Finding Joy in Your Leisure
This might sound obvious, but… it can be easier to lose track of than it seems.
It can be easy to confuse an activity that you tend to enjoy, with always enjoying that activity no matter what you’re doing.
I’ve had to confront this concept several times lately. First up was in video gaming.
I wrote a while back that I was trying to decide on a game to play, because I was feeling the itch to play some video games and had not played much in a while. I had beaten Deus Ex Mankind Divided and then played a good amount of Mass Effect Andromeda but not much since. I toyed around with a lot of thoughts, but finally decided that my best option was probably just to power through Mass Effect Andromeda to beat it.
However, after playing a bit, I realized that I was really just going through the motions. System-wise, I’m so powerful every fight is just blasting through things. I’ve already turned up the difficulty once. By allowing you to learn all the abilities in the game, it lets you become just so good that the fights aren’t the point.
So then, the point is the relationships and conversation, right? But I’m continually amazed at how shallow some of the relationships have ended up, as in I just expect more conversation topics, more things to pop up. I started a relationship with Vetra, and it has been thoroughly bland. For a game with a ton in it, honestly it needs even more. At least my twin is finally awake…
I’ll get back to the game at some point and beat it, I imagine. Knowing that there won’t be any DLC – when the DLC in the previous Mass Effect games were some of the best parts, is disheartening. And knowing there won’t be a sequel. Those were the sorts of things that kept me going and kept me re-playing before, but now I just don’t know.
Basically, playing the game felt like it was me just playing to play a game at all, the action of which is not where I find joy. I don’t just play video games – I play video games I enjoy. Sometimes we have to push ourselves to get through parts we don’t like, things like that, but the game at its core needs to make you happy, or else why are you playing?
To answer the question what to play, I bought XCom 2 as the price dropped to a great spot. I’ve been loving it – they captured the feel of the first game, with some good improvements and changes both in system and thematically. It’s also a good one to pick up for a bit, do a mission, and put back down – fitting my life nicely at the moment.
The other thing I had been doing was some mobile gaming, in this case Magic the Gathering: Puzzle Quest. I don’t think I’ve fully written up a review, but it’s a pretty fun one. It’s free to play but they would love to sell you the in-game currencies, which you can use to buy both Planeswalkers – your avatar – or card packs. You also get cards slowly over time, and the currencies over time and from playing. There was definitely some learning curve; there are some elements that are automated and ordered for the computer to handle, so then you have to figure out control of the interface so that things play out like you intend. This is also the computer AI’s weakness in the game, as it tends to let things flow and there are several types of actions it does not take.
If I were to give a new player advice, it would be that there is a set of tutorial games in the Story section, not as the first option in those but by swiping to the side. Play through those, they not only teach you a lot of things (some of which I had learned or looked up online by the time I found the trainings, and some which I learned then), but they give you some free cards. If I were to give a second piece of advice, it’s join a coalition.
I actually started thinking of this post a while back when I was realizing that what I had reached a point of doing in this game was grinding dailies. There are Events which come up on a continual basis, you play games to gain rank, get currencies, get booster packs, and rank against other players for top rewards. The rewards are all great, but the continual basis of these coming up means you could just every day have a ton of this to play. I had fallen into playing every possible game in these Events (there’s a limiting factor of how many games you get to play, and which color of decks), and was staying up late playing the game like crazy, basically not realizing how much time I was putting into it.
Into grinding dailies.
I was getting close to cutting myself off completely, when the friend who got me into the game invited me to join a coalition he was joining. It’s a group of up to 20 players, who get a chat channel, and who have access to the occasional coalition events. These have great rewards, and you get rewards both from how you do and from how your coalition as a whole does. Some other events also include coalition points, but not all of them.
And this has helped me to cool down on my playing, to slow down. To not just play all of the dailies. I can focus instead on the events that include coalition play, but not stress myself, keep myself up at night, or just generally get distracted and play the game like crazy. Mobile games can do that, and it’s important to temper yourself. Many are also built to be a time filler that you can pour too much time into. I think I’ve found a good balance, by doing some stuff that’s fun and has a group feel to it, and to skipping some of the solo stuff that was just me feeding the game my time.
Because it’s not just about the act of playing, it’s about enjoying playing.
There are plenty of other things I could talk about. Quitting listening to podcasts that I don’t like, just because they’re on the topics I’m interested in. Really, I haven’t been reading enough lately to have an example here – though I will say, MtG Puzzle Quest is a decent game to play while listening to an audiobook!
But let’s just go with one other topic.
It’s been a bit since I’ve written a long form post here on the site, which maybe that fact alone ties back to my topic here. A lot of what I do, and have been doing since we moved to the new Comparative Geeks last year, is back-end work on the site: scheduling posts, putting podcasts together, these sorts of things. Those take up a lot of time where I could be creating instead, and they’re just plain not as fun as creating.
And it’s important to remember that something like this site is a side-project for us, not a job or a money maker. It’s a labor of love, and therefore it’s important that you love doing it. Holly and I have made it through by helping each other as we’ve waxed and waned in interest, we’ve kept the dream alive.
So while we’re about to take a long hiatus, I think that absence will do a lot to make the heart fonder. We haven’t taken a break this long before, but I think we’ll be back strong. We also have been planning on moving back to WordPress dot com, where there would be less behind the scenes management to worry about.
Remember that your leisure should be fun. I’ll try to do the same!