Choice Paralysis: Video Game Edition

For 2019 I’ve made several resolutions – many of which are directly related to my writing. One of them is just quantity. I started off 2018 with the goal of 3 blog posts a week, which I kept to for about a month and change. By the end of the year I was getting two to three a month done which is still good (because I was still writing!) but not an output amount I felt good about.

Part of my writing problem is I feel everything article I write on here has to have a definitive point. It has to either be a review or an in-depth analysis or a summary of games I’ve been playing. Sometimes I have a lot of topics I really want to write about but can’t decide on one, or I wait for that “moment of inspiration” that drives me to choose one out of a hat. And because of these factors sometimes I never write at all.

This leads into the topic that I’m writing about today that applies to my writing, video games, and life in general: choice paralysis AKA analysis paralysis.

Choice paralysis is a very real thing that exists in the world and I know I am a person that has a huge problem with it. I collect things I want to get to someday: video games, books, movies, etc. I’ve gotten a little better about my movie and TV show collecting – my rate of DVD/Blu-Ray acquisitions has dropped dramatically with the existence of Netflix and the like. But video games are a huge source of choice paralysis for me simply because of how many I own and how many options I have at any given time. On top of that, video games aren’t ever going to stop releasing so I’m always going to have a steady influx of EVEN MORE games to play.

The “backlog” is an issue for many a gamer. Games that we got because they looked right up our alley but we never had a chance to sit down and play them. Or games that piled up on our digital accounts because a sale came along and so many games we’d always wanted to play were 75% off – what a deal that is! So we’d regret it if we didn’t buy it then, right? Or two games came out at the same time and we wanted both, so we got both – but only had the time to dedicate to one, and then that second game was just forgotten about but I really will play it one of these days.

And most games are long experiences. A movie is going to last you usually around two hours, three if you’re pushing it, five if you’re watching the extended cut of a Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movie. Nowadays a TV show season can be binged over a weekend usually, but a single episode won’t ever take up more than an hour of your time. Music albums don’t ever go over an hour. Podcasts range from thirty minutes to a few hours. An average book will take an average reader between five and ten hours, probably.

And while some games can land in the three to ten hour range, most big games are designed with a play-time target of twenty hours. Minimum. With the ever growing market for Games As A Service, developers want you to be spending more and more of your time with their game, because as long as you’re playing their game there’s a chance they’ll be getting your money for their microtransactions. I can name off the top of my head quite a few games that I’ve played for over 80 hours – that’s over three whole days, three full rotations of the Earth that I’ve spent on some games.


A small sample of my play times on the Switch.

Now of course I enjoyed the time I spent with these games. But it’s quite a time commitment. And when you’re staring down the barrel of ten, twenty, thirty games in your possession and thinking about completing one from start to finish, sometimes that leads directly into choice paralysis.

Earlier tonight before I sat down to write this, I was thinking about all the games I wanted to play. I’m in the middle of Chapter 7 in Valkyria Chronicles 4 and want to continue that story. I’ve completed the first DLC chapter for Spider-Man and am eager to play and complete the second and third chapters. I’ve also been meaning to spend more time playing Smash Bros Ultimate and working on my skill set with a few characters and maybe tackling some more World of Light. I’m also working my way through Darksiders 3, really want to actually sink some time into Return of the Obra Dinn, and I’m also aiming to play a new game I got called Frozen Cortex which I hope to talk about on my podcast in the future. And then I’m reading The Last Wish, the chronology of short stories about Geralt that takes place before the first Witcher novel, and it’s making me want to finally start The Witcher 3 (which I’ve owned for over a year now).

These, of course, are all options of content that is purely new to me. This doesn’t take into account me wanting to start yet another XCOM 2 playthrough due to me talking about it a lot on my podcast. Or the fact that I want to play through Earthbound again on my SNES Classic (and I want to finish my Final Fantasy 6 playthrough as well). And I need to finish my return to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night via the Castlevania Requiem rerelease. Oh, and I haven’t played Overwatch in a while, either.

So what did I end up playing tonight? Nothing. Instead I goofed around on the internet and Twitter for an hour before realizing I wanted to play video games but was just putting off a decision because I had too many options of what I wanted to do. And that led directly into me writing this article.

For 2019, one of my first resolutions that I’m writing about here, is that I’m going to be working on making choice paralysis less of a thing in my life. I’m going to spend less time staring off into cyberspace not accomplishing anything while being overwhelmed with all my options. Even if it’s just get thirty minutes further into my playthrough of a game, or getting five hundred words down for a very simple article idea, or editing the next chapter in my novel. I’m not going to let video game companies, advertisers, or my own inner demons keep me from choosing which goals I accomplish this year.

“The best thing is to do the right thing; the next best is to do the wrong thing; the worst thing of all things is to stand perfectly still” — Alfred Henry Lewis


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