Monday, September 28, 2015

On a Nerd to Know Basis: Anxiety and Completing Games

I have a long held problem with completing video games. It stems from what may seem like an odd source, my own anxieties. While games are generally considered to be a pastime that is about enjoyment and relaxation, I have always found certain aspects to be major sources of stress in my life. I remember being terrified that the sharks in Banjo Kazooie were going to get me. The sin spawn battles in Final Fantasy X made my heart race faster than any nine year old's should. Fighting Master Hand in any Super Smash Bros. can give me an ulcer. And, even in Mario Kart, if I am in front of the pack at the last leg of the race, I am doing a hail Mary, hoping I don't get hit with a shell.

Stress and emotion are part of the fun in most games. Enjoyment is an emotion, the happiness of beating a challenge is incredible,  and I don't want games that lack those feelings. However, for my entire life, to this day, certain mundane challenges have a very strong effect on me. That effect has prevented me from completing numerous games that I ha
ve wanted to finish and it stops me from trying certain games I would probably like.

In an attempt to break down what sets me off, I thought back to popular games that I was familiar with, but didn't play through. A common theme is a 3D environment that is typically some kind of adventure. In my childhood it was games like Banjo Kazooie, and in recent times it's games like the Arkham Asylum Series and Bioshock. These games give little in the way of safe spaces in game that give my video game brain a break to recuperate from the last thing I just faced. I will often avoid games that look like they'll have this effect on me, and on the occasion that I begin one of these games, I routinely find myself dropping out early and never trying it again.

In more open world 3D games, like Skyrim or Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, I have fewer problems with getting stressed out. I have more control over what I do in the game. I can backtrack to easier spots and complete everything in an area I  am comfortable with before moving on. While I play them for long chunks of time, I can stop at any small task without this push forward by the game. These games have acted as a bit of a gateway to me playing through more intimidating looking games, as I have inched my way into more stressful situations.

2D platformers and things of that nature have never given me any issues. The action seems so distant that it doesn't seem to trigger any real emotion from me other than fun and challenge. Additionally, turn based games have worked out pretty well. While I got stuck in FFX, I never had problems with the early Final Fantasy games, Pokemon, or Civilization. Any anxiety I feel seems to stem from a realistic-ish environment with problems that must be faced head on.

While certain moments in games will still stress me out beyond comfortable levels, I have gotten better and have enjoyed playing through some older games I couldn't handle when I was younger. I don't think I would ever enjoy a survival/horror game, but if I ever do, I'll be ecstatic, and probably pretty scared.

White Knucklingly yours,

-Peter