Shameless Gaming: I Had Almost Forgotten...

Shameless Gaming is about playing through your pile of shame. But it can also be taken literally — it is gaming without shame. It's about liberating yourself from your normal gaming expectations and just giving in to the experience. Last year I was all about the backlog aspect — blasting through as many games as possible. This year? All I care about is enjoying what I play, ignoring the expectations I usually place upon myself. So far, it's been incredible.

Outside of Shameless gaming, in every other month of the year, I tend to place a lot of pressure on myself. I have to finish this game, I have to play this, I have to be across this. Writing about video games is my job so, in a sense, I feel as though I need a fundamental understanding of what gamers are talking about. Because of this, spending a lot of time with one single game feels like an indulgence, and a game needs to really capture my imagination in order for me to fight through that shame and really play it. Properly.

Only a handful of games have been good enough for me to push past that 'shame' and indulge — Red Dead Redemption, Trials Evolution, Metal Gear Solid 4. These are the games I played to the detriment of others. Games I would usually rush through and forget about. Onto the next one. Onto the next one.

This month, roughly a week into Shameless Gaming I made the decision to play one single game at the cost of all others — that game was Dark Souls. It was a good decision, because it allowed me to indulge in a single video game without that worry.

And it's been so much fun.

So far I've put 20 hours into Dark Souls. That may not seem like a lot to some of you guys, particularly over a two/three week period. But for me, as someone who's finding it increasingly difficult to find time to play, it feels like a massive amount of time.

But the best part is how little progress I've actually made in the game. Most of my time in Dark Souls has been difficult — repeating sections, trying to kill the same boss over and over again. I've wasted time grinding, trying to level up, buying new gear, upgrading weaponry. I've gotten frustrated, I've played for hours without making a single bit of progress.

At first this simply felt wrong. I was furious. With myself, with the game's design — at the world. I hadn't earned any trophies, I hadn't reached the next checkpoint, I hadn't been rewarded tangibly. 'I have wasted my time,' I whispered to myself, maybe aloud. 'This game is a complete waste of my time'.

But the more I play Dark Souls, the less I care about those things. I just want to play because it's an immediately rewarding world to exist in. Because it's fun. Because I'm learning a new skill. Because each time I play I walk away with a different type of reward, a reward that isn't necessarily explainable. Technically I have nothing to show for my time, nothing I can show anyone. Just the pleasure of doing something well, just the fun of pushing my own limits, and trying to stretch those limits.

In a lot of ways, Dark Souls and Shameless Gaming has allowed me to play video games like I used to play video games — when playing video games wasn't my job. When it was just something I loved to do for the sake of it. For fun.

And I had almost forgotten what that felt like.


Comments

    It's always amazing to find a game these days where the reward is the experience. Achievements and trophies are wonderful for giving you incentive to do something but there's something magical about a goal that you've set for yourself.

    I'm really happy that you've taken this route with Shameless Gaming Month. My month has been a bit less focused. After the first few weeks, where I managed to clear a few games I was really keen on, I floundered. It was hard for me to find something that I really wanted to play.

    Then I started playing Saints Row: The Third and was just having fun. I didn't care about achievements or anything else, it was just the zany whackiness and absurdity of jumping off of a broomstick in the middle of a crowded city before running around beating police officers over the head with a giant purple dildo.

      Next month, I'm going to go in the other direction and replay the old games that I enjoyed.

      Red Dead Redemption and Arkham Asylum are top of my list.

    All your dark souls talk got me back into this game again! Describing this game makes it sound like it would be anything but fun but it is amazing. I love the world and how you can climb a tower and look over where you have been and see places you haven't.

      I agree - I normally don't like a "hard" game because usually hard means unfair. Dark Souls somehow makes each death feel like you could have avoided it if you'd been more careful. What a game.

        I was up to anor londo with my first file and booted it up and had forgotten everything. starting from the beginning didn't feel like a grind, just fun.

    When playing Dark Souls I definitely aim to 'bank' souls earned by purchasing upgrades, leveling up, etc, mainly to avoid Mark's 'time wasted without making any progress problem'. It can be risky wandering into unknown areas with a crap ton of souls to your name only to lose them and then lose your next life trying to retrieve the stack you just lost. But there lies the beauty of Dark Souls, it is an immensly challenging and rewarding game.

    More game developers should look at offering a challenge and reward rather than a difficulty level aimed at children, sure you need games to be accessible and 'easy' but I think a lot of games these days are leaning more towards little to no challenge too often. Probably why Dark Souls stands out so much and is considered such a great game by many gamers.

      Yeah, I've been doing that. Especially since I discovered the Blacksmith.

        If you're enjoying Dark Souls then Demon's Souls is a must play too, probably my favourite game of this generation.

