It’s a question every gamer faces. When do I put down the controller/keyboard/phone? I can’t get my money back, I can’t get my time back, so when is enough, enough?
The answer should be simple. Since video games are a form of entertainment it’s time to quit once the game stops being fun, right? Wrong. Fun means different things to different people. Many gamers are completionists or feel that they ‘have’ to play the original game before its sequel. For these people, it’s not about the fun factor, it’s about the accomplishment. Being able to say, “I beat Ocarina of Time with EVERY hearts,” or, “There wasn’t a boss in Final Fantasy X I didn’t take down,” or, “My best time beating Super Mario Brothers on the NES is 6 minutes,” is worth the hours of nothing but tedious work.
So when do you know it’s time to quit? First, ask yourself this question, “Why do I play video games?” Personally, I play for the story, but maybe you’re games need amazing game play, comradery, music, or incredible competition. Once you know why you play, you can decide when it’s time to stop. Is that element that drew you in gone, or was it never there in the first place?
After you’ve figured out why you play, ask yourself why you’re considering putting down the controller. Are you bored? Did someone piss you off? Is the game too damn hard, or are you simply tired of same clichéd writing you’ve seen a million times? Maybe it’s a mix of all of these, but that doesn’t mean you should – or shouldn’t – abandon your game. Just because a game made got your knickers in a twist doesn’t mean it is no longer an enjoyable experience.
The easiest game to drop for any gamer is a boring one. The story doesn’t make sense, the controls are confusing, the enemy one shots you for no reason. Put the game down. It’s not worth your time and – hopefully – you’ll learn a valuable lesson. Read the reviews BEFORE you buy, or at least pick up the demo.
The second easiest game to drop is the time waster. Have you asked yourself why you waste your time playing this stupid ass game? Then stop playing it. You are wasting your time. With all the amazing games and (*gasp*) real life parties out there, just don’t bother with a time waster.
Another simple decision for gamers is when their game is just too hard. Before you throw your controller across the room in frustration, check to see if there’s an easier difficulty setting and take these words to heart: It is not emasculating to play a game on the easiest difficulty. If it really upsets you, you don’t have to tell anyone! Entertainment is about having fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong. Difficulty settings are an easy fix.
When it’s another person (or group of people) who are upsetting you, it’s harder to know when to leave. Games where you interact with other people can be especially upsetting. Anyone who’s every played an MMO or another games where interaction with other people is common or necessary can tell you that. Hell, most of us learn this on the playground. Getting along with others is impossible to do all the time and rage quitting after a particularly nasty argument is all too common. Nobody likes a rage quitter.
Before you quit forever because of the pissant twelve year old who spawn camped you with a sniper rifle for an hour, take a break. Be it an hour, a week, or several months, time away from the game will offer you a new perspective on why you were angry in the first place. I have played world of Warcraft since it came out and when the people or game sucks, I take a break for as long as it takes for the game to be fun again.
If there’s an option to change servers, take that for a spin. Of course, if you play with a huge group this might not be an option, but it can’t hurt if you can make the transition. On a new server, you make new friends, new acquaintances, and can find a great place to play with just a little effort. This is how I play TF2. When the game sucks, switch servers. Most of the time, it stops sucking so bad.
When what’s bothering you about a game is the bad or clichéd writing, decisions become a bit harder to make. I’ve had games ruined by a single character (*cough* Windwaker *cough*). On the other hand, I’ve enjoyed the gameplay of some JRPGs so much I didn’t care how bad the writing was. You’ll have to use your own judgment on this one to determine when it’s time to abandon the game. Try finding some humor in the bad writing and it can go a long way to turning an experience around.
Coming in last at a competitive game can be the hardest, or easiest, reason to leave a game. Some people just won’t play a game that they consistently rank lowest in. Others see this as a challenge. If you’re dead set on practicing until you’re the best, but losing is making you scream at your friends, take a break – and then take a new approach. Watch videos or read strategies written by the people who are already good at your game. Sometimes practice is not the only way to be the best.
Or just stop caring about being the best. That works too. Maybe you’ll even get better when you’re more relaxed about the game play. I play my worst at Magic the Gathering and Hearthstone when I’m worried about winning.
So what do you do once you have chosen to pull the trigger? Move on to new and greener pastures or quit the hobby altogether? Ask yourself all these questions a second time, but apply them to the genre in general. A change of environment could be just what you need, or maybe it’s time to learn how to knit. Either way, no one can decide for you how (and when) to game.