Picture the scene – you are in the midst of a game, and you have a number of options open to you. You consider every possible option and angle. You try to guess what your opponent would expect and whether you can subvert that. Then you realise that you frankly don’t care and just wish the whole experience would just end. Welcome to gaming burnout.
I write this having recent experienced this over the course of a game of X-Wing Miniatures Game. In fact it was two games, because I screwed up the first so badly that it was a foregone conclusion after three turns. But as I looked out across my various bits and pieces on the table I realised that I actually didn’t want to do this and I wanted to be anywhere else but here. It was nothing about my opponent or the game itself. It was an internal thing – it just didn’t feel right.
It’s not the first time that it has happened to me and it probably won’t be the last. It’s not anything to do with any deeper purpose and as far as I am aware, I am not prone to any forms of mental health issues that bring this about. It just happens and I need to take a step back.
For a long time I’ve tried to work out where this sensation comes from and I’ve looked towards a number of contributing factors. Sometimes it is a case of mental fatigue. My job can be fairly mentally taxing and if you contribute this with a complicated or deeply strategic game, it can just get a bit too much. Physical fatigue may also contribute. This can also be driven by a degree of frustration with my own performance – particularly if I am carrying out sub-par moves or actions with alarming regularity.
And the phrase ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ can also be a factor. We all know the eagerness that accompanies the purchase of something new and ripping off the shrink wrap to get at the contents. And then we play it, and play it, and play it … often to the extent that we feel we have seen everything and done everything, so that the game no longer holds any surprise for us. I can get a similar feeling when playing against the same opponent, or using the same faction/character/army. Nothing against that person or what I am using, but it just gets repetitive.
So I currently sit in the midst of what I like to call my ‘gaming funk’ periods and I need to consider how to extract myself. The solution is normally threefold.
Firstly I step back from it and try not to engage with anything gaming related for a few days just to clear my head. Taking my kids out. Doing stuff in the garden. Going for a run (although this can at times be a form of torture). Video games. Anything that means I can empty my mind and forget my worries about what I am doing
Secondly – I will try to work out what it is that has got me in this state (ie which of the reasons above has thrown me off kilter). Knowing the basis of your burnout is usually the best step towards curing it. Is it mental fatigue? Time to find something that lets me switch the over analytical part of my mind off. Have I been irritated by the variances of luck? Then I need to carry on something where I feel more in control.
Finally, I will start looking at varying my play experience. Sometimes it will involve going into the back of my gaming collection and seeing something that I haven’t played for a while. Or even finding a new system or game that may take my fancy. If it’s a wargame, I’ll change up the units I am using. Other games I might try out a different approach to the game – a new strategy or focus on how I play.
So how do I relate this to my current experience? Well, I’ve had a bit of time off (no gaming group for the last two weeks) and got outside doing some other activities for a change. I’ve seen that much of my frustration has come out of some very competitive games, so I’ll probably be getting one of my co-operative games off the shelf this weekend. I’ve even had a sort out and looked to move on a few games that I’ve had a bit too much of.
Time to get back into the saddle.