Twenty-five years ago, I was enjoying endless matches of Super Mario Kart with my brother. The game launched at the beginning of September 1992, but the cartridge was nestled in the Super NES slot until the following March when Star Fox launched. Mortal Kombat sucked up my quarters at the arcade, I got Sonic the Hedgehog 2 that Christmas for my Sega Genesis, and I may have rented Mega Man 5 a couple of times, but that was it for about seven months. Yet, I was completely satisfied with my small handful of games. They were fun, very replayable, and there was no pressure to stow them away.
Fast-forward to now, going into October, and this month alone we have a monster lineup. Forza Motorsport 7, Gran Turismo Sport, Middle-earth: Shadow of War, Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, Fire Emblem Warriors, Super Mario Odyssey, and about half a dozen other big titles I didn’t even mention yet are all being released. Isn’t this overkill? I could easily dump a hundred hours into each of these games.
So faced with this conundrum, gamers have a few options. They could snag just their top choice, spending as many hours as possible with it. They could split their time between a couple games. Or they could wait until later, when the prices drop or we have a slow release month. However, each of these scenarios carries with it the same inevitability; something is going to get left behind. Unless you’re rich, don’t have to work or go to school, and sleep is optional, there simply aren’t enough hours to fully savor a long-awaited release before the next one on your list hits stores. And the problem with putting a game on the backburner is that it quickly loses its appeal. The hype fades after everyone else has already dumped a ton of hours into a game, bragged about it to your face and on social media, and stripped away its mystique. Suddenly the game isn’t as enticing, and you’re moving on to the next release before even cracking open the case.
With today’s public pummeling of Let’s Play videos, livestreams, and forums, every tidbit that made a game special for months back before the turn of the millennium is now extracted within a few weeks at most. Look at The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild, arguably the front-runner for the Game of the Year award. When it released, it was all anybody talked about for nearly a month. Is anybody still talking about it today? There are a few aftershocks of hype and vigor as DLC rolls around, but otherwise it is yesterday’s news.
So what’s happened? Why are good games tossed aside before that new game smell has even wafted away? There are two reasons. First, the industry is just bursting with developers and capitalism. It’s a potentially lucrative environment for publishers and an accessible medium for creative, program savvy minds. That means more games are being made, and gamers have more options, more often. This is not a problem really, because having a diverse selection of titles to pluck off of shelves means everyone is satisfied. It is the length of that satisfaction that has become an endangered species in today’s social jungle. We live in a world where information is at our fingertips every second, it is gorged on instantly, and we are compelled to hunt for the next savory morsel, whether through our own lust, the constant pummeling of media, or both. It’s the nature of the world we live in, and it’s not going to change.
Of course this is a general observation of a growing trend. If you have resisted this pressure and have been wholly satisfied with just a couple of games released this year, then I applaud your forbearance. Let us know what your secret is in the comments below, and how you have managed to tune out the crescendoing noise of a ravenous world.