Just because you have a lot of games, that doesn’t mean that you always know what to play.
The whole concept of decision paralysis describes the idea that being offered too many choices essentially hinders some people’s ability to make a choice, mostly out of fear of regretting said choice or the anxiety of making the wrong choice.
In terms of gaming, this can be seen a lot with huge libraries, backlogs, and the like.
As Sales come and go, Humble Choice games get racked up, and as Epic Games, GOG and Amazon continue to give away games… this problem only grows bigger. Naturally, you don’t have to buy or claim every game but even if you don’t, you may already face this issue… or you don’t.
Some people out there don’t really understand the issue of just starting up a game and playing it and how much trouble making that decision gives to some people – which is why I figured it’d be a nice idea to talk about an analogy that helped me personally explain it to “normies”, just like I did previously with the spoon/coin metaphor.
Screenshot from: Revita
Let’s start this off with a parable… or story: I like wine.
I come from a wine region and naturally developed a taste for “the good stuff”… and now that I’m quite far away from my hometown, I naturally don’t have “the good stuff” in stores… just wines from neighbouring towns, weirdly enough, that all suck. *scoff*
Anyhow, I sometimes go to the grocery store and buy a bottle of wine just for the sake of drinking some here and there. I like trying out new things and exploring flavours, so I always look forward to buying something new once in a while and just enjoying it with a friend.
The issue that I face here, though, is the fact that the selection of wines is incredibly huge at this grocery store nearby… and a lot of it sounds tempting but I can’t just make a choice.
Screenshot from: The Pathless
Well, what if I buy a new bottle and I really dislike the taste? What if it’s too sweet? What if it’s too dry? What if it’s just a weird flavour overall?
My point is that even if I knew more about wine than I already knew, I wouldn’t be able to make the right decision here, 100% of the time. I could end up spending money on a wine that I’d regret.
What if I don’t like it? What if that other wine over there tastes better?
And regret is bad. You don’t wanna regret the choices you make, right?… “Life is too short for bad food and bad wine!” – Goethe.
Hence, despite having a vast selection of new wines to try out, you end up sticking to the same brand or taste that you already know works.
Screenshot from: Bugsnax
Decision paralysis in Gaming
What does wine have to do with games?
Well,… my library is huge. At the time of writing this, I own 1,459 games with 536 DLC on Steam, out of which only 13 games are 100%ed. My Average Game Completion Rate is 30% (proud of me getting that number up!) with me having amassed 5,757 achievements in total. I’ve been on Steam since 2014 and have been notorious among friends to claim every freebie I can find. Back when I was younger, I used to often buy stuff on sales… but as time went on, I didn’t have the time to play everything.
I know that I wanna play Dishonoured someday and Bayonetta as well as Metal Gear Rising and Darksiders… I own the Gothic games and all Witcher games… yet I haven’t touched any of those yet (apart from The Witcher 1 but let’s ignore that one…).
When I’m faced with the choice of what game to play, I struggle. I often want to play something but I have only so much time in a day, so I can’t make a poor choice, otherwise, I’ll regret it. What if I play a game and I really don’t enjoy it?
Well, “the grass is always greener…”, y’know? And “hindsight is always 20/20”, you could argue… but in the end, it’s just the way things work. You can’t know for sure that you’ll enjoy your time with something.
Similarly, sometimes I start a game’s download and am incredibly excited to play them (like with some of this month’s Choice entries) but then I end up just not playing them immediately… why? Well, I’m missing the momentum to actually make me wanna start it up.
With the different series that I’ve started over the years, I’ve always come to a point where it was just too difficult to start up the games that I loved and adored and that I really wanted to write posts about… which is also why I often ended up not continuing those projects.
Screenshot from: ARRIVAL: ZERO EARTH (Demo)
What to do?
Well, I don’t think that there is really a good solution for this issue that could work for anyone affected. Rather, what helped me is to narrow down the selection and then ask around among friends if they already played said games. Maybe, they’ll be able to help me out by telling me if they liked it or not.
Often that can be rather nice.
Sometimes, a simple coin toss can help. Sometimes playing something similar helps you guide you towards what you really wanna play… Sometimes, I play Hades and then feel like playing Gungeon all of a sudden, weirdly enough.
In the worst case, you’ll stick to what you know best.
With Anime, I’ve been contemplating about what shows to watch and most of the time, I ended up just not starting a new show at all… Rather, I ended up re-watching the same shows that I’ve rewatched like four or five times already.
I’m nearly done with reading Mushoku Tensei’s light novel right now and after rewatching the show, I noticed that there was a lot of foreshadowing in place here and there… and it’s been exciting, honestly, to get that second look on the show… even if I’ve watched it so much already.
Screenshot from: Going Under
What should you not do?
When faced with a specific choice, you shouldn’t…
- put yourself or a person in this situation under pressure
- put a time limit on the matter
- overthink it too much
Rather than overthinking choices or adding pressure via words or a time limit, one should try to create an environment where one is able to think better.
It sounds weird… wording-wise… but what I mean is that if you tell yourself or if you tell someone that you/they have to come to a conclusion… Pressure! Instant Pressure. Doesn’t help… at all!
Now, if you tell yourself that you can come to a conclusion, that’s a different story.
Instead of saying that you only have X amount of time to play a game, you can say that you’ve got a whole X amount of hours or minutes to play… choose the bigger number. Instead of one hour, say 60 minutes. It’s weird… but sometimes it helps.
It’s about creating a pressure-free environment.
When I think about my future, I try not to think about how old I am or how long I’ve been studying already… but rather about my options and how far I’ve come already.
That’s mostly because if I add too much pressure, I’ll have a panic attack. Don’t want that.
It’s about tricking your mind into wanting to play a game or read a book or whatever… or rather, wanting to come to a conclusion.
If you overthink, you’ll end up regretting it. If you go with your first impulse, it often can lead to better results. Worst case, switch games! Or “there’s always another day” or something along those lines.
Screenshot from: Deep Rock Galactic
I don’t think there is one key solution to the matter but I’d love to hear what you have to say about it and what helps you when you find yourself in a situation where you can’t decide what to play/watch/read. Let me know!
And more than anything, I think the wine analogy works really well here as it has enough depth to be appropriate as a comparison… but it also works in a way that even non-gamers can understand: What shall I eat? What shall I drink? What shall I watch? – It all works the same.
Some people out there will just eat pasta when they don’t know what to cook. When I don’t know what to play, I end up playing a round or two of Legends of Runeterra or a Greed Run in The Binding of Isaac.
Defaulting to one thing when you have the world open to you isn’t a bad thing, either. It’s a safety net in case you end up overthinking choices. Having a “Plan B” is rather important, actually, in all matters that require planning.