I Am A Videogame Sampler

There is a television. It has videogames on it. My hands are holding a controller and I am staring at the television. It might be dark in the room. My cat is rolling around on her back next to me.

The videogame wants me to do something. Kill some dudes. Build something, defend someone, collect stuff. Sometimes the videogame wants me to find my own thing to do, but that’s still a thing.

If I’m lucky I can occasionally do these things for very long periods of time. At my most fortuitous I can go forego sleep and nutrition and fall into a videogame, forgetting the parade of shit that we deal with in our daily lives. On my most unlucky of days videogames feel exactly like that parade of shit.

I finish a thing and then the game asks me to do another thing. It’s pretty much exactly like the last thing but a little different.

I turn off the videogame.


I really want to like videogames, but most of the time I only really like the first hour of a videogame, when things are new and novel.  Before the game keeps asking me to do things over and over and over. I just can’t care about that stuff for very long – story or art or design be damned.

My name is Adam Harshberger and I am a videogame sampler.

What does the videogame life of a videogame sampler look like? 10 hours of Borderlands 2 over like 3 weeks, most of which spent miserably bored. One slightly confused and very excited hour of FTL, followed by about 4 more being very bored. Nine extremely fucking painful hours of Arkham City, prefaced by about 45 minutes where it felt good to be Batman. A shit ton of Xenoblade: Chronicles, followed by complete and utter repulsion at the thought of picking that game back up. Showing the first couple levels of Bit.Trip.Runner to friends of varying levels of intoxication, but never ever wanting to play anything beyond them, beyond the part where the glee wears off. Something like 2 hours of Diablo 3. Half an hour of Civilization 5.

I’m level 14 on Guild Wars 2 and I think it’s a great game. But I can see every inch of the leveling curve in front of me – not just the time investment but the way that time would be spent – and it isn’t anything that interests me at all. But I know it’s good in the same way I know something like Mozart is good. To respect something critically isn’t the same as to give a shit about it.

I don’t know what I want from a videogame, but I’ll pick them up incessantly trying to find it. Sometimes I find it for an hour, sometimes twenty. The fact that I played Skyrim for 40 hours boggles my fucking mind. I almost always lose it before I finish a game or play the game for a large amount of time.

Part of me would like to pretend I’m relentlessly hunting depth, or beauty: a reflection of my life in videogame form. I’m not. It’s just the vast majority of videogames that get made – indie or not – don’t click with me. It’s not that I think they’re bad games; I just don’t care about them. Not enough for me to give them the time that others do, at least.

I don’t know if that’s something I need to apologize for or not.

  • http://twitter.com/edrock Ed Rock

    My sentiments exactly.

    What I’m trying to find is whatever it is that I lost.

    When I was younger, I must have played 100+ hours of D2. Now with D3, I made it to Nightmare and it’s just not the same.

    I played WoW to the point where I needed to put it away before it started to effect my real life. Hell, I had to do that several times, as if it was an addiction. Now with Gw2, I find myself playing it in small sprints. An hour here, maybe 2 hours there.

    I think the more you start to realize the value of your time, the harder it is to become fully immersed.

    Hopefully we are able to find that game eventually.

  • Michael J

    Personally, I spend less time on games than ever, but I dont consider this a bad thing. At all!!

    In fact, I enjoy gaming more than ever and play more different types of games than ever. I eventually just learned that 6 hours+ marathons are unhealthy and a waste of life… If you continue to fail to find games interesting, then you should either stop playing games or reconsider what it is that you liked about some games in the first place… Maybe you’re playing the wrong genres?

  • saneman

    Same cage, different perch.

  • Dean

    I just call it research and keep on truckin’… But I feel your pain.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anthony.bell Anthony Bell

    I’m curious what the author’s feelings were when it came to games that have been lauded for their unique approach to gameplay (Heavy Rain) or their constant changing of pace (Portal 2). I agree whole-heartedly that far too many games require you to do the same thing hundreds of times over to finally get to a (maybe) satisfying ending, however there are a select few games known for their fresh approach.