Game. Feed. Kill. Repeat.

gamefeed1Repetition is bad. Well, sometimes it’s not good. It’s probably okay when you think about it. Heck, sometimes it’s alright. Nah, never mind, repetition is bad. These days, I’m not even sure where I stand on the issue any more, but I know it’s going to ruin me sooner or later. I’d like to think I’ve never been one for “repetitive” games, where you’re charged with doing roughly the same task over and over again until the credits roll, and you feel a bit better about the amount of moolah depleted from your Scrooge McDuckian money bin, but I don’t think my track record would support my case. I’ve played and finished titles like Red Alert, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga and the first three Monkey Island games enough times that they’re approaching the point of losing all meaning – or they would be if I could ever imagine getting sick of the adventures of Threepwood et al.

The list of games I’ve finished (or at least tried to) is littered with RPGs, Real-Time Strategies and enough visits to that simian-based land-mass that I may as well look at renting property there; I’m already being recognised as “one of the locals”, anyway. Over the years I’ve thrown myself into countless Final Fantasy adventures, Advance Wars conflicts and situations that require the use of a rubber chicken with a pulley in a middle, and yet, were you to ask me, I’d tell you that I don’t like repetition at all. “To me”, I’d say, “there’s little else that takes the fun out of playing games more than just doing the same damn thing over and over again” right before entering yet another random battle that I need to grind through in order to stand a chance against the next boss.


Years ago, I began hitting a breaking point with it all; there were far too many games coming out, and I was still squandering my time on the same titles, over and over again. To this end, I set myself a challenge: I had to try to beat at least one game a month. For years, it worked perfectly; I’d pick my target – normally something I was already halfway through or something that didn’t look like much trouble – and plug away at it, relentlessly, until the objective was achieved, allowing me to play whatever I wanted for the rest of the month. Doing this, I managed to play far more than I’d have ever let myself otherwise, took plenty of risks covering things I’d never have given a chance, and felt my tastes becoming more well-rounded as a result.

No longer was I idly plugging away at the same catalogue of titles over and over again, because now I was visiting a plethora of different worlds, each with their own stories to tell and experiences to offer. It became easier to talk to other people about the latest games, as I found myself having to abort the conversation in fear of spoilers far less frequently than I had before. In some cases, I was the one having to shut up because I was chewing through everything at a faster rate than I’d ever have anticipated. The inevitable roadblocks began to form thanks to my increasingly-limited budget and time spent getting an education, but I was occasionally managing to clear them relatively error-free.

gamefeed3As with any self-imposed challenge, the goalposts were inevitably moved to make it easier for me, and what constituted either a “game” or “completed” became exactly as fuzzy as they needed to be to complete my goal. Instead of fully-fledged releases, I started counting episodic content and DLC, and even the occasional iPhone app. Meanwhile, I’d long started counting anything as finished the moments the credits rolled, even if it was something that couldn’t reasonably be considered completed at all. I don’t mean playing the credits from the main menu like so many titles offer now, however, I may scramble to achieve my goal but I’m not quite that desperate yet.

Recently, however, something snapped. I went from clearing at least two games in a good month to desperately clamouring for something to finish days before each self-imposed deadline. It’s not from a lack of something to play, seeing as I have enough titles stashed in my “to be finished” pile that I could conceivably buy nothing for the next year and still have way too much to tackle. Yet, no matter how much I try to throw myself at something in the vain hope that it’ll stick, it seldom can at the moment. Just looking at my to-play pile right now is filling me with a wretched apathy and a desperate need to go hide in a corner in the hope the games will clear themselves through some sort of impossible space magic.

gamefeed4With that sort of over-reaction occurring whenever I’m unlucky enough to look at my desktop, you probably wouldn’t be surprised if I told you I’ve been distancing myself from games entirely and this is some sort of extended reasoning as to why I’ve decided to quit, wipe my Steam library and burn all my remaining discs and consoles in a Viking funeral because it’s a slightly more dignified end than being traded for pennies at the nearest CEX.

To the disappointment of many, that’s not actually the case. Instead, the reason that I’ve barely been able to clear anything and my pile of shame is growing ever-stronger is because I’ve been unable to tear myself away from the same few games, long after the point I should have considered them completed. Despite trying repeatedly to disengage, I’ve spent more time than is adequately healthy tearing up the tracks on both F1 2013 and Mario Kart 8 to the point where the former has had at least eighty hours of gameplay racked up, according to the Steam timer. Some may laugh at how few hours that is in comparison to some of their more beloved titles, but considering that there’s barely anything else in my library that even approaches twenty hours played, eighty is practically an addiction for me. Whenever a spare couple of hours presents itself to me, I’ve found myself leaping into the cockpit and going for the podium as an almost-automatic response. Whenever I could start or continue something else, I’ve had to start consciously stopping myself from recreating the world’s greatest motorsport.

gamefeed5If I’ve successfully argued myself out of F1 2013, then the debate that follows – whether I should play Mario Kart 8 instead – is one that I often find myself losing. For those who know of my crippling love for the Mario Kart series, this one is much less of a shock. It’s also one that I’ve found myself less able to wean myself off of, thanks to my friends always wanting to play it the moment we can all spare a few minutes, until it’s the early hours of the morning and we’ve practically abolished the concept of a regular sleeping pattern.

