The Gaming Community Where Players Take Their Time

“The game’s story is something I wouldn’t be surprised to find in a Hollywood movie,” writes Reddit user JohnO500 in a recent review. “I always look for this level of meticulous writing in games, and I’m happy to see that this game delivers on it fantastically.” They go on to praise the “fantastic” shooting, “smooth and fluid” movement, and the “way too good” graphics. In conclusion, this game with a “grand, blockbuster movie feeling” is one they “couldn’t possibly recommend more.” JohnO500 is, of course, talking about the eight-year-old Hitman: Absolution.

The review is posted on Reddit’s Patient Gamers community, which was founded in 2011 around the central rule of waiting until games are at least six months old before playing and discussing them. Patient Gamers is now closing in on 368,000 subscribers, and their goal, according to co-founder jetmax25, is to escape the hype cycle that devours new releases, find people willing to talk about older games, and save some serious money in the process. 

Reining in the Hype

“The sub started when I made a joke about buying and wanting to talk about Fallout: New Vegas the day Skyrim came out,” jetmax25 tells me. “Skyrim was $60, Fallout was $8, and I had $200 in my bank account. Nobody on Reddit talked about games more than two weeks after their release.”

Nine years later, a popular post declares “I just finished Fallout New Vegas for the first time! It took me 78 hours and I had a blast! Loved every second of it!” While the wait paid off, that it took so long shows that the churn of massive games you’re told you must play can feel endless. Based on Metacritic and How Long to Beat, playing through 10 of 2020’s top games would take you around 355 hours — and that’s not including MMOs or games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which can stretch into interminable hobbies. If you’re more of a cinephile than a gamer, you could get through over 150 movies in the same timespan. 

It simply isn’t possible to experience every game that’s a supposed must-play, let alone experience them in a timely matter. And so every few weeks a Patient Gamer is surprised by the plot twists of BioShock, or finally sets digital foot on Halo, or catches their first Pokémon. There’s a charm in seeing someone gush over their first time with one of your old favorites, or in reading a 4,500 word essay on the BioShock series written long after mainstream gaming sites have moved on. Reviews aren’t always positive, but a lot of games are more fun when they only cost 10 dollars, and disappointments are less crushing when they come from games played on a whim rather than after months of anticipation. Those crushing disappointments are often what drive people to Patient Gamers, as was the case with one of its mods, Myrandall.

“There were a few games that left me disappointed, but Paradox Interactive’s Impire (2013) was the one that made me actively look for a no-nonsense gaming community,” Myrandall says. “Impire was a quickly forgotten Dungeon Keeper clone that managed to get me hyped up like no other game had. There was a cool pre-order bonus, a sweet trailer, and it was only $20 in an era when most games were $60. What’s not to love? Well, the game was not to love. It was a buggy, repetitive, uninspired mess, and it went on sale just a few weeks later, with the suddenly not-so-exclusive pre-order bonus included.” 

Gaming Without Breaking the Bank

“2014 saw us go from a tiny subreddit to explosive growth, as that’s when Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Battlefield 4, and Watch Dogs all disappointed those who pre-ordered,” jetmax25 says. “It became a meme to post r/patientgamers whenever a trailer hyped people for a new release.” Patient Gamers offered a community that, in Myrandall’s words, “just wanted to discuss games with none of the pricing trickery, leaks, trailers, hype or drama that comes with upcoming releases.” And from there, Myrandall continued, the financial benefits became obvious. 

“With the prices of AAA games, pre-order bonuses, day one DLC and sometimes Seasonal Passes, it’s easy to spend loads of money on a single game. But waiting a few months, or even a few years, results in the game dropping in base price, being bundled with the DLC and pre-order stuff in some sort of ‘complete’ edition, and going on sale to boot. You end up paying a fraction of what anyone paid on launch for the exact same content. Now that Epic Games is giving away multiple games for free, I find myself barely spending any money at all.”

Another common subject is that of the “backlog” — how to track it, tackle it, and keep it from feeling like a unfinished household chore that’s looming over you. This isn’t a subject unique to Patient Gamers, either. Google “gaming backlog” and you’ll receive a deluge of what feels like gaming self-help advice, often with a tone that suggests gaming is a Sisyphean second career. But JellyBelly316, an active member of Patient Gamers, pointed out that while the financial benefit of waiting for games to have all of their content added and technical problems ironed out “can’t be understated,” Patient Gaming has also helped them get back to actually enjoying video games instead of feeling overwhelmed by them. 

“I was spending too much money. There would be sales on the PlayStation Store all the time and I would end up buying a bunch of games just because the deal was hard to pass up,” JellyBelly316 tells me. “Despite the plethora of games at my disposal I was spending less time gaming than ever. Kind of like when you’re picking a show to watch on Netflix and you end up scrolling through options for 10 minutes, reluctantly make a choice, watch the first two minutes, then turn it off and do something else… I decided I wanted to pivot back to actually playing video games, I posted about the issues I had been having, and got a lot of friendly advice.”

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Fallout: New Vegas
Fallout: New Vegas

A Hobby, Not a Chore

Suggestions on backlog management range from viewing your collection as a library instead of a checklist, to reminders of the sunk cost fallacy, to reveling in your options instead of despairing over them. The philosophy of backlogs has also extended to debates about if and when you should abandon a game you’re not enjoying much, whether it’s “wrong” to start massive games but never finish them, whether a game with 40 hours of mediocre gameplay can be enjoyed simply by watching the cutscenes on YouTube, how to deal with “RPG FOMO,” the perils of “open world fatigue,” and how to find time to game as a busy parent. 

It’s not all about time management — Myrandall highlighted a discussion on the state of the stealth genre, gamers have sought advice on how to ease their parents or partners into the hobby, recommendations have been made on the best game worlds to aimlessly wander through, one user reflected on how getting sober has changed their view of gaming, and some people just aren’t into modern mechanics and fads. But there’s a sense that users can find gaming to be a overwhelming, almost stressful hobby, and Patient Gaming has reminded them that they’re supposed to be having fun. 

And, for the most part, they are. Seeing gamers enjoy genuine shock at 20-year-old plot twists, try motion controls for the first time, and finally see what Diablo is all about is a soothing panacea to the gaming communities that devolve into tedious console war arguments, hot takes, and review nitpicking. As JellyBelly316 sums up, “Patient Gamers is best as a celebration of video games. Hearing about a fun detail that a user experienced which I may have missed, or an unusual moment that happened during a person’s playthrough, is what keeps me coming back to the community for more.”

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