many games I have left to play and beat, and when I see a 50+ hour game in that line up, I shudder just a little and will even put off playing it for a while in favor of something shorter, like Shovel Knight. But as I mentioned earlier, when I reach a part that is frustrating, it can hurt my patience and simply just ruin the fun that I should be having in that moment, I told you this was a cycle.
So how do I deal with this cycle of never ending worry, dread, anger, and shooting of the bird finger at the death screens? I breathe. That’s it. No big secret, no weird regiment with Buddhist monks on a mystic mountain. I stop, take a deep breath, and calm myself down. I am an adult, and when something frustrating comes my way, I need to handle it like one. This is how I regain a bit of the lost patience I once had. It’s helpful not only in games, but life as well. Patience is a virtue if I can use that cliché, but just because it’s a cliché it doesn’t mean it’s not true either.
Games can be tough, but they are always meant to be fun. And as I have shown here today, they can be an excellent teaching tool as well. My hope is that this writing helps those who are like me with both limited time and patience. Because at the end of the day, we all just need to breathe and enjoy our time.