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The Lull of 2011

No High Scores

You may have my noticed my posting volume has diminished some of late. No, no busted up hand with less feeling than Bill’s decrepit old heart here. It’s just plane old apathy about gaming. I think most people who have been gamers long enough have had their bouts where there’s just no compunction to put a disc in the tray or a controller in hand. I’d say there’s typically a few times a year where I’m just plain not interested in playing for a week or two. The difference between those other times and now, though, is that we’re stretching into two months now where the interest has waned despite the fact that there’s a bunch of stuff worth playing; stuff in which I’d normally be interested. Hellooo, Arkham City.

So am I done? Is this it? Is my time as a gamer in the end times?

Pfft. Hardly…

This lull, like every other will eventually pass. Next week brings Skyrim and I’m interested in seeing my streak of never having finished an Elder Scrolls game come to an end. Although I’d be lying if I said the prospect of having to play a game with giant hulking spiders didn’t offer genuine trepidation. What I saw at the E3 demo unnerved me in ways I’m not comfortable admitting to. Actual spiders, which run in terror from my footsteps, don’t bother me as much as that giant cave-dwelling abomination that will quicken my pulse and bring a tremble to my mouse hand. I’d link to a photo of it, but that would mean having to find and look at it and contemplate trying to swing inadequate blades at it as it fills up the entirety of my monitor with eight spindly legs and a bulbous body of horrific malevolence. No thanks.

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But, as is the norm, I digress.

What ultimately bothers me most this time is The Lull ’11 has sapped my interest in writing about games so significantly. Nearly every day I pour through my various news feeds. Some bit on DOTA 2 here. Some Blizzard related tempest-in-a-teacup there. I couldn’t possibly care less about these things. Every day I think I will see something that demands some kind of commentary while I wait for an actual game to come around that I’m actually interested in playing and writing about and it’s just not there. (I blame Brandon and Michael for my not getting into Arkham City after release. What’s left to write once those two masters of their trade have weighed in?)

So I can either fake it or wait for The Lull to pass. I’ve been opting for the latter, but the funny thing about having a website that people actually read (as opposed to the old blog) is that you actually start to feel guilty. Not to mention there’s addiction to the affirmation that comes from people telling you are Like So Totally Awesome or Teh Suxorz on a semi-regular basis. There’s nothing like a little confirmation of your existence. So, it’s time to just write what there is to write about and throw it out there. Hence, a post about not actually playing games.

You’re welcome.

Rather than whine some more, though, I’d rather throw it to you good people. Do you routinely find yourself afflicted by The Lull? What breaks you out of it? Is it just a matter of waiting for the right game to come along? What do you fill those former gaming hours with?

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Sunday night, while looking to end The Lull ’11, I fell victim to the best use of advertising ever – putting a Dead Island commercial on during The Walking Dead. The game was already on sale on Steam, Halloween magic was in the air, and I felt a desperate need to find something in gaming to connect with. Dammit, if this wasn’t going to be the magic bullet. The perfect game at the perfect time! $35 frigg’n dollars later I’m fiddling with graphics settings to try and figure out why it looks horrible (something to do with the gamma), trying to deduce why installing a driver update makes it not load properly (I have to task switch out of it multiple times to get something other than a black screen), and feeling so generally underwhelmed by its opening minutes that I ended up calling it an early night rather than continue.

A lull-busting experience this has not been. Tonight I’ll give it a second try. If it doesn’t work out, expect posts about things that aren’t games ’cause not having anything to write about is simply intolerable. Who’s interested in hearing about the book 3 And Out, a look behind the scenes of the Michigan football team under Rich Rodriguez?

Better yet, don’t answer that.

Todd Brakke

Todd was born in Ann Arbor with a Michigan helmet in one hand and a mouse in the other. (Never you mind the logistics of this.) He grew, vertically anyway, and proceeded to spend over 16 years as a development editor for Pearson Education, publishing books, videos, and digital learning products under the Que and Sams Publishing imprints. Because that wasn't enough of a challenge, Todd has also been a 20-year part-time snob about video games, writing reviews, features, and more for multiple outlets. Follow him on Twitter @ubrakto or check it out his website at ToddsFoolery.com.

11 thoughts to “The Lull of 2011”

  1. This happens to me sometimes too, and most times its an old favorite that snaps me out of it rather than anything new. I won’t play any games for a week or two, and then find myself starting my 8th playthrough of Final Fantasy Tactics. After that I’m fine; its sorta like I had to prove to myself that gaming is indeed fun. Maybe try something similar on your end.

  2. I’ve had lulls, but they’re hard to diagnose. I have a bunch of different interests, and various things will bring one or another to the fore, and I’ll spend a bunch of attention to that for a bit, until something else becomes the ‘new shiney’ for my pea-sized brain.

