Dreading Long Games

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  • While browsing through my Steam backlog the other day, looking for a new game to dip into, I booted up The Solus Project. I barely knew a thing about the game except that it was single-player and sci-fi, but that describes most of my favorite games, so it seemed like enough to go on.

    I started it up, picked my protagonist’s gender, sat through the intro cinematic, and got sucked into surviving while stranded on a sparse alien planet. Early on I tracked down food and water, crafted a torch and found shelter, reading a few diary entries along the way.

    All was going well, until I made the mistake of hitting pause to go grab a drink. You see, The Solus Project is the sort of game that tells you little details like how many collectibles you’ve found on. In my hour or two of playing, I’d read barely a handful of journal pages. Out of hundreds. Hundreds and hundreds.

    I felt a pit open up in my stomach. All of a sudden I realized that I must have tens of hours of the main game left ahead. Huge swathes of content between me and the end credits. I thought about all the evenings I’d have to give up to finish the game, and all the other things I could do with that time instead; the films I could watch, restaurants I could visit, hell – even the other games I’d miss out on. I felt sick.

    You see, I have a confession to make. It’s been months since I last played a game for more than 10 hours. XCOM 2 managed to drag me in for that long, but before that I’m honestly not sure what might have managed it. Maybe Splatoon?

    I just can’t bring myself to do it, to take on a mammoth 40-hour title, so instead, I busy myself working through bitesize two to four-hour indie games. I started Alien: Isolation and loved it, but couldn’t get past hour five. Batman: Arkham Knight has been waiting for me for months now, and I daren’t even think about No Man’s Sky.

    I used to love losing myself in giant, sprawling RPGs, but life just got in the way. In the 20 hours it might take me to play The Solus Project, I could watch ten films, play five decent indie games, or binge two TV shows. The idea of devoting all that time to one title just makes me feel vaguely guilty, and I don’t even know why.

    Sooner or later, I’ll have to resolve my gaming guilt. With new Zelda and Mass Effect on the horizon, I’m gonna have to face up to my digital demons and find a way to lose myself in an epic. For now though, fun as The Solus Project might be, I can’t keep going.

    It’s not you, Solus, it’s me. I promise.

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