Playing Games and the Compulsion to Write

CW: Discussion of OCD

Does anyone here ever feel like you have to write about a game that you played or share it with people? I write articles from time to time and whenever I play something I like my mind is always proccupied with what I will write. I struggle with legit OCD, and it’s got that same feeling.

It’s the sort of thing where as much as I just want to sink in and enjoy it I constantly feel a sense of obligation to share it and write about it. Lately I’ve been playing Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor, and it’s awesome, but as much as I try and get lost in it my mind is constantly trying to figure out my takes. Does anyone else feel this way from time to time? And, more importantly, how do you handle it?

Yeah all the time. I don’t have OCD but I am in the process of getting a diagnosis for ADD and I always have about 5-10 different things I want to write at once. It’s weird because there are some games where I have an actual take and really focus on refining that as I play, and then there are game I play just to occupy my time. I’ve only really started properly writing things out since quarantine started, and what’s worked for me is being able to switch between different pieces, and listening/reading other takes on the same game.

The switching is just to maintain momentum, I find that if I spend too long doing one thing I’ll lose focus and end up doing other stuff. But if I have two or three different things I’m working on at once, I can just jump to something else when I feel my attention slipping and stay in that writing mindset.

As for the reading other takes, it really just helps to see what other people think and in what ways you agree or disagree, and whether you have a particularly interesting idea that’s worth sharing. Personally I’ve read and listened to a lot of pieces on Disco Elysium, partly because I felt none of them ever went deep enough into explaining the relationship between Harry and Dora as a political metaphor given form by Harry’s weird semi-mystical relationship to Revachol. It also helps that if I find a piece that’s making the same argument that I have in my head I can just mentally bin that idea because it doesn’t need to be repeated and move on.

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One of the things I look forward to most in games is when it gets near the end of the year and I look at my list of games I played, to put together a GOTY list. Writing those up is always fun because I get to think on what stuck with me. Sometimes with games I really like or really hate, if they are on Steam, i’ll write up a review to consolidate my feelings on them. Since I also have a terrible memory it helps to get my thoughts down in the moment so later on I can look at it and remember exactly what it was about them that caused those feelings. If I want to know what great games I played in 2017 I can just head to my Giant Bomb profile and see the list right there.

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A few years ago I felt like I had to write 1000 words about every movie I saw. I was putting in like 70 reviews a year. And let me tell you, very few things are actually interesting enough to justify 1000 words.

I’m glad any time I see something really bland like The Old Guard and don’t have to try to have a “take” on it.

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I don’t think I have OCD so it’s likely not coming from the same place, but most of the pieces I write for my own site (i.e. for fun) do kinda feel like that, in that they take shape 24-36 hours after I finish a game and just can’t resist talking about it. It does feel like the thoughts are kind of bubbling up from this mental well and if I don’t put them on a page somewhere, they’ll overwhelm me. And the feeling of actually having them out there, coming up for air after a few hours to see 2000 words that weren’t there before, is really really satisfying. Like — I played the 2018 Spider-Man game for the first time a few weeks ago and ended up writing a huge thing about its attitude towards prisons and policing, and I felt like I was going to explode if I didn’t get those thoughts onto a page.

But it’s kinda random when I’ll actually get that feeling. There are a lot of games I truly loved that never quite pulled that level of feeling from me, and end up more in a “man I should write about this eventually” spot in my brain. (Like Death Stranding and Control have kinda permanently been in that spot since last year.) Which might be a better place to be, in truth? Because taking more time and not depending so much on that momentary inspiration usually results in better actual writing in the end.

I absolutely get the urge to write about what I’m playing, and usually I use social media as the outlet for that. It’s not great, because I only really put out the earliest forms of my thoughts out into ephemeral media. I’d write more formally, but honestly, games don’t need another white person taking up space, and nothing I have to say is really of any value in the long run.

You’re right, the majority of formal paid writing positions are held by white men and we need more diverse voices in the industry. But using that as a reason as to why you shouldn’t do longer forms of writing on a personal blog as a form of expression and enjoyment for yourself does not sit well with me.

