There are many areas in life where preparation is key. I wouldn’t want a surgeon to operate on me if they only had a rough doodle on a napkin for reference. I also wouldn’t want my food created in an area that last saw a good scrub when TVs were still black and white. Yes, I hear you say, but those things are more important than a hobby! Very true, but the point is the same. If you haphazardly throw yourself into your gaming, are you really getting the most out of it? Taking a look at the habits of other gamers can sometimes give you valuable ideas that you can then use to increase your own gaming enjoyment.
My first kind of gaming ritual was back in those halcyon days when games still came with printed manuals. You cracked open the box, fumbled the cartridge or floppy disks out, and were greeted with a nice little (or not so little) booklet falling onto your lap. I never played the game without first reading that manual from front to back. Sure, there was an element of delayed gratification involved, but thinking back to it now, I think the main drive behind it was the fear of short-changing my enjoyment by rushing in. This may have been more of an issue with Amiga games than consoles like the SNES, as the Amiga did play host to some stonking strategy games. Going into that kind of game half-cocked would have resulted in my growing frustration and eventual loss of all interest in the game. This could still be the reason that I sometimes struggle with the modern equivalent; reading a wiki just doesn’t do the job for me. It might also explain why the expensive Collector’s Editions of modern games are so popular.
There are some gamers who enjoy reading any related books to a game before even setting foot in the game world. It also might work for games you tried once and failed to get into. Personally, I didn’t get far into Metro 2033 before I lost interest. I knew it was something I should be enjoying but I just wasn’t. A few years later I picked up the book on which the game was based. I read through it at a considerable speed and promptly repurchased the game and its new sequel. The second play through attempt was much more successful and enjoyable. I think that reading the book massively increased my investment in the game world and I definitely intend to use this technique in the future if a game is playing hard-ball with my motivation to play it.
Time can also be a factor in your enjoyment of a particular game. How long do you play in one session? Do you devour a game in one mammoth sitting? Or do you eek it out in small pieces, savouring every little micro-triumph or plot-arc in a more considered way? Do you play as and when you have a spare thirty minutes or do you wait until you have a large chunk of spare time to enjoy it? Does the depth of the game matter? Sorry to quick-fire lots of questions at you but they are all things worth considering.
Atmosphere and setting can also be just as important. Do you play in a cluttered room? Are there non-gamers around you interrupting all the time or noisy things playing in the background? How about considering the type of game and the time of day? It’s amazing how many people instinctively leave horror games to play once it is dark outside (or the daytime if they know it will freak them out). I also personally like to have a window open when roaming the wilds in Skyrim. It is a tiny thing to do but to see your character strolling along and have the smell of fresh air enter the room is just great. If you live in a city, you could switch Skyrim for Grand Theft Auto IV and enjoy a similar effect.
Sometimes though, the actions you might take are more to preserve sanity and let off steam, rather than to boost your gaming prowess. Other quirks or gaming rituals might have to be left unexplained; but maybe “because I can” is enough of a reason anyway. Not everything needs to be explained away.
As you can see, there are so many aspects of gaming that sometimes go unheeded. Gaming isn’t a cheap hobby. With hundreds of items of DLC and other business models all nibbling away at your funds, I think it makes a lot of sense to look for anything simple and free that you can do to suck every last morsel of enjoyment from your hobby. Sometimes, all it takes is a bit of awareness about your current habits to see what works and what is holding you back. Writing this article led me to pick up on a few rituals that I didn’t even know I did. I can now decide if they are worth doing or not in a conscious way, rather than letting routine dictate. Whether you decide to wear a parrot on your shoulder when you play Assassins Creed: Black Flag or play Cooking Mama while you are at the kitchen table, I hope this article and the experiences it features will all go some way to help you get more from your little silicon playmates.
GS Blogger: Casey Douglass