I stopped being the Editor of Kotaku Australia a few months ago and now, with the benefit of time and distance, I don't mind saying it: after six years working on the site, I was burnt out on video games.
It feels like a strange thing to admit — a difficult thing to admit, almost silly. Writing about video games for a living was — and still is — a dream job for me, but it didn't really survive first contact with the enemy.
Children, marriage, household chores, exercise, work. All those things.
'Enemy' is the wrong word of course. The correct word: responsibility. There's nothing wrong with it, but it placed me in a weird spot. I lived in a world where video games were simultaneously an indulgence but also something that needed to be done. I had very little free time and video games became just another obstacle. Another chore that needed completing if I was to do my job as Kotaku Editor effectively. In a bizarre sense video games became a burden and it affected how I played them, how I thought about them, how I judged them.
It's something we don't talk about much. Rightly so, because it's self-indulgent and right now I am absolutely being self-indulgent, but writing and discussing video games professionally undoubtedly has an impact on how you interact with them. It changes what you enjoy. It changes the reasons you enjoy them. It changes the type of games you play.
You value originality over polish. Because you've played a million different video games and instantly notice when they feel generic. You are hyper aware of this.
You underestimate the impact of annual tentpole launches. You're over Call of Duty despite the clear fact millions of gamers aren't. You underestimate the importance of value and bang-for-buck. You look at a game like The Witcher 3, with its hundreds of hours of content. You literally get cold sweats.
You look at a game like Firewatch, with its cohesive, tightly woven story and (most importantly) short playthrough time. You breathe a sigh of relief.
You play a game like Dark Souls. It feels different from any other video game and that feels glorious. It feels like playing video games for the first time.
You find it difficult to get enthusiastic about another Gears of War game, even though it objectively looks pretty cool.
You talk about indie games a lot.
You have zero distance.
You have a certain level of self-awareness, but that doesn't necessarily halt the burn-out. It doesn't stop you from complaining about the video games you don't like, the moments that irk you. It doesn't stop you from constantly venting about Kinect on Twitter.
My love for video games is in recovery.
Now that being 'current' isn't necessarily a job requirement, I've found it difficult to motivate myself to play video games. Quite often I'll turn on my PlayStation 4, I'll flick through my library of games for 15 minutes before somehow gravitating towards Netflix. Quite often I'll end up emptying the dishwasher instead.
I didn't anticipate this. I had expected a sense of liberation. I expected to gleefully bound through the meadows of my back catalogue like Julie Andrews in The Sound Of Music, frivolously indulging in the games I wanted to play, but never had time for. "I'll replay/finish Metal Gear Solid 5!" "I'll play Bloodborne DLC!" "I'll get good at Overwatch!"
That didn't quite happen. Old habits die hard. To this day I still feel anxious about 'wasting time' with old games. I haven't touched Metal Gear Solid V because it's such an oppressively long game. I finished Grow Home because I knew I could knock it over in a night. I'm still affected by the choices I had to make when writing about video games was my full-time job.
I wonder if that will ever change.
I have to believe it will. I certainly hope it will. I desperately want to get to a stage where I could happily, comfortably play one single (possibly old) video game for a sustained period without feeling like that time was wasted.
But I'm not quite there yet.