    So, yes, I’ve gone through lulls in gaming, but mostly I just go through periods where I’m paying attention to my reading, or studying up on history with more energy than normal.

    In the late ’90s, computer games were generally headed away from what I care for, I moved away from a friend who was really into them, and I had no money to replace my aging my machine. At the same time, I was getting into ASL, and then BGG, and started putting together a local group of wargamers (always my first love). So, computer games largely disappeared off my radar for about a decade.

    And that went through lulls too. Currently, the opening of Video Game Geek has gotten me paying more attention to computer and console games again. And it’s already hit a lull as my free time has been eaten up for the last month or so. But I’m sure I’ll start a new EU3 game soon. And in the meantime, I talk about them some, and keep them churning in my mind.

  3. Same. Although it’s usually something in a genre I haven’t been playing recently. Tired of console FPS? Sit out a couple weeks, then maybe fire up a PC turn-based strat. Go back to my copy of Romance of the Three Kingdoms 6. Or maybe an old school RPG, like FF6. Other direction? Maybe fire up Mass Effect 2 again or something along those lines.

    I often find I hit The Lull when I’ve been playing too many games of the same type. Like, blockbuster games that all feel kind of the same. Or I’ve pushed myself to maximize my Gamefly membership (and Steam sales) by rushing through multiple games, gorging myself like a fat kid at Thanksgiving. The Lull isn’t bad — it’s very necessary imo as a psyche and gaming palate cleanser.

  4. I have way to many hobbies, so a lull in gaming in a chance to spend some time rock climbing or reading or cooking.

    I second the “old favorite” trick. But also, it’s a matter of not pushing it for me. The other trick that works for me is trying a different style of game. This is where my iPhone does wonders. Or try a very structured game. Open world games burn me out faster than most and playing a game with levels and a rigid progression is very comforting.

    I won’t say I don’t miss having content on the blog, but don’t fake it for us. The site is free after all.

  5. You need something pick up and play.

    Like really old school.

    Donkey Kong, Q*Bert, Burgertime, pinball.

    That always does it for me. Mind I have been a gamer for nearly thirty years and haven’t hit a lull yet

  6. Happens to me all the time. Sometimes in the middle of a game I was really enjoying. I just don’t want to play games for a little bit.

    I think it’s normal for people to lose interest in all hobbies. Especially gaming because it’s all so familiar. Occasionally something comes around and creates a new genre but then tons of soulless boiler plate games come out copying just that. As a reviewer it has to be even worse, you guys get to play the good and the awful and thanks to you I get to skip most of the awful.

  7. I often find myself less interested in games for a while, because I don’t have anything I particularly want to play or because I am too busy. But I always find that the forms of entertainment I do pursue loop back around.

    If I read a particularly good book, I find it tough to read other books right away. If I see an excellent movie or finish watching a great tv show, I don’t want to follow up on those things with less inferior similar materials. In those cases, I often look to whatever hadn’t been calling my name recently.

  8. I can actually trace every lull I have to the exact same reason: Too many games. The times when I’m not really interested in playing games, always match up with a steam account full of games I haven’t finished.

    With a 7 month old daughter and 12 hour days at work, I get overwhelmed when I turn on the computer for my 1 hour of gaming and see that I still haven’t finished any of my games. In the end, I just watch TV. The only type of game that can break The Lull, is a multiplayer game that my friends also have.

    This pattern also goes way back. When my friend suddenly got access to an xbox (original) and a huge library of games, we ended up not really playing anything for more than a few hours before we switched to another. We never finished a single one of those games.

    In the end, I find that sometimes it’s more fun to buy games than playing them. My self control is apparently not strong enough to avoid buying new games before I finish those I have. This is probably something I should try to fix.

  9. I have lulls for all kinds of reasons. A game I had high expectations in might not have delivered. Often it’s a case of fatigue or oversaturation. At times, I deliberately step back from gaming to allow time for other interests.

    One thing I’ve done this year to reduce lulls so drastically reduce the number of games I’m buying. It helps to alleviate the perceived pressure of a big pile of shame, and gives me more room to concentrate on the games I actually want to play. It requires a bit of discipline since I do suffer from a mild form of gamer’s ADD. And now that freelancing has picked up, it’s thrown a bit of a wrench into that idea but it does work.

    Even a longer lull is nothing to worry about. I think my longest one was about three or four months. The appetite will come back. And I quite like the repeated suggestion in this thread, to just pick up some old favorites.

  10. It was brought on by a couple of hours slog through that abysmally by-the-numbers piece of trash Infamous 2 and fixed by a play through of Catherine which was refreshingly different.
    It is funny, usually a comic book style third person action game would be right up my alley, while normally I have no time for crazy Japanese silliness, but I guess I just needed a change of pace.

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