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.