Video Game Burnout: When gaming becomes a chore

I woke up on the morning of February 13th to a deluge of news about Majora’s Mask 3DS, the newest Legend of Zelda game to be released. This remake of a unique cult classic has had fans in an uproar for months. I myself had been planning to play and review it. That morning, though, I simply glanced through the mountain of articles, blog posts, and unboxing videos, yawned, shut my laptop, and went back to sleep.

It’s not that I’m not excited about Majora’s Mask. I really want to get back to writing regularly, too! I’ve missed putting stuff up here.

It’s just … you know how the New Year can lead off to a bad start for some people? Well, the first couple months of 2015 for me have been the equivalent of getting mugged in a dark alleyway and then, after your phone and wallet have been stolen, getting hit repeatedly in the stomach with a baseball bat. Then they kick your puppy in the face for good measure and leave you to wonder whether you should find the hospital or the vet first.

What I’m trying to say is that I need a new job. Sorry, that got away from me a little.

“But wait, Lynn!” says my hypothetical reader who is somehow interested in what I’m doing. “You have all the time in the world to play video games now. Why not keep playing them, write about them to cheer yourself up, and kill two birds with one stone?”

It’s true that this seems like the perfect time to drown myself in my controller. But I’m not. For the past few months, I’ve barely been playing anything at all.

I take playing video games pretty seriously. It’s just a hobby, yes, but it’s one that I find important. So rather than games being an escape for me, I see them more as challenges and experiences that help enrich my life. It’s no secret that my favorite types of games are big, sprawling, character-and-plot-heavy roleplaying games. I’m interested in both how the game plays and how it tells its story.

Someday, Dragon Age. Someday. (Wikipedia)

The problem with treating video games like this is that when my life starts to suck, like it is right now, I feel like I can’t play my games as well as I “should” be doing. That leads to stress on top of stress, the challenges I was doing for fun seem impossible, and I eventually just stop playing. Sometimes for weeks, or even months.

This is what I call game burnout, and it’s not fun at all.

I’ve been following news of new and upcoming releases with a mixture of longing and frustration. Majora’s Mask, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Persona Q, Kingdom Hearts 2.5 … it’s simply not possible for me to get them right now. I’m looking for a job, so I don’t have time to play, and feel guilty when I do. I don’t have the money to get everything I want (why did I decide to pick up such an expensive hobby?). And now my motivation is gone too, because I have so many other games to finish.

Let me give you an idea of what I’ve been going through. Here is a photo of my entire video game collection, not including digital-only games, games I don’t have cases for, and the handful of games I’ve lent out to friends.

Photo by Lynn Bachman

And here are all the games I have yet to complete. Again, not including my digital-only stuff.

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Photo by Lynn Bachman

If you’re not a gamer, you might not understand what this photo actually means. Let me explain. Do you see Persona 4 on the bottom right there? That game takes 70 hours to complete at least if you’re just going for the Normal Ending. All those Tales of games clock in at around 50-60 hours each if you’re just following the main story. And don’t even get me started on Xenosaga.

Are you starting to get the picture?

These games take so long to complete that they become everything you do. They become your life. And then people expect you to buy every new game that comes out and just add to that backlog even more?

I’m just glad I don’t game professionally. (

When you start stressing out about a hobby you do for fun, it isn’t fun anymore. And that’s why I’ve stopped playing. I feel overwhelmed.

Gamers, please don’t get caught in this mindset. I’ve been pushing my way through this mental block for the past couple weeks. These are times when I have to stop and remind myself what’s really important. These are just games. I’m not in some race to play as many as I can. I am not “behind” on new releases. It’s okay if I don’t do everything.

When I remember that video games are a fun activity, not a hobby or a way of life, I start playing again. And ironically, when I take it less seriously, I end up playing more.

When video game burnout hits you, it can take quite a while to ride it out. So here’s my advice: stop, take a deep breath, and remember that what you do doesn’t define you. It’s okay to focus on other things. Like finding a job.

I should really get around to doing that — oh hey, Assassin’s Creed IV! Yay, I’m a pirate!

2 thoughts on “Video Game Burnout: When gaming becomes a chore

  • February 25, 2015 at 4:55 AM

    Whoa, whoa, i meant “overdose” on a video game. You know, Gamer’s Fatigue.

  • February 25, 2015 at 4:54 AM

    This was a very good read, and a bit close to me. I’m in the same boat. I’m looking for a job and having terrible luck doing so and all i have with my games. I’m playing Borderlands 2 myself, but it’s such a huge game filled to the brim with content. It’s kinda hard not to feel guilty when you know you should be doing something…but don’t have to means. I don’t know if this happens to you or anyone else, but sometimes when i “overdose” i just feel like playing a different game altogether. It’s so maddening. Especially when i have so many games on my backlog…Bioshock Infinite, The Assassin’s Creed series, Uncharted series, Persona series…the list is longer than you know.

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