Morning Stack: Why Can’t I Just Pick a Game to Play?

I just want to build.

I used to build tree forts at and around my grandparents’ farm on the South Dakota/North Dakota border. It was a very formative experience for me (I bought a lot of goddamn LEGOs and Gundam model kits after that. For whatever reason, though, that interest in architecture didn’t translate into video games for me. Not until around the time I reviewed Subnautica for a different website when the game finally left early access on Steam. That game found a very particular blend of storytelling and complex progression (i.e. going from swim floaties, to a miniature submarine, to a fucking undersea mech). I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since.

All of which is to say I just wanna build. Minecraft never did much for me, but I’ve gotten back into No Man’s Sky for the umpteenth time and am trying out that new Dyson Sphere Program (now in early access). I was obsessed with Raft, yet another early access darling, a couple weeks back, but got bored building radio towers on my floating base. Apparently you need to finish those before you get to the real meat of the game; I didn’t have enough space on my boat to place them properly.

I keep falling into these, I dunno… cycles? I can’t help but think about some grand, touching experience I had with a game once and how I really wish I could recapture that. It happened with Darkest Dungeon, but no game has done Darkest Dungeon as good as Darkest Dungeon. Now it’s happening with Subnautica.

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The chase is sorta satisfying in its own way. But it inevitably leads to analysis paralysis — to me staring at my Steam library, uncertain what to play, because I know what I want and that I can’t have it. At which point my only recourse is to stop playing games altogether. That’s tough when you write about them for a living. Thankfully, escaping the death spiral of freelance writing has afforded me the freedom to do just that. It’s allowed me to have the greater breadth of day-to-day experiences I so often preach to other people, but forget I can and should do, too.

I used to read a lot of books, too. Like a lot of books. Not so many now, but I’m trying to get back on the horse. In the meantime manga has filled that particular gap nicely. I just finished the newest volume of Delicious in Dungeon — the very best of the very video game inspired fantasy manga riding a bit of a wave right now. It all comes full circle. It comes back to that itch. I just want to build.

I think this particular need comes hot on the heels of Destiny 2: Beyond Light. Specifically, I don’t think that expansion was very good. I fell off the game hard. I lost one of my biggest “chill out” games. At least for the time being. While I try to find my next one (i.e. while I wait for Monster Hunter Rise to utterly consume me), I wanna try chilling out in other ways, and the complete opposite of blowing off alien heads feels a lot like building alien worlds. Just like I used to build very familiar ones on the farm.

It’s a cycle. I know it’s a cycle. It’s been a pattern with me as far back as I can remember (all the way to at least last Tuesday). Eventually it’ll be replaced with some other desire for some other kind of game. It’s comfortingly familiar, but also achingly, unavoidably annoying.

Anyway, I gotta go. All this writing really makes me want to play more Path of Exile.

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Steven Strom

An obsessive writer broadcasting to you live from the middle of nowhere. Thinks cute things are good, actually.

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