I Played A Favorite Game Long Enough to Start Hating It. This Sucks.


#1

Postscript is Cameron Kunzelman's weekly column about endings, apocalypses, deaths, bosses, and all sorts of other finalities.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/ywqx3y/baldurs-gate-played-too-much-favorite-game

#2

I feel like this is a particular struggle with Let’s Play as a genre. If you want to do a deep-dive serious Let’s Play, the expected time versus the ‘real’ time is a vast gulf that is hard to bridge. Even the most realistic assumption goes awry and your willpower to, week-in week-out, keep churning out content can be seriously draining.

That said, I have absolutely had this with games. Less so now, but my experience with Pokémon was filling my glass to the point where, now, my engagement with it has to be casual and focused on the game itself in order to enjoy it. I’ve spent too much time to engage with it on a fun serious level. There was a point where I took the franchise I’d been playing for 13-15 years and quit because I had gotten so sick of it.


#3

I was kind of wondering if an article like this was forthcoming after the last couple of M&M episodes. Please know that the hundreds of hours were, at least, appreciated on my end.

I think a hidden issue with BG in particular might be that these games weren’t really designed to be played in one continuous mass - rather, the release schedule, the realities of purchasing a full-priced computer game, &c. would impose some multi-month/multi-year breaks on the player’s end, rather than the couple of weeks between titles one might have revisiting them these days. Does that stave off burnout? Probably.

Though to argue against myself, that’s not entirely all of it, because when I played I was definitely feeling the drag from BG2 before Shadows of Amn proper was over just owing to the sheer amount of content. If I had forced the issue, say because of a podcast schedule, I could well have ended up hating it. Instead I took a month off at a chapter break, came back, checked my journal, and then finished it.

So I suppose where I’m coming from is that if we take both of these things into consideration - the lack of time off, and the sheer amount of stuff - together with all of the interesting arguments and weird tidbits that made me love M&M, I think this would probably kill anybody’s interest in any video game. Hell, I can’t imagine anything being built up to such an extent that it could withstand all of that, regardless of medium.


#4

I don’t have any actually valuable input and this is a selfish thing to take from an article like this, but I’m at least a little glad to be vindicated on my dislike of Baldur’s Gate 2 (haven’t played 1.) I genuinely felt like I must have been mistaken that I liked RPGs when I began to realize I didn’t like that game very much at all. After all, Baldur’s Gate 2 is The One. It’s the iconic, genre-defining, best-selling, supposedly most well-rounded on the axis of story, roleplaying, and combat of all the Infinity Engine games and their successors. I might like Fallout 1 & 2, I might find a lot to love in Planescape: Torment, even if it wasn’t in the end what people had built it up to be, for me, and I might have really enjoyed Arcanum in spite of its bumbling politics, which is something that’s normally hard for me to do. But if I didn’t like The One, I just felt like I must have been mistaken.

Vioncia and Yoshimo are rad tho.

EDIT: More constructively, I don’t know that I’ve played any games I loved so much that I started to hate them. Maybe WoW, but for me the rule has been the other way around. With New Vegas and Morrowind, the more I played them the more I found to love, and I have around 1000 hours in NV across PC and console, and 500-some in Morrowind. However, there are some games that I bounced between liking decently and just feeling okay about that through playing them extensively I came to really dislike them. For Skyrim (which I played 2 years before touching Morrowind,) I learned in detail why I really really really don’t like it’s take on that genre of open-world RPGs, and I can pick apart every aspect of the design of that game and tell you why I don’t like it or why I even think it’s just outright bad. I had only that game to play for 8 months; it taught me a lot about what I do like, at least.

With Dark Souls, I can’t fault the design. In fact everything pointed to it being a game I should love, but I just never got the satisfaction out of it other’s did. When I was new and bad at the game I was mostly just mildly annoyed and occasionally very frustrated, when I Got Gud, it just started to bore me, and no amount of rules to spice up the gameplay or make the narrative carry more weight could salvage it for me.