As soon as the opportunity to play something new rears its head, I’ll take it, throw myself in for a couple of hours and then find a plausible excuse to go back to something I’ve already played for enough hours that it starts to feel silly. After all, I don’t like repetition, I keep saying to myself, so why am I doing exactly the same thing over and over? As much as I ask myself, I don’t know why, other than it’s the closest thing that feels like fun to me at the moment. The prospect of grinding for two hours, going up a couple of levels and taking on that boss in that RPG? Ew, no, not when I’ve got all these other games to play. Taking to the circuit and driving around so many times that I lose count? Sure, take my entire evening because I don’t need it anymore.


Somehow, I didn’t register how bad this was getting until, thanks to a Steam pricing error, I nabbed the complete version of Tropico 4 for the princely sum of 29p. I’d been a bit curious about the series since Lorna’s review of the fifth one, so I was hardly going to turn down the chance when the cost of entry was little more than the price of a Freddo. Little did I know, however, that this was going to be a gateway to yet another addiction, but one that made even less sense to me.

I fondly remember the days back in primary school where my friend Tom and I would spend hours after school playing Red Alert, and I’ve always enjoyed the occasional RTS or strategy title since, but Tropico 4 managed to pull me in and suck nearly fifty hours out of my life-span and I don’t even know if I actually enjoyed any of it at all. In fact, the only real times I can remember even having a smile on my face were moments when I took the first opportunity to mute the incessant music and awful voice-acting and start clearing through my horrendously large list of unplayed podcasts.

gamefeed7Come to think of it, I’m struggling to remember anything I actually enjoyed about playing Tropico 4. Sure, I was taken in by the premise, right up until I realised that all the unique draws weren’t regular happenstances, but things that would only happen if you were consciously, deliberately bad at the game. “Rig elections and rule with an iron fist!“, they cry, ignoring the fact that you have to purposefully tank running your latest island to the point that rigging the election is even a valid option, not just one you take to see what happens – which is basically nothing, by the way. For the most part, you don’t even have to hold elections if you don’t want to, and if someone attempts to assassinate you – a seemingly random event – then you can issue martial law and ban all elections without any consequence. The longer I played, the more it became increasingly odd to see something billed as an essential reason to play morph into an irrelevant footnote.

I slowly began to hate the way that all the construction workers would take an atomic age to build anything, slamming my desk when they’d get halfway through building one of twenty needs I wanted made urgently, only to stop and go do something else, leaving it half-finished for up to an in-game decade. I managed to have missions where something I paid for back in ’63 wouldn’t actually be constructed until the late eighties, by which time the only reason it got manufactured was because I had to spend even more money to utilise the ‘quick build’ option.

I despised seeing the same twenty pieces of advice pop up from various advisors, level after level, without a single bit of variation. If you’ve seen one message telling you the religious people on the island aren’t happy, then it becomes positively tedious by the time you reach the final levels and it’s still delivered to you verbatim. Have you ever considered that I don’t want to have to build six sodding cathedrals just so I can raise your happiness percentage by five percent? Have you considered that I’m allowing same-sex marriage and cultivating a rum empire because I can’t make money off your stupid, god-fearing rhetoric? What are you going to do, threaten anathema again despite it having absolutely no affect on anything else I do? Sod off and bother a dictator who gives a shit.


Looking back, it’s really hard to discern how I managed to spend nearly fifty hours on it. Is Tropico 4 a lemon? Almost certainly, but it’s not exactly like I was dying of scurvy when it came along. Was it necessary for me to play it all to the end? Not even a little. Did it help me? Definitely. Before playing it, I was heading into some sort of gaming rut, burnt out on too many stale ideas, poor stories and a culture that seems obsessed with destroying itself from the outside in. It was an ever-revolving circle that was chewing me up, and I needed something, anything different to take my mind away from it all. It may have been blandly repetitive to the point where the same islands started popping up again and again with no explanation whatsoever, but the repetition somehow managed to reset something in my head, like a bored IT technician finally decided to try turning it off and back on again.

I can’t promise it won’t happen again; repetition in my gaming palette is absolutely inevitable, but all I’ve learned is that, despite the myriad worlds that gaming offers, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional trip to the familiar anymore.

Last five articles by Edward



  1. Keegan says:

    I once decided that I wanted to hatch a shiny Numel in Pokemon ORAS. Cue my riding back and forth along the same stretch of road, pausing only to deposit the non shiny disappointments that kept hatching.

    I got it in the end, and it only took 600 eggs.

  2. Chris Toffer says:

    Interesting article Ed. I suppose sometimes you need to go back to what you know, rather than just constantly battling away at a pile of games so big and long that you can’t even see where it ends. I’m perfectly resigned to the fact that I’ll likely have to catch up in my retirement because there is no way I’m getting ahead of the curve in the next 25 years.

    Good article :)

Leave a Comment