Video Games: The Only Entertainment I’ll Let Frustrate Me Repeatedly

I’ve been getting back into a few games I started earlier this spring and thenfell off of either when new games came out or I hit intense periods of stress that drove me from new experiences to old comforts. I’ve never finished Pokémon Legends: Arceus or Horizon: Forbidden West, for example. I hit a point with both games, stopped playing, and never quite got around to playing either game again despite having enjoyed my time with them. The same is true of the new Pokémon Snap game. I got a ways into that, a new game came out, and I set it aside because it wasn’t a game that I could fall asleep to. That and getting up to change games in my Switch a whole bunch has never been fun when I’m trying to calm down for the evening.

Not because I’m too lazy to get off my couch (though having to rearrange my pillows and blankets and coffee table so I can get up is a pain in the ass I don’t mind doing without), but because my bird always freaks out if I start to move around in the evening. She thinks I’m going to leave the room, which she does not care for, and complains about me being absent before her bedtime. Even if I never actually leave the room, she preemtively complains in hopes of preventing me from leaving. Unfortunately for me, she can’t tell when I don’t leave the room because I never planned to versus when she successfully stops me by crying out, so she keeps doing it every time in hopes of keeping me in the room. And I don’t know if you’re familiar with the sheer volume produced by an upset Cockatiel who never learned anything but “scream” and “scream like I’m dying” because she wasn’t properly cared for in her early years, but it is loud enough that I’m sure my neighbors can hear it.

But now with Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing: New Horizons digitally installed on my Switch, I can change games without needing to get up and I’m back to cycling through my various incomplete games as the mood takes me. I’m currently still working my way through Dragon’s Dogma (in which I keep failing quests due to minor bugs, and then loading my last save only for me to realize I lost all that item sorting and selling I did because the autosave triggers are mysterious and unknownable), Horizon: Forbidden West (which I’m a little frustrated with due to how much stuff is locked behind plot missions, so I can’t just explore to my heart’s content), Pokémon Legends: Arceus (which can be frustrating when I want to move to a new area because of how many steps it takes to do anything outside the map you’re in), and Pokémon Snap (which can feel incredibly grindy when it comes to unlocking higher-tier quests, level scores, and specific photos). Which mostly means I play one game until I get frustrated and then move to a new game. So far, it’s working. None of my frustrations are big enough to drive me off any of these games entirely, so title hopping is a great way to get a break from something that’s annoying me and I’ve got enough of them that I’m always excited to play again by the time I return to a title.

I genuinely don’t know why I like to play games like this. I don’t do this with books, movies, or TV shows. The only time I stop mid-show or mid-book is if I have something new and exciting to read or watch and then I never just go back to the book or show I dropped. I either start completely over or ignore it for years and then start completely over. And, to be honest, I think I’ve only stopped a book mid-read with the intention of going back a handful of times. Most of the time, I only stop reading a book before the end if I can’t stand it and desire to never return to those pages. Like Game of Thrones! I can’t even remember which book in the series I threw across the room in frustration. I was just so sick of how utterly miserable and predictable the world was. It just kept making the same point over and over again! Even with the same event, because of course we had to learn about the unreliability of messages by seeing the event through a dozen different perspectives that we’ll literally never hear from again. I couldn’t stand that sort of endlessly circling the same thing in a long series like that.

But when it comes to video games, I’m fine. I’ve set some aside with no intent to ever play them again. I’ve set some aside because I got tired of the controller gimmicks *cough* Super Mario Odyssey *cough* but mostly I set them aside because I just need a little break. Like Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous! I needed a break from my intense playthrough of that because a bug prevented me from getting a desired interaction which locked me out of the ending I was going for. I was able to grimly carry on for a few more hours before realizing I needed to take a break from the game or else I’d have made myself hate it. Plus, I got pretty close to the end and just need to sort of jam my way through the last missions before the final chapter starts. Or I’ve already gotten there, maybe? I’ve never actually finished the game. All I know is that I found a bunch of enemies that are all high-tier spellcasters with a whole bunch of bullshit they can bring to bear on my party again and again because there’s dozens of these battles and only one of my party. Sure, I can bring my characters back to life if they die without a problem, but then I have to recast all of my buffs! That takes ten minutes to cycle through all of them and it’s such a waste of spells to cast all the group buffs again but if I don’t, that character is just going to keep instantly dying anytime I get into a fight! It’s incredibly frustrating.

Which is why I’m playing other games until I feel less frustrated about that. I would love to find another game like Breath of the Wild or Kirby and the Forgotten Land that is just a constant joy to play, but such games are few and far between. Even my nightly chill-out games, Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing, aren’t free of potential frustration. That’s why I have two, so I can cycle between them as needed. I feel like there’s a lot more to analyze there, about my frustrations and why I keep playing things that frustrate me, but I’m writing this as I’m starting a weekend of rest and relaxation, so I’m going to save that for next week when I’m no longer trying to let go of all my stress. Maybe by then I’ll have figured out why I’m fine with being frustrated by video games but can’t stand to be frustrated by books or TV shows.

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