Far Cry 5 released on Tuesday, the most recent AAA game to get media and gamer attention. (If you’re unaware, AAA is used to refer to big-name publishers who put millions of dollars into their games and run large companies. Examples include Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Activision Blizzard, and so on.) Far Cry 5 is an Ubisoft joint and premiered to around 260,000 viewers watching it on Twitch on its first night. Sales numbers aren’t available yet but it seems to be pretty popular as a lot of streamers were booting it up – even streamers that normally play other games exclusively. Fan and critic response has been pretty positive on it so it looks like it’s going to be a generally well received game.
There’s just one problem.
I can’t make myself play Far Cry 5.
Now don’t get me wrong – it’s not because I’m not interested in the game. I’ve actually been super intrigued by the premise since the first announcement – unlike previous Far Cry games it takes place in the fictional Hope County, Montana instead of some fictional war-torn foreign country. Even without the current political climate that would have grabbed my attention. The fantastic original promo art for the game has been the background for my personal computer since it came out as well. So it’s not lack of interest. Nor is it a lack of availability – I actually went out and bought the last copy of the wonderful steelbook edition that Best Buy had last night. (Seriously, the steelbook art is just as awesome as the promo art.) It’s not a technical issue either – my PS4 works fine and there’s no space issues. I even got a new secondary hard drive recently so I could install more games and not have to continue the process of deleting, redownloading and reinstalling games when I wanted to play different ones.
Isn’t this promo art just amazing?
So what’s keeping me from playing Far Cry 5? Well, in two words: analysis paralysis (or choice paralysis, if you prefer).
Let me paint you a picture. In the last two weeks, I’ve started a new game in the PS4 remaster of Bulletstorm because I’ve been itching to play it again. I’ve also started a new campaign in XCOM 2 in preparation of starting to stream an XCOM 2 campaign (if I can find the time). I’ve also been working on improving my rank in competitive Overwatch (and oh, a new character was released so I’ve been practicing with her as well) along with playing South Park: Phone Destroyer competitively on my phone. But that’s not all – I’m also working my way through Final Fantasy VI and Secret of Mana on my SNES Classic. I’ve slowly been making my way through the fun story-based Night in the Woods. And don’t forget I’ve been hunting monsters periodically in Monster Hunter World. I’m a couple chapters into Yakuza 0 as well and I’m just about to the Super Bowl with my Jaguars franchise in Madden. On top of that I’ve downloaded Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Zombi, and Costume Quest 2 to my new hard drive because I got them for free through PS+ and want to play them eventually. Plus I downloaded Fortnite Battle Royale because I want to try it and see what all the fuss is about, as well as downloading Final Fantasy VII because I want to replay that after I’m done with Final Fantasy VI.
This is just what I’ve done in the last two weeks – and to be clear, this is just what I’ve done in relation to gaming in the last two weeks. I’ve been having a rudimentary social life outside of my video games as well and also consuming other forms of entertainment outside of my full-time 40-hour job.
The biggest issue with video games are that they require a larger time commitment than most other forms of entertainment – and they also require your undivided attention. A good book – as long as its not Dickensian in length – will probably take you a few cumulative hours to finish. A popular cultural phenomenon movie is usually between two and three hours at the cinema. A TV show is a half hour or hour by itself, but a Netflix season binge could reach 10-15 depending on the show. The difference between TV and gaming, though, is that you can put TV on while you do other things. Television shows allow for some versatility. Same for music, podcasts, and other audio entertainment – you can play a new album while you drive in your car, but you sure can’t play a video game on the interstate.
But video games are inflating in length – especially big AAA releases like Far Cry 5. A typical “big” game story can take anywhere from 20-50 hours to complete, depending on the style of game. Persona 5, a game I basically threw my social life away for, took me over 90 hours of playing to finish. And yet it still took me over a month of real time playing nothing but it in my free time for me to complete the game – that’s basically 3 hours a day playing just this game. As aforementioned, I’m an adult with a 40 hour work week. I don’t have any kids, and a large chunk of my non-work time is my own to use how I want to. This makes me able to play way more games than the average adult – I have a very strong feeling that any adult with children would not be averaging 3 hours of playtime for any video game unless it was their job.