Maybe someone else can better articulate what I’m trying to get at but I just feel that this is a bad argument for why you shouldn’t do something you enjoy as a hobby.

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Gonna take a stab at it, but to be clear none of this is judgment on @Hache’s position. More just thoughts I’ve had as a white guy who writes things, and, via my educational choices, is more or less locking myself into a life of doing so professionally.

First, it’s an individual solution to a systemic problem. If the issue is opportunities not being offered to people of color in these spaces, individual white people abnegating won’t solve that. It probably just amplifies the voices of white people who are less aware and less likely to use their positions to elevate other perspectives and ideas.

Second, kind of off of that, the kinds of people who truly have nothing interesting to say are never going to come to that conclusion. So it strikes me as almost self-defeating in that way.

Third, writing — especially blogging — is not a zero sum game. Someone reading a piece by one person and being intrigued by that perspective might then seek out more. That may not hold up in certain professional contexts (like freelancing for major outlets, where there’s limited funding), but I think it’s broadly true of how people interact with writing and criticism.

Fourth, much more broadly, that logic itself kinda treats white people as a monolith without room for things like class, neurodivergence, or other forms of identity that might also be underrepresented in certain spaces.

In the end I don’t really know, but that’s where a couple of years of thinking about this has brought me. Might be a bit wrong. Might be very wrong. In the end, people should make decisions that feel right to them.

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I wouldn’t say that I have a compulsion to write about games, but I do have a strong genuine desire to write about them seriously. I only wish that desire wasn’t constantly beaten out by feelings of inadequacy, tbh.

So it feels like because I said I, a white person (not a guy), does not want to add another white voice to a field oversaturated with white voices, that you are taking it to mean I was also saying other white people should also not contribute in that space… and that’s not what I said?

I’m depressed and full of self-loathing. I’ll use whatever excuse I want to keep from doing something that I love, thank-you very much.

My usual approach to this feeling is to write a draft and never post it anywhere. No one else will ever see my folder full of poorly-written bad opinions.

I don’t know if this will help, but I find it useful to re-frame this sort of mental process not as a distracting focus on trying to find something smart to say about a game, but as an attempt to come to a deeper understanding of the game. In my opinion that sort of study at a distance doesn’t need to be incompatible with directly taking pleasure from a game (or other kinds of media/art) or even getting lost in it in a way.

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As someone with nothing interesting to say who also happens to be technically White, cis, technically het, and male, I beg to differ.

Me ranting because this thread came unfortunately too close to my recent thoughts that I should try writing about games only to self-loathing my way isn't saying it's a dumb idea.

Man, I wish I had a compulsion to write that went further than “I would like to write about video games” and “Compared to my current existence, it’d be pretty great to be paid to write about video games.” Those thoughts of course have just withered for over a decade from being suffocated by “I don’t have any ideas to write about,” “writing’s too hard so I don’t enjoy it even if I wish I did,” “I still don’t know how to write a review, let alone a timely and thought provoking take that’ll make me some money,” “wait, was I supposed to go to grad school to write media critique? BA in English, not enough? But I hated and have confirmed that I continue to hate school. If I can’t even write a hot take then how the Hell would I write a thesis.” and “Why challenge myself? It’ll be easier to just get a mundane job.”

It has not been.

Anyway, thanks, this thread. You picked the best time to go along with my COVID thoughts of “maybe with all this extra time I have, I could finally put together some writing on video games even to throw out for exposure (ignoring that I lack the minimum exposure for what I put out to get any exposure). There’s something in going through a whole battle pass of Modern Warfare and definitely concluding that battle passes suck and exploiting FOMO is evil, right?” There is not. I’d have to cover more, build up a thesis, and do research into FOMO that I don’t want to if I want anything more than an unread tweet reading “I mentally taxed myself excruciatingly on a game I’m bad at to get to play as the subpar engine rendered character model of the game’s cute himbo. Battle passes are awful. I already uninstalled the game b/c burnout and b/c nothing could be worth what I put myself through there.”

