The Sunken Place of Gaming

Between Final Fantasy XIV a Realm Reborn, the standard MMORPG, and immediate expansion Heavensword there are 113 quests. Meaning, once you have leveled your character and completed the main storyline of A Real Reborn, credits rolled and everything, there are 113 quests before you can move on to the new content in Heavensword. These 113 quests exist because back when there was no Heavensword, it constituted a significant part of the 'endgame' for a Real Reborn. Adding on to the base story to give the player things to do after they had reached the maximum level in the game. It's actually a rather noble thing for a developer to do and imperative to retain the player base when they have already have the steep obstacle of the $15 a month it takes to continue to access the game once you've purchased it. However, doing those 113 quests while not being at level cap and barely getting any experience from it, was one of the least pleasant gaming experiences I have ever had.

 ALL OVER THIS BIG ASS MAP.

ALL OVER THIS BIG ASS MAP.

It entailed sitting down for the better part of 48 hours and barreling through content, mostly, by traveling all over the world of Eorzea, surely, over a hundred times. I'd go between one place then another then back to the first then somewhere entirely different and back once again. The real kicker though was that for the most part, these quests didn't include very much combat at all. So, to clarify, the activity really was being run back and forth and sideways and front ways by the game without pause. If it doesn't already seem like it to you by now, believe you me, this was incredibly tedious, and all around contrary to anything that could be called objectively fun. But I still played through it. And by the end, when I finally saw the credits roll, it was late at night and my left eye was twitching uncontrollably. When I went to the bathroom to clean up for bed, I had broken out and I looked incredibly rough. It wasn't good for me.

Similarly, I am still going through my playthrough of Final Fantasy XV and couldn't have possibly cared less about the characters, world or plot for the first 36 hours of the game. I didn't terribly much care for most of the gameplay mechanics and wasn't invested, in the slightest, with Noctis' progression into a good king. Though I've just used two Final Fantasy related examples, I don't mean to suggest the series has any more of knack of being entirely uninteresting as any other series, in fact, most games have this tendency to have parts of the game that require a complete willingness to put up with tedium. But gamers play through somehow.

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We put stock in the hope that down the line the effort we put in up front will pay off in some way. In Pokemon people spend hours upon hours breeding Pokemon, hatching them and then training their mons to get the strongest Pokemon possible so when they fight their friend who has similarly spent hours upon hours training Pokemon, they can have a competitive match that lasts on average less than 10 minutes. While some people truly find that breeding process enjoyable, the greater majority of people who engage in that investment of time agree that it is horrible. But they do it anyway. For that little bit of pay off. And that, my friends, is the sunken place of gaming.

The Sunken place where fun has no home and relaxation is replaced by a numb resignation to the fact that the content ahead must be gotten through rather than enjoyed. I've been in this place many times before. Been bored out of my mind and possibly even annoyed, but still have pressed on in a game I'd much rather put down.  It's a familiar place for gamers but why? Why, while engaging in leisure activity, is tedium so tolerated by people? Why did I play League of Legends for 5 years when 4 of them were beyond tedious? As my soul began to depart my body during the 113 quest gauntlet in FFXIV, I started to think seriously about this. Not only had I paid $50 dollars to purchase the game itself, but I also paying $15 on top of that to sit and and be more bored than I would have been clipping my nails. It's no longer playing for leisure but playing because of compulsion.

There are, of course, reasons why this happens. Game developers are masters at grasping and holding a person's attention. This is done by offering joy at times, or creating emotional journeys and, other times by creating this odd place where there are hundreds of things to do and not a single one that is really interesting, but still you feel like doing it anyway. I'm searching for a point in this post, or something to offer but I think all I have is that fact  of the sunken place of gaming itself. Video games can reach out and grip you and have the nerve not to be entertaining. I believe gaming should only be engaged in for reasons of joy. In order to practice gaming for reasons of joy and not compulsion I think it's important to keep in mind what the sunken place of gaming is and to try and manage that. At what point is it really time to put down a game for reasons of boredom.