The power of the passage of time always amazes me. Something that was so vivid and engaging one day may lose steam the next day simply because of a disconnect in engagement.
Let me quickly apologize (to the maybe 2 people who noticed) for the 5 month reprieve from writing this blog. I had a busy couple of months which ultimately shot my momentum out of the water and it was hard getting it going again. Now I am back… and with a somewhat fitting topic!
p = mv. Does anyone else think of that equation every time they hear the word “momentum” from some high school physics class? Anyways, I’d love to tie that in somehow but what I want to talk about has very little to do with mass, and velocity only in the figurative sense, so I will just kill that analogy now.
Momentum is a funny thing. You might be cruising through something one day, but you can’t get yourself to pick it up the next. Understanding how and when to keep certain tasks moving can be useful in staying productive and allowing the full grasp of enjoyment that comes from a completed task.
Through various video game incidents I have realized how much momentum truly hinders and alters motivations and how meaningful moments start to fade when the continuity of progression is slowed or blocked.
In fact, quite ironically, I wrote this intro paragraph a year ago and then lost momentum. Given my recent lack of attention to this blog, I thought this would be a neat article to try to get me back on track.
Popping into my head are quite a few RPGs where momentum was an issue for one reason or another. I have always been someone that really digs into a game when I start, so the ones I don’t finish always stick out to me.
Interruption 1 – The Life Changer
Sometimes we have interruptions in our lives that are simply unavoidable and set forward significant changes. One large interruption in my gaming life has been living across the ocean from my brother.
Tales of Destiny 2 and other interesting multiplayer RPGs were some of our favorite games growing up, but playing these games together just isn’t feasible (and hasn’t been feasible for 14 or so years now).
We took a stab at Tales of the Abyss when he was home for an extended period and tried getting through Valkyrie Profile 2 when I was visiting him (for a significantly less extended period… that one was doomed from the start but still made for a nice allnighter). Both of these games were left unfinished.
Interruption 2 – The External Wall
Sometimes, something happens that isn’t your fault, but just sours an experience.
Suikoden V and .hack Outbreak are two examples of the sales process just killing my gusto. I bought a used copy of Suikoden V a couple of years after its release, but the game crashed every time before the first save. With Outbreak, I just couldn’t find the game at the store the three or four times I looked for it, and ultimately lost interest.
Both of these cases had simple trip ups in a process that ultimately had the grander ramifications of me not playing the games at all.
Interruption 3 – The Mental Games
I am a fan of doing everything conceivable before completing a game. I did just that in Xenoblade Chronicles, Final Fantasy X, and Final Fantasy XII, before realizing that I had lost momentum in the narrative.
Take Xenoblade. I defeated the 4 extra uber bosses, finished nearly everyone’s skill trees and completed most of the quests from what I could tell, and then just stopped. I put the controller down, took out the game to play something else, and never really went back. I had fairly similar experiences with the Final Fantasy games, though I did ultimately complete them.
In these instances I think there was a bit of a cognitive dissonance between what I was looking for and how I was interacting with the games that hindered my experience. I let a desire for discovery suppress my interest in the narrative. Sadly, narrative often comes with more of a time sensitive component that relies on that interplay of climatic storytelling and the momentum created with eyes on the finish line.
Understanding and Rebuilding Momentum
Okay, now the stage is set for losing momentum, but what do we do to get it back? A lot of that depends on which of the three situations above you are dealing with.
With the life changer, there are rarely things we can do. There has to be a sense of acceptance and rearranging we consider with these interruptions. In these cases, something is changed forever, and you must move forward with that understanding.
Perhaps there are workarounds, like playing games with my brother online, or playing the games separately but still staying heavily connected by sharing experiences. In this way, we channel momentum through a new medium.
It’s hard to say if this will help re-live ye olden days, or be a cheap knockoff of what once was, but I would generally suggest trying it and reassessing as necessary. Momentum can be hard to build and easy to stop, so redirecting momentum can be less destructive than just letting it falter and fizzle.
The external wall situation is an interesting one. Negative experiences weigh heavily on our psyche and it can be hard to forgive and find goodness after that initial betrayal of services.
I tried that Suikoden game, it did not work for me and Konami took a mental hit in my book. Is that rational? Not even slightly. Most likely it was a previous user’s actions that left my game scratched, but there is often little rationality around situations where you feel sleighted.
My advice here is to fight back with rationality. We often highlight our negative experiences and mute our positive ones. My friend who got me into Suikoden absolutely loved the fifth installment, and I’m sure I would have greatly enjoyed it too, if I could have just pulled myself up after that experience. Be slower to judge, and quicker to empathize with the complexities that ended in the error that is staring you in the face.
The mental game obstruction is the most complex. It’s rarely obvious when you are prioritizing activities in a way that will lead to a loss of momentum and ultimately a less meaningful or enjoyable experience… if it were obvious you probably wouldn’t be doing it. You are maybe more likely to catch this situation in hindsight, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to preempt it.
I am actually going to cop out a little here, because now that I am thinking about it, I feel like this is a much larger discussion, only partially related to momentum, so I will try to pick this up in another piece at some point.
Ultimately, I think it comes down to analysis of historical data (I know my tendencies of balancing narrative and discovery), and keeping an eye on whether you are really getting what you set out to get with an experience (be that mental stimulation, a challenge, abnegation, or any other experience). It’s also important to consider that if an experience is not what you expected to get yourself into, then the momentum being lost may be a perfectly normal reaction to an unexpected or possibly uninspiring journey.
Be slower to judge, and quicker to empathize with the complexities that ended in the error that is staring you in the face.
The power of the passage of time always amazes me. Something that was so vivid and engaging one day may lose steam the next day simply because of a disconnect in engagement. It’s important to keep this in mind. Don’t lose sight of those things that you want to experience simply because time has killed your motivation. Also, question why you lost motivation to begin with and consider if you want to/how to bring that spark back.
So what do you think? Any games you wish you never put down? Let’s chat!
Until next time, Game on and Learn on!