Which brings me to my overall point – analysis paralysis. There are just way too many games to choose from and more are being added to the pile every week. Games are released at a ridiculous pace. In the last two weeks alone, the new Kirby game (Kirby Star Allies), Sea of Thieves, A Way Out, Nino Kuni II, and Far Cry 5 were all released. While not all of these games are considered AAA, all of them got considerable media attention leading up to their release. And since they’re in the media’s eye, they’re also in the eye of the general internet public.
Where the frustration comes in is how ephemeral this audience attention can be with the constant stream of game releases. Last week, Sea of Thieves was being streamed by everyone. It made for a fun game to watch because it’s kind of an open-ended, multiplayer pirate game where you work together with your own crew but can be sabotaged by other crews. But as I said earlier, the new hotness is Far Cry 5. Sea of Thieves is already dwindling in numbers on Twitch – the highest stream right now for Far Cry 5 is 25,000 viewers, while the highest Sea of Thieves stream is only 10,000. (Total, currently Far Cry 5 has about 70,000 while Sea of Thieves is at 30,000 total – so the highest Far Cry 5 stream is almost beating the total viewership of Sea of Thieves.)
Arrr, we be sailin’ the high seas…at least for this week, next week we be goin’ to Montana.
As a person who is trying to stay relevant in video games – most through blogging, but also through videos and streaming eventually – it gets extremely nerve-wracking because I feel like if I’m going to get anything out of Far Cry 5, I have to do it NOW because in a week or two, the discourse is already going to be over. It’s another product of the social media world we live in, where if you’re not immediately on top of the latest trend you’re basically left behind. There are certain evergreen titles – League of Legends, Dota 2, Counterstrike, PUBG and Fortnite all get viewers regularly and the Overwatch League is keeping Overwatch in the public eye. But for other games if you don’t play them immediately you’re lost in the shuffle. In a month, nobody is going to care about Far Cry 5 because God of War is coming out!
One of the gaming podcasts I listen to – Waypoint Radio (the podcast for Waypoint @ Vice) – released their podcast talking about Far Cry 5 on Monday. The game didn’t come out to the regular public until Tuesday, and yet Waypoint felt the need to release a discussion about it the day before release because, honestly, that’s how fast the industry moves with their discussion. During an end-of-the-year podcast last year, they jokingly ribbed one of their members for having the nerve to play Dead Space – a game that came out in 2008 – instead of any games from 2017 since it was getting to the end of the year and they wanted to have a Game of the Year discussion. Every time you play a game that didn’t come out within the last few months, there is often a “late to the party” vibe especially in gaming circles on the internet.
And that’s where the analysis paralysis collides with everything else. I have a huge library of games to choose from and am already knee deep in playing a lot of them. Do I sacrifice my time with games that I’m already enjoying to instead jump headfirst into a completely new game because it’s the current hot thing? Maybe I can get a few extra viewers or readers because I reviewed Far Cry 5 when everybody else was doing it. Or do I wait until a lull and start Far Cry 5 then so I can give it the attention it deserves instead of a hasty, half-hearted look-see before I return to what was already holding my interest? Or do I go back and finish Far Cry 4 first – after all, that’s still sitting on my shelf incomplete. Oh, by the way, don’t forget you never actually started playing Shadow of Colossus and you got that game two months ago.
Last night I ended up watching a streamer play Overwatch for an hour instead of playing anything myself and then I fell asleep. When I woke up several hours later I ended up horsing around in Monster Hunter World for an hour or two because my brain was too full of cobwebs to process anything new, and then I went back to sleep. That’s where my analysis paralysis led me. Tonight, again, instead of playing anything I wrote up an article complaining about how I can’t figure out what to play. It’s an endless, vicious cycle.
Maybe I should just play Fortnite and hope Drake invites me to play with him.