consumption mindset

recently i replayed symphony of the night. its actually a game i really disliked the first time i played it - i had played through most of the series beforehand chronologically so i found adjusting from the tight challenge and concise 2-3 hour playtimes of the previous games really difficult when confronted with symphony’s sprawling levels, exploitable mechanics, and overwhelming systems that take hundreds of hours to fully comprehend. upon this revisit ive completely changed my perspective and consider it a true classic, but it more importantly caused me to consider an unhealthy mindset towards games i have had in the past and that still lingers in the periphery of my subconscious.

in these deeply sick times games have - like all other art- been reduced to 『content』 that must be consumed rapidly and in concert with those surrounding us so that we dont miss out on the trend. the worst things a game can currently be are too long, too esoteric, too self indulgent, too obtuse, too difficult to immediately understand, and too unlike any of its contemporaries. its a really poor ideology driving design that has only been exacerbated by how frequently games release now - how many wholesome farming sims with witches and frogs have you seen this year?

symphony is completely unapologetic in its ambition. the size and scope of the game is only now beginning to be challenged by games like hollow knight, but even that cant match up to the amount of independent systems that exist solely for their own sake in this game. symphony has fighting game button executions for magic spells, a familiar raising system where fighting with different creatures will raise their level and evolve them and allow them to aid you in different ways like solving puzzles, items like the shield rod or heaven sword which have their own entire systems governing them, and special peanut physics. all of this in a game that is trivially easy to complete in less than 10 hours by using basic sword thrusts with weapons the game makes no effort to hide. this game does not have the content treadmill of modern games - nor their constant drip feed of updates that keep them perpetually relevant - instead rewarding players who choose to spend time engaging with the game beyond the surface level.

the first time i played symphony this frustrated me so much. why include all these superfluous things that i was never going to engage with? it was one of the first psx games i played and i had so many more to explore, i couldnt conceive of sitting in one place for too long. i suppose i was like kino allowing herself only 3 days out of fear she would never leave, but i think now i have matured to where i can come, go, and return in perpetuity without fear that i will miss anything valuable or regret how i spent my time. its a consumption mindset - one we have been groomed into by an increasingly atomised world where our time is demanded more than ever by an increasing number of distractions. we are compelled to keep up with what our friends are, to have an opinion on the latest releases, to get through our backlogs, but there is no way out of this spiral and the stress only increases. taking the time to step back and engage with games on your own terms is both more relaxing and liberating, and ultimately now that i recognise this i feel so much more comfortable revisiting an old favourite like chrono trigger, spending a week trying to top out the scoreboard on an arcade game, playing some deathmatch in a dead fps with bots, or spending an evening playing sporadic bursts of titles that im unfamiliar with to get a feel for them. i enjoy games so much more now, and symphony especially has gone from a game i considered overrated and tedious to one of my favourite psx games.

its not symphony alone either. where once the abundance of side modes and endings in sword of etheria kept me away, now it draws me in. rather than avoiding the chao garden, i feel the urge to mod it to increase the time i spend with it. i know longer search the title of a game and howlongtobeat because its just not a question i need to bother myself with anymore. i do think ill always be a vagabond - floating from place to place is in my nature - so i dont expect i will fall into the pit of a manipulative mainstream loot shooter for 400 hours, but feeling free to stay just a little longer, and to return on a whim, diving a little deeper below the surface than i would before, is a new mindset that i want to continue to cultivate.


28 june, 2022