I have still never grown past the 15 year old intimidated by having to write something 500 words or more.

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I would like to apologise if it came across as misgendering. You have your profile pronouns set to he/him so I assumed that is how you identify. That is my bad and I’ll own that mistake.

I don’t agree with your personal assessment that you shouldn’t make long form content because I’ve seen your takes here on the forum and in general I think they’re good but I’m also not going to sit here and tell you how to feel because I’ve been there and that’s a shitty thing to do to someone who has depression.

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I feel this thread a lot, especially what @GibdoInferno and @diglett wrote.

I like writing mostly just to organize thoughts and clear space in my head. It comes and goes, but I enjoy the process. I don’t feel much urge to share most of it though, and a lot of that is tied to the issues of leaving a digital footprint behind and just… the perils of Having An Opinion on the internet.

I hope people aren’t falling too much into a bad mindset of feeling like we need to be “productive” with our free time, though. It’s something I think a lot of us have experienced, especially now. Posting thoughts on this forum should be just as good an outlet as an essay.

Yeah, just wanted to say again that I wasn’t trying to direct those thoughts at this thread as much as respond to something I’d heard people say (and had people suggest to me) a lot in various places online/in some academic environments I’ve been in. Was considering just deleting my comment from earlier today but if some people are finding it useful I guess I’ll leave it for now.

@Hache ditto what Waz said. I edited any assumption about your gender out of my comment. Apologies.

Did want to say something here, again not in reference to anything else you’re saying @Blackie62 but just re: exposure in general. I made a blog for basically that purpose a few years ago — just getting thoughts out — and after a year or two of writing things for it, it it started to get… not significant traffic in the sense of a professional mag or something like that, but enough search engine pings that I’d usually get a few likes and occasional comments from random people who’d found it by searching “Hollow Knight story” or something like that. SEO stuff is kind of a black box to me and I don’t know how it happened, but it gets a few unique visitors daily via searches (some of whom may be bots of course) and around ~100 or so a month, just as a basic free unmonetized Wordpress site. Which is to say that exposure on the internet is really fucking weird sometimes and makes me question if any of it is real anyway.

Beyond that… idk, it feels like what you’re saying is almost what I meant? There are a lot of people who would just power through an idea like that without even the thought that they could/should do research, or organize their thoughts, or say something provoking, etc. Like people who can’t self-reflect on whether or not an idea is worthwhile, and will instead just put it out anyway.

But again, I may be entirely wrong. Only thing I really know is that I come to this forum every day because y’all are the most thoughtful and interesting congregation of people I’ve basically ever found on the internet — a race that’s not particularly close either — and I’m at least one person who’s genuinely interested in what pretty much everyone here has to say. Will just leave it at that.

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I feel this thread hard. I also have OCD that works it’s way into my gaming time in tons of insidious ways including the desire to write about them. I’ve especially felt this recently while working through the itch bundle where I feel like I’m constantly removed from the experience by thinking ‘what will my take be here?’ For me though that often translates to pacing around my apartment thinking up article and never writing them, or starting and never finishing. Even on this forum I have posts started in a bunch of threads that I’ve given up on part way through.

I sadly don’t have much to add aside from damn I feel it, but I appreciate the advice others have offered here

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Aw crap, that’s totally my bad! I forgot about the pronouns in the user profile, which I registered a while ago.

I used to write about games. Never got paid for it, but there was a time when I was associated with a site that got press access to industry events. It was actually through this access that I made the connections which inspired me to get into making games, which I initially found a lot more rewarding.

Part of why I don’t write anymore is that it can be super-crushing to do work I’m proud of, only for it to go unnoticed. I don’t have anywhere of my own to host my writing (and yeah, I know it’s almost trivial to find a space, but still), and I’ve had a bad time trying to pitch to sites that would pay for my work. In my current, very raw state of mind, I can’t really handle doing work that doesn’t get some sort of external validation.

I still think the industry needs more diverse voices, and I’m happy trying to boost those voices I can find instead of adding my own, but my “white voice” line from earlier was a flimsy excuse hiding a deeper insecurity.

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