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For a while now, my life has followed a routine. I used to wake up around 8 AM in the morning, get to the office by 10 AM, finish office by 6 PM, reach home by 7 PM, spend time with my family till say 11 PM, and then play a bit of video game before I hit the sack around 2 AM. The cycle began anew the next day, broken by weekends and family functions. During these times, I enjoyed a certain genre of games. Games like Destiny 2, Division 2, and even Metal Gear Survive for a little while. Games that I like to call Lifestyle games.

You log in every day, play some daily missions, get rewarded. Play some weekly missions, and add progress towards your weekly goals. It was a satisfying loop, with daily repetitive tasks, requiring the least amount of brain effort from me. It was like watching TV, or listening to Spotify, or eating a burger. It was relaxing before I shut down my mind for good.

This routine went for a toss when the COVID-19 situation emerged. With lockdowns and social distancing dominating our life, suddenly I was at home all the time. Sure I was still WFH (sometimes even over-working) but I saved on transit time, and I was way less tired come the evening.

At first, I thought great, this is the time when I will burn through those Exotic Quests, and finally get me some of those pinnacle weapons. And for the first week or so, I did. I made progress on missions I had given up on entirely, my PvP stats went up and I was finally crushing through those Season’s ranks. Then the Uncharted Collection went free for PS Plus owners.

I decided to give that a try (I had only played UC4, and loved it). 2 weeks, and some Nathan Drake shenanigans later, it was as if I was reborn. It was as if discovering those lost cities has made me discover the lost joy in video games. I wasn’t playing a video game to jump through some arbitrary hoops. I wasn’t playing an activity I hated with a build I despised to get some X number of kills so that I could get a weapon which a forum had told me was OP and would be nerfed by the time I will get it. I was controlling Nathan Drake through an adventure (or 3) of a lifetime, with a story that I didn’t have to refer to multiple reddits to understand.

And then I played Resident Evil 3 Remake, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Kingdom Come Deliverance, Signs Of The Sojourner, Moving Out, Gone Home, Everybody Has Gone To The Rapture, Afterparty, Vanquish and Bayonetta. All, great games. All games that offered a different challenge. Some RPGs, some Walking Simulators, some button mashers. Games that didn’t depend on me coming back to it day after day so that I could appreciate them. More importantly, games that were fun, and games that I wanted to play instead of enduring in search of some mythical reward. This was gaming for the love of gaming (and for reviewing them).

And it wasn’t as if Destiny 2 didn’t try. In there somewhere came the latest season of Destiny 2; and along came the temptation of a new storyline, and activity. I jumped into the old familiar again, hoping maybe the new update will shake things up. But 1 hour in, and I was asked to do a Public Activity X times, and I just couldn’t. I logged off and logged into Kingdom Come Deliverance, and went about thinking how I could escape a castle, AND get a horse from the Quartermaster.

The time away from Destiny 2, and other games like it, made me realize what these games really are. Yes, they have a huge amount of content. Yes, they have social capabilities. Yes, their core mechanics are super polished. But they capture you in this loop of repetitive tasks, of doing the same thing again and again.

It’s like going to work. And the work is a video game.

After thinking about it over and over, the parallel is clear to me.
1) It takes a certain amount of skill, but most of it is based on repetition.
2) You have a few guys you know and work well together, but mostly you are out on your own.
3) Every day you make progress towards a goal, that may be irrelevant by the time you get there.
4) If you miss out on it for a while, its hard to get back into it.
5) You are important to your team, but not irreplaceable.
6) Most of what you do is muscle memory now.

The most critical similarity though, and this one is a clutch believe me is the fact that:

Given an option, I would do something fun instead.

This is not a knock on Destiny 2, Division 2, or any other game like it. The lockdown has just given me a new perspective on this entire situation. I am not sure if I would be back to playing Destiny 2 every day once it’s lifted. I hope I don’t though. I hope I keep playing video games for the fun of it, instead of for the heck of it. I hope you do too.

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