#5

I have also had this exact issue with Baldur’s Gate, and I’m not even doing a LP! By the end of BG2 it seems that every other combat encounter has an enemy mage that casts time stop and then casts every single one of their spells at you, because they don’t have to be concerned about saving those disintegrates and fireballs for future encounters. This one fight with the player is literally what they were made for, so they cast everything. This effectively makes every spellcaster under the control of the game more powerful than any of your spellcasters if you’re being any sort of cautious, which you almost always have to be. This isn’t a problem unique to Baldur’s Gate 2 by any means, but it just feels so excessive toward the end of that game. It makes combat exhausting.

From my personal experience of playing D&D, things always seem to fall apart when the characters who started at level 1 are now at the level where they start fighting across the plains and fighting gods and such. The lower levels feel much more grounded in the “street” (hamlet?) level, where the character’s heroic deeds are solving the problems of average folks (even if those problems are orc raids). It’s like Justice League stories where they send Batman out into space. Batman is great, but he absolutely doesn’t belong in space. The games I played in or ran always petered out once the characters reached that spot. It could just be the tastes of myself and the people I’ve played with, or it could just be the sheer amount of time spent with those characters and wanting someone new.


#6

I feel like a huge part of this phenomenon can be attributed to, as vague as it is, “game feel”. Less in the usual controls-centric way (though certainly this, because boy howdy i would also want to throw a cRPG out the fucking window if i had to anticipate their combat on the regular) and more in how a game weaves its whole flawed tapestry.

Saints Row 2 is a game I ended up feeling this for this for in my mid-teenage years. I bought into all that bunk about how it was the best open-world game because it was Fun™, but my god, I can still feel the discomfort in my soul i developed with the very fabric of that game. Not even in terms of my modern perspective on games, i know from a distance that that whole vein of games just stinks and SR2’s got a buncha gross shit in it, but I mean, long before my social consciousness grew, i became disillusioned with everything about how that game felt to play and look at.

The lighting was so repulsively flat even as it cast dynamic shadow most other games couldn’t, the world design was so devoid of character, the missions (for all their gimmicks) felt flat and I never, ever wanted to experience them, the characters were unrelatable creeps even as their plastic husks insisted on comradery. The pure act of rampaging through the streets felt terrible, i became so done with the game that I still hate thinking about the single unaltered “flump” sound characters make then they’re hit by a car. All the things i felt i was supposed to be rooting for as “this is how you do open world missions!” just… didn’t play at all.

Meanwhile, I’ve played, >100 hours of Heat Signature in spontaneous chunks over the past few months, and even through it’s Flash-like aesthetics and flaws with its sparse theming, I’ve grown nothing but fonder of its design. Yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if i someday couldn’t tolerate its rote mechanical focus either, especially if digging in on a scheduled basis for obligation and/or analysis,. Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt, but it makes you dig deep into the soul of whatever the subject/object of familiarity is, and sometimes it takes dozens or hundreds of hours to find that soul wanting.


#7

You know, this article touches on something fundamental that might be worth exploring. The idea that you “beat” the game.

It’s something I’ve noticed quite a lot in the last few years, since starting to listen to more podcasts. Until I started talking about games to people in the US, I’d never even thought of it as “beating” a game. I don’t know if it’s an Aussie thing or what, but apart from “clocking” a game, the only term I’ve ever heard or used was “finished” when it came to the end of a game (whether that was getting to the end of the story or just being done with it.)

I get that “beating” probably comes from the idea that games typically are challenges to overcome, but I wonder if there’s more to it than that, from a psychological perspective. To me, “finished” feels more like coming at the game on its terms, engaging with it and experiencing it for what it is; “beating” sounds like the game is an adversary that needs to be defeated or conquered.

I wonder how much our differing approaches affect how we ultimately experience and feel about a game, even if it’s on a subliminal level.


#8

I’m replaying BGII right now for the millionth time.
At this point I just play the game on its easy difficulty. I honestly don’t understand 2nd edition rules well enough to really know how the play the game. I just start combat, pause, tell people to cast some spells or hit people, and see what happens. Save scumming is usually what happens.


#9

This is very curious, because two games which I played so much that I know them like the back of my hand are some of Might and Magic games (specially II and World of Xeen) and Shining Force II but this huge knowledge of them never bothered me or diminished my enjoyment out of them even with multiple replays.

