If you ski, you are a skier. If you dance, you are a dancer. If you play video games, you are a gamer, but what are you if you have been playing video games for the overwhelming bulk of your life but suddenly…you aren’t?
There’s a lot of people out there these days that will stand up unbidden and instruct you in how you should and should not identify yourself based on the prevailing winds of the social climate, but I’ve always decided that regardless of how people choose to interpret the term “gamer”, it’s been part of who I have been for decades. Gaming has been my primary hobby for so very, very long. I have carried it through a natural progression from consumer to (repeatedly attempted) producer, and have always wanted to move beyond the mere “doing” of the hobby to immerse myself in the “understanding” of the hobby. I’ve observed the psychology of gaming communities. I’ve looked into the business of gaming production. I’ve always tried to get through the morass of push-and-pull that strains the hobby to get to as close to the firmament as I could as “some random guy who plays and sometimes writes about video games” can possibly do. I have always been comfortable with my efforts, except where my own inability frustrates me.
Playing games has never frustrated me, until now. It’s been several weeks since I’ve actually, actively played anything. I think it was around the start of 2019 when things started to roll down-hill. I had two anticipated games on the horizon: Anthem and Tom Clancy’s: The Division 2. We all know how Anthem turned out, although I never really had any personal issue with the game for as long as I played, and though I slogged through The Division 2 for a while, it’s a The Division series game and so I stopped when I felt I’d done my time. After that, though, there was nothing. I tried World of Warcraft again, but that’s always only a temporary sidetrack. I jumped back to The Elder Scrolls Online, but quickly remembered why I’d stopped playing a few months earlier. I signed up for Final Fantasy XIV and played for maybe 3 hours before I canceled my account. I figured maybe Secret World Legends was always a refuge I could return to, but for some reason, the game will no longer run on my system. The only game I’ve willingly spent time with has been Star Citizen, and that’s not even finished yet — and brings with it several other issues that have since surfaced in my interest. I’ve combed through my various game libraries, browsed the Steam Summer Sale, and in the end, I have come up pretty much empty.
I don’t expect anyone to be interested in this extreme niche of a situation; I’m writing this mainly in the hopes that once I see things in writing I will be able to understand either where the kink in the hose is located or realize that I’m long past the point of no return. I’m not here to humblebrag that I am so over video games like many people do on social media. I don’t consider “liberation from entertainment” to be anything to cheer about unless it was being enjoyed with a side of self-loathing all along. But that’s not me.
I have always loved gaming, so I guess above all else I am afraid of what this means. How do you move from having a lifelong interest to maybe and suddenly having no interest to speak of? It does leave a hole, so how does that hole get filled? “Take up another hobby,” someone is thinking to themselves. Well, duh. In some ways, I think that’s part of the reason I’m in this situation, as I’ve been spending a massive amount of time with this whole motion graphics and VFX thing. My studies in this arena are purely academic: I have absolutely no outlet for putting these lessons into practice. I’m learning for the sake of learning, and when and if I reach a point where I consciously realize that everything I’ve learned is just psychic “dead weight”, I’ll be back on the market for a new interest. But engaging a new hobby isn’t like pointing at a board full of options and blindly picking something. If it’s something you’ll be spending a lot of time doing, it has to have some level of personal relevance.
It’s very confusing to me. Gaming has been my overwhelmingly primary hobby for so long that I don’t know if I have any other interests. When I consider other tasks to take on, I’m bowled over by barriers to entry — real or imagined — that I can’t even figure out how to start something entirely new. Anything I might try to take up the slack has to be interesting to me in some way, or else it’s just busy-work, and as a homeowner believe me when I say I do not need any more busy-work in my life.