        Did you discover the way past the dragon?
        I always enjoyed that some people couldn't figure it out and they make you walk past his shadow. Also don't try grinding too much it ruins the scaling, some people don't even level though so to each their own.

          Yeah only through trial and error though. Gotta love possibly the most punishing boss I've yet to play in a game, King Allant and his soul sucking abilities. I wonder how many people grinded ridiculous hours only to discover after that battle half of their stats had been sapped.

            Valley of Defilement would have to be up there as one of my favourite video game levels, Tower of Latria is also amazing.

              The sound of those creatures carrying bells in the Tower of Latria scared the crap out of me

    Awesome game that.
    I have done the best thing for shameless gaming month and bought Skyrim for PC despite already owning and putting about 120 hours into it on 360;/
    But I also finished Bastion, Limbo and Deus Ex: HR so that makes up for it right?

    I got through quite a few games at the start of July, and now I've spent the last 2 weeks playing Batman: Arkham City. I will not rest, Batman will not rest until the Riddler is caught! Normally with games I will finish the main story and majority of the side quests but I won't bother with getting all the collectibles, hidden items etc. But Batman AA has been different. They are a challenge to collect the trophies, it's not just finding hidden items, skill is required to collect them. Plus having the riddler kidnap hostages and give it a story keeps me interested, instead of it just being collect all the things. Well done to the developers on getting me interested in 100%-ing their game.

      I was the same - I'd wander (glide?) around Arkham, not really worrying about getting to the next story mission or the fact that Oracle was screaming at me to get back to the Steel Mill as soon as possible. I'd see a green question mark and stop to investigate - I'd hear a ringing phone and go directly to it. Bunch of guys hanging out talking shit about me? I'd drop down and pummel them for the fun of it.
      I'd never 100%'d a modern game before, but hanging out in Arkham was just so much fun that I actually took my time with it and allowed the experience to take over the relentless pressure of progression that you find in so many other games.
      When the credits rolled and I'd found everything there was to find I immediately booted up New Game+ and started again as a super-badarse, which is something I NEVER do. My GoTY for last year, no question.

    I didn't play a goddamn thing this weekend. My wife hogged the PC for Minecraft and I couldn't motivate myself to finish Prototype 2 on the 360. I can't even remember what I did this weekend. I must have laid about in a stupor, since I certainly accomplished nothing productive.

    Sigh.

    What's with the knight of pudding? Is that your character Mark?

      Onion Knight!

    All month i've been addicted to Williams Pinball Classics i bought on XBLA a few weeks ago.
    I was a gun on 'Funhouse' back in the day, best pinball machine ever! Spent all month just trying to beat my high score which stands at 35 million so far. Go me!

    It's been a good month to re-evaluate my gaming habits. Especially given that I was in a similar boat to Mark. I always try to work on games in the order I purchased them and originally only bought games towards the end of the game I was currently playing. I'm now going to make the rest of the year about attempting to get back to a zero-length queue, although there are a couple of titles I especially want to buy so I may have already shot myself in the foot...

    I promised myself that I would spend July finishing the Ratchet and Clank trilogy...
    Then the Steam sales happened, and I bought Resistance:Fall of Man on Friday...
    :(

    time to dust off dark souls imho.. been ages since I played it... I wonder if you still get invaded every 2 seconds your human now?

      LOL yes, you do.

    I had a list for July. So much for that - I've mainly been playing Infamous 2... a bit of casual Cities XL 2012 on the laptop while the TV is hogged by sport or movies, and I've been playing Botanicula too, but mostly Infamous 2. Collected all the blast shards last night, and nearing the end now. Might knock it off tonight.

    Dead Space still sits on my pile of shame. I was too busy playing other things, working, and writing to get anything done. I had one job for July - destroy necromorphs - and I failed.
    Boo, me.

    Im keeping with shameless gaming being about the backlog. I will have finished 5 games that I've always wanted to and im really happy with that. I have however picked up a copy of Dark Souls yesterday and once this month is over, im playing that. Maybe it will hit my pile of shame, maybe not, but it will be on the list as too many damn peole have said I should play it!

    I finished 9 games, 4 of which were Lego games. (The others were Bastion, Eufloria, Hitman: Blood Money, Limbo and...Tales of Monkey Island).
    I actually really enjoyed playing a whole bunch of short games, many of which were indie games, many of which were Lego games, and clearly I love puzzle games. But I also like the other attitude - to just stick out something that you enjoy.

    I finished Halo 3 (1.5 years in my collection) and GTA IV (2.5 years) - made good progress in Crysis 2 (1 year) and Assassin's Creed II (1.5 years), but haven't finished either - Ass Creed II will probably be dusted by the end of August though!

    The most addictive, esoteric, satisfying, testing and enjoyable game ever created. If you don't like it, your not much of a gamer nor have a strong will! Can't wait for prepare to die Ed.

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