That said, yeah, I had the same reaction with Baldur´s Gate, specially the second game, I loved them much as anybody else, but when I tried play them again, I couldn´t do it - I managed to finish again the first game, but I give up on the second game, which I found myself not enjoying it, the breaking point was that side quest with the dungeon with the small beholders (the one which they keep casting a paralyze spell over and over and you need it to dispel it over and over again).

I still could not put a finger on the why this happened this time - I know the easiest thing is just blame the rule system, and to be fair, by time Baldur´s Gate as around, AD&D 2 rule version was as it end begin over stretched with optional rules and early 3 edition rules add on. But, on the other hand, I played the Pool of Radiance and Dark Sun games form SSI or even later games such as Birthright, which also use AD&D rules in very literal version (in some cases not even the 2 edition rules, but the first edition), and this issue never happened.

My only guess is that Baldur´s Gate, specially the second game, might require huge amounts of pre-planning even before you play, due things like your main class* mostly like de decided depend of party composition (which require you to know them before hand), which also mean you need to keep in mind the alignment system and possible party member incompatibility and due the second game higher level and more difficult encounters mean you need a much more efficient party, which result, again you at least aware of certain parts. Now if you are, or once you are, aware of all of this is maybe possible to play in a such optimal way, but also mean you know things you can´t to or mostly like not going to see.

LaserJesus just commented on mages and yeah, specially in BG II, they can become really annoying, my memories are of every mage having all protection spell up, which mean that you need to memorize tons of dispel spell of different kind every time.

A major difference I think exist between older SSI AD&D games and BG, is that first ones, where almost too happy to hand you experience or rewards, while some games did have a maximum level, you mostly like to reach before middle of the game or before, same as rewards, this often get a bit out of control, in Dark Sun you might be swimming in magic weapons per example, while the Pool of Radiance games had often to come with a excuse every game for you party losing all stuff they had. But this meant that was easier to blast the game. BG and other games after I think are a lot modeled on the idea of “handing XP or magic stuff is bad” so they had this much slower pace, which might result in a much slower pace for the game itself.

  • Don´t forget you need to know which weapons are more available before spending weapon proficiency skill points or begin stuck with a weapon which almost don´t exist in game. This is something I kind became aware listing to the System Mastery podcast, where I think once they comment on how this rule made fighters kind very limited. Older CRPGs based in AD&D never implement this rule, so you never need to worry if you going to find the weapon which you did specialize or not.

#10

I have very fond memories of BG 1 & 2 but yeah I haven’t touched them in almost 2 decades -I’m almost afraid to revisit them. There are probably things in there that do not hold up super well by modern standards. At the time though, I didn’t have a whole lot to compare it against. M&M/Ultima/Wizardry/goldbox games were brutally difficult and required rote notetaking and time dedication to learn the systems in order to get anywhere (I bounced off of them very quickly). BG on the other hand felt like it was designed to be an introduction to fantasy cRPGs for casual gamers like myself who weren’t very familiar with the genre or couldn’t be bothered to memorize things.


#11

When you go into an experience looking to pull it apart and get into analysis of mechanics, there’s always a huge chance that you’ll end up hating it even if you went into the analysis bit because you love it so much. It’s one of the perils of analysis, regrettably.

I grew up with Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale, and the nostalgia of that experience now is enough for me to gloss over the failings of the game these days when I decide to pick them up again. Of course, I also never beat any of them (a buddy of mine and I did a sort of joint playthrough of BG1 and 2, which is a fancy way of saying he played it while I watched and shouted advice). I picked up the enhanced editions (and will probably continue to pick up the enhanced editions as they release) because I enjoy that sort of game, but I’m under no illusions that I’ll finish any of them. Hell, I’ve had no fewer than five attempts at Planescape Torment in my life (the perils of putting a PC together out of spare parts as a kid is that it involves a lot of breaking and reformatting and breaking and reformatting) and only just now settled into a proper playthrough which, now that I think of it, I haven’t touched in probably a year.

This tends to be how I play games, of course - and oddly enough the one time I decided to start streaming a complete playthrough of a game, I started resenting having to spend time with it on a schedule, which means that I haven’t touched a Mass Effect game in ages. Streaming a game can be fun, but in my experience it also risks making you feel like you have to be entertaining when you might just want to sit and poke around the world instead, and that can also make you start hating a beloved game.