Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Dispassion Of Diversity - Part I

Stop me if this seems familiar...

You're feeling alright, feeling like you wanna game tonight.  Time to pick something out new to play.  You take a glance at your glorious racks of games and... your eyes just start to glaze over.  You rub them and sit down at your computer instead.  You bring up Steam and start scrolling down your massive list of summer-sale-begotten games... gonna pick something good to try... something new... something different... eyes... glazing... ove

I hear you, I stopped.

Why is it that the more games you have, the more you feel like you have nothing to play?  But when you were a kid, that was never a problem?  Back then you'd play the death out of the few games you managed to scrounge together into a makeshift library.  As a kid you would have KILLED to have the gargantuan collection of games you have now!  And yet now... you don't feel like playing any of them. Ugh.

So what's the deal here?  Do you not like games anymore?  Of course you do, you wouldn't keep buying them if that weren't the case.  Granted it's likely you buy more than you should due to a craving you developed during adolescence.  Back then when you wanted way more games then your parents would buy you.  More even then you could afford on your own with what money you could manage to accumulate at that age.  Yes perhaps it's true that the adult you is buying up games triple time, as a long term side effect of repressed gaming lust you had as a youth.  Subliminal revenge hoarding?  It's feasible.  And maybe it's part of the reason you have trouble picking out a new game to play.

The true problem is simply choice.  More specifically, the abundance of choice.  You have problems picking out what game to play, because you have too many games to play.  I understand this sounds somewhat illogical, so I'll explain with a thought experiment.

Let's say you were sitting at my dinner table and you were craving jelly beans.  So I place before you a cherry flavored one and a pineapple flavored one.  I say you can only have one of those jelly beans.  You take a quick glance and pick your favorite of the two.  Then I eat the other one.  You're happy now.  I'm happy now. You got your jelly bean fix and I get to giggle when the secret Ex-Lax kicks in.  Everybody wins.

(image source)
Now let's try the experiment a different way.  You're sitting at my table, jelly bean cravings engaged, and I produce not two jellybeans, but a hundred jelly beans.  Jelly beans of all shapes and sizes, colors and flavors, some have polka-dots, a few even have candy unicorns in them and squish out rainbows when you bite.  Oh the catch is, you can only have one.  Now choose one because we've got things to do like play video games.  Hurry up geez what's the problem just pick a damn jelly bean!

Five minutes passed.  At this point you either gave up on picking out a jelly bean and ate a banana instead, inherently loathing me for putting you in such a predicament.  Or you just ate one jelly bean at random which you weren't overly satisfied with, and inherently loath me for putting you in such a predicament.  Now I'm not even sure which bean even had the Ex-Lax this time so I had to flush them all down the commode.  Nobody wins.

I call this situation analysis paralysis.  Psychologists call it all sorts of things and that's their problem.  People have written articles about analysis paralysis a lot, such as this one.  A guy named Barry wrote a pretty good book about it.  (If you can't be bothered to read a book then here's a decent synopsis of said book.)  It all boils down to a simple truth.  People make quicker decisions and are more satisfied with their choices when they have less choices to choose from.  Less choices?  That's communist talk for a collector gamer!  I hear you.  But I'm not done depressing you yet, so shush up.

Do you, like myself, do your gaming in the evening?  Say, after a day of doing lots of other stuff like a job, chores, kids, obligations of all shapes and sizes?  Congratulations.  You are going to statistically have an even harder time choosing what game to play from your smorgasbord of shame.  The reason why is that the more tired you are, the more difficult it is to make a decision.  Psychologists call this effect decision fatigue, and that's not half bad so I'll go with that descriptor too.  The simple description is after a making lots and lots of decisions, it becomes harder and harder to make them.  Hence the further into the evening you make decisions, the more trouble you have doing so.

Ultimately as an adult gamer, with a huge collection of games, which you attempt to play in the evening, means you're practically scientifically predisposed to having a bad time picking out a game to play in the first place.  That was a really long sentence, so here's a quicker one:  You're screwed!

Okay you're not really screwed.  Not if you have a plan.  On the next Ardent post, I'll tell you my own plan.  The one that's helped me slay the analysis paralysis and decision fatigue monsters for many years now.  If these are problems you have also, maybe my plan will help you make your own plan for fighting the decision doldrums.

This series is continued in this post.

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