I've been unable to pursue my favorite hobbies in any capacity for about a week now. Procrastination has a way of causing work to amalgamate into a Final Fantasy style demon wall. It's a habit that respnsibility has not robbed me of, but it has changed what I look for in games significantly.
When I was a child (a time that includes, in my mind, all of my life up to at least college), video games were alternate realities for me to be consumed by. The RPG in particular was a genre that had a death grip on me. None of my favorite games of that period were near perfection, but they were long. In the case of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, it never really had to end thanks to modding, so in my case, it never did.
The first mod I added to Morrowind was a simple music swap; the swelling crescendos and sweeping melodies of the original soundtrack gave way to sounds like this
. That simple change was it for me, it fit the mood of Vvardenfell perfectly, and I didn't want to leave. I wanted more to do, see and explore, more people to talk to and more hidden complxes to discover. I wanted to stay there, it became an obession. I enjoyed my time there at first, though over time the game simply didn't have enough to sate my appetite, and I started spending more time with mods than I did playing. Something about my experience never felt quite right.
This all took place during a fundamental change in my life. I was about to graduate high school. Most of my time was spent either in front of the computer screen or at the gym, both places for me to become someone else: someone who knew what he wanted to do, someone more attractive, anyone but who I was. I say this in retrospect, of course, at the time I was simply doing. At some point, I started to hate every second of it, and tried to pile on more. I worked out until I vomited and blacked out, and I wrote pages of modding guides and spent more and more time in game without sleep, trying to change something without having to face the more significant changes that I just wasn't ready for. Dealing with the negatives in life was always easy up to that point, I simply let the 40-80 hours of role-playing and monster slaying consume me. It wasn't working anymore, and never before or since has my hobby been more drug than passtime.
Eventually, somehow, I did embrace change. I charged into it, in fact; my hobby had become poison, a way for me to be alone with the person I hated most at the time, and I needed to escape. I went to college to study a scientific discipline and didn't return to games until I got a Steam account for the first time. One of the first things I bought was Morrowind, and I doggedly tried to reclaim some of the good that used to draw me in so easily. I felt nothing, nothing but ambivalence at what used to be my preferred reality. It wasn't until I purchased Bastion that I rediscovered my love of games.
Bastion is short. Bastion can be enjoyed in short bursts. Bastion offers challenge as a reward and story as spice. Bastion is a game for adults.
Gather 'round and I'll tell you a tale. Just hurry up and kill everything while I do it, I don't got all day, here.
Bastion made me realize that I didn't want games to be an escape from life anymore, I wanted them to be a part of my life, a life that now had challenges I wanted to face and people I wanted to be around and that could only accommodate games if they didn't need much of my time.
This isn't to say that long games are for children or anything like that, only that there's a reason so many of us have huge backlogs now, and it isn't just because there are more games to choose from. More responsibilities sap free time. That there are games of peerless quality that can offer a lot of substance in an hour or less is something truly valuable. We will get to the 100+ hour games in time, it just gets harder, and that's frustrating in itself.
I do kind of wish I had beaten Morrowind, though. I still don't know how it ends.