Video Games Therapist: So you’ve had a breakthrough since our last session? Why don’t you tell me about it?
Me: Well, things got serious between me and Skyrim a while ago, but the relationship hasn’t been making me happy.
VG Therapist: Uh-huh.
Me: Don’t get me wrong. It’s not an age thing – I know he’s old, but it’s not that.
VG Therapist: So can you tell me what it is?
Me: I’m addicted to him – look, I know I am – but our whole relationship is so meaningless. When I play, I’m always pushing myself to turn one more corner, kill one more bandit, open one more chest.
VG Therapist: And?
Me: The bandits and chests are just all the same. Every time I enter an ancient dwarven city to track down a dagger that some idiot has left there – even though it’s apparently a precious heirloom and oh-gosh-it-would-just-mean-so-much-if-I-could-get-it-back-I’d-do-it-myself-if-it-wasn’t-for-this-argh-knee – it’s the same as every other dwarven city or tomb or crypt stuffed with mislaid MacGuffins.
It’s one achievement after another with him, but it’s achievement without any sense of accomplishment, you know. It’s empty. I’m there, and I can’t tear myself away, but I’m not really there there.
[Video Games Therapist nods sympathetically]
But this week I met someone new. I met Duskers.
VG Therapist: And what’s so different about Duskers? Tell me about him.
Me: What’s so different? Gosh, what isn’t? Everything. I mean, he’s in space for starters. And I talk to him using a command prompt.
Hmm. He’s actually very difficult to describe. He’s kind of a roguelike-
VG Therapist: Roguelike?
ME: A little. He’s all “Hey, Declan. Fancy coming over and exploring a derelict spacecraft with my drones this evening?” I just don’t know how to turn that down, even though we spend most of our time scavenging scrap, looking for fuel and trying to avoid whatever creatures might be on the ship we’ve boarded.
We do whatever we can, just to make it to the next derelict and the bit of scrap I need to patch my ship together enough to make it to whatever comes after that.
VG Therapist: Uh-huh?
Me: It’s the experience that feels so different, especially after Skyrim. That’s what counts for me.
VG Therapist: And what kind of experience is that?
Me: It’s difficult to explain. I’m scared I’ll make it sound boring.
VG Therapist: No, no – go ahead. It’s just us here. You know that. You can say anything you like.
Me: Ok. It’s… [there’s a pause] contentment. Yes, that’s how I’d like to describe it. Contentment.
VG Therapist: And where does that come from?
Me: It took me a while to figure it out. [Another pause] I think it’s about stakes. I mean, with Duskers it’s not like every single moment of our time together is new and exciting. Actually, a lot of it is spent going through the same motions. Pray there’s nothing behind a door that’s going to kill Orson and Sarah (they’re two of my favourite drones). Open the door. Maybe run away. Maybe collect whatever’s in the room. Fix up my ship and move on to the next derelict. Repeat. But not repeat ad nauseum. Repeat ad funeum. That’s Latin, right?
VG Therapist: No.
Me: Don’t get me wrong. Duskers is still doing things to keep the relationship fresh. But the excitement comes because it feels so dangerous. So precarious. I’m always scraping to survive. Maybe even to build up my ship so I can discover a bit more of this procedurally generated vacuum and its story.
If Skyrim is achievement without accomplishment, Duskers is all accomplishment.
VG Therapist: Do you love him?
Me: It’s very new.
[The therapist gestures for more]
Me: Like I said, it’s very new… but… maybe. I’m enjoying things. I definitely want to see where this goes.
VG Therapist: That’s fantastic. I’m happy for you.
If I wanted to find Duskers for myself, where could I look him up?
Me: What? You want to play Duskers too? But… he’s mine.
VG Therapist: Hmmmmmm. I think it’s time we got to the root of this possessiveness Declan…
[Things started getting more private at this point than I want to share on the internet. If you really do want try Duskers for yourself, you can find it on Steam or at GOG.com, where it seems to be a bit cheaper at the time of writing.]
Declan Taggart is actually a doctor but I still wouldn’t let him fix the lever on my toilet, never mind therapizing my brain. If for some reason you trust his opinion more than I do (he’s really only qualified as a doctor of Thor), you can find him on Twitter @NonsenseThunder.