Summer Burnout

Alex Shaw gives some friendly advice on how to cope with the summer game drought.

Every winter we’re barraged with hotly anticipated triple-A titles, and every summer the pendulum swings back the other way and we’re left in a gaming drought. This year is no exception. However, there are several other mitigating factors as to why thousands of otherwise enthusiastic gamers might feel burned out right now. This article outlines some of them and offers some advice on tackling these trying times.

E3 2010

One of the primary reasons may be a sense of deflation after E3. The industry is moving into a place where this Christmas will provide us with lots of motion control games, party packs, fitness programs, and novelty distractions, but less of a focus on what a lot of people bought their 360’s and PS3’s for in the first place a sense of depth and texture in broader, high definition worlds. Similarly Nintendo brought back plenty of old favorites, but unless you’re keen on the idea of the 3DS is doing little to advance gaming in steps as bold as they took with the inception of the gesture-based Wii and the touch screen handheld. The resultant malaise is going to be difficult to fight through, the main issue seems to be lack of innovation and courage substituting it with what has proved popular in years gone by.

To counter this we can focus on the games that do appeal, even if they’re receiving less press coverage, and this next part is very important; make a list for ourselves. Just by writing down each title, especially in the context of a projected release schedule, allows us to map out what we will be playing for the next year and perhaps paint a more appealing picture of the landscape by omitting the titles we have no interest in whatsoever. An additional sub-list of games that intrigue certainly helps to add flavor to our comfort zones and the few games that might stray from there.

The next thing to address is what we’re playing now. Clearly despite the dry spell, this summer isn’t a total wasteland, with Red Dead Redemption, Transformers: War for Cybertron, Crackdown 2 and Super Mario Galaxy 2 all emerging but if we take a look at our piles of shame, there is definitely more to be found and once again; organization. All of those games that passed us by during a busy first quarter of the year are now at bargain prices, especially online. Write out another list for which order to attempt these and tackle them one at a time. Focus will always win out over sheer quantity. Prioritizing multiplayer on new games is of course always advised, and the sudden burst of excellent download-only games that comes with the summer is always something to bear in mind.

But if there is nothing specifically appealing on our horizon and we are blessed with a very thin pile of shame, what then? No past and no future for a hobby that may have at one time been far more pervasive? Then it’s time for emergency measures. Research is required here to discover the gems we’ve missed, even if we must resort to buying a whole new console. It is as important as always to find out what are considered the classics and why. Even if you eventually don’t agree or if those games are rooted in their original era, at least we can say we played them.

Another glaringly obvious factor so often overlooked is environmental. Right now in the UK it’s baking hot and breathless. Beads of sweat hang on every forehead and our living rooms have become stuffy chambers. It’s also muggy and clammy, which is far worse. This is weather not at all conducive to gaming. Because of the atmospheric pressure we’re far more prone to headaches, and due to the temperature, dehydration and reduced appetite drains our energy reserves. In the winter we close the windows, bundle up in sweaters and hunker down in front of the TV or monitor gladly, but summertime leaves us feeling trapped and restless.

In which case, clearly getting more fresh air, eating well, and drinking plenty of fluids are all the usual advice, as is getting up early. Less obvious are things like changing our schedule around. Maybe get up earlier in the morning and have an extra hour’s gaming then while it’s still cool and fresh. Change our schedule, maybe change our diet a little too. Playing different genres than we’re accustomed too also helps, or get out in the fresh air and bring the DS or PSP.

There is another possibility that’s a little more drastic, which is to step away from gaming entirely for months on end, until the landscape is more to our liking. The benefits include possibly being blown away by the new approach to games or technology when we return, and the danger is everything we will miss and the possibility of losing our taste for it entirely. Considering how rapidly we’ve seen the industry advance in the short span of just the last five years, however, this sort of break might almost be worth missing out on a few things for the overwhelming feeling of an industry taking powerful steps forward upon your return.

This is of course an extreme option and another is simply to take a break until just before Christmas, when we will doubtless be once again assailed by so many games we will never be able to assemble the time and money for all of them. And then eight months later, this article will still be here.

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