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Lockdown gaming: when a hobby stops being fun

How many hours have you sunk into video games since the COVID-19 lockdown was imposed in the UK? With a lot of people finding themselves with more free time over the past few months, many have turned to hobbies such as gaming to fill those extra hours.

I was certainly one of them at the beginning of the isolation period. Working from home meant that instead of devoting four hours to a commute into London each day, I could instead use them for other things such as picking up a controller. I managed to complete 15 games during April and May with entries being knocked off my backlog a couple of times each week; and I tried a number of demos thanks to the increase in digital expos, which kept the number of items on my Steam wishlist topped up.

Video games gave me a sense of productivity back then. When my usual routine had been screwed up thanks to the pandemic, and working days seemed to be a never-ending stream of conference calls where much was said but little was achieved, they provided a way to feel as though I’d accomplished something. The worlds they presented were full of chaos and disorder, yet it was in my power to bring them back within control with each quest fulfilled and level completed.

But then came June and something inside me shifted. I’d now spent over two months of my life almost completely online and the desire to be in front of a screen diminished with each passing hour. I began concentrating on pastimes outside of gaming such as cross-stitching and jigsaw-puzzling, and eventually I decided to take a break from streaming too. The progress I’d made on reducing my backlog came to a standstill and I can count the number of games I’ve finished since then on one hand.

The problem was that gaming during the lockdown had started to feel like a second job. My new routine was to get up at 06:00, go for a socially-distanced walk and connect to my work laptop an hour later; slog through emails, instant messages and video calls before logging off at around 16:00; then hit the sofa and grab the controller after dinner and showers were done. Heading to bed not long after 22:00 meant I was ready to do the exact same thing again the following day.

Gaming became something I did just to pass the time during the pandemic rather than something I enjoyed, and the fact there wasn’t much I wanted to play didn’t help. The new releases coming out didn’t hold much interest or received less than glowing reviews. Upcoming titles I’d been looking forward to and had either backed on Kickstarter or added to my wishlist were delayed by several months. And although the games I picked up during the Steam summer sale were ones I’d wanted, I didn’t feel any motivation to install them.

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That doesn’t bode well for a video game blogger, does it? There are only so many times you can write about the titles from your childhood or top-ten lists without starting to like a fraud, and the worry that I wouldn’t have anything new to say niggled away at the back of my mind. It turned into a horrible cycle. I was convinced I needed to play games so I’d have something to write about, even if I wasn’t enjoying them; but the more I forced myself to do that, the less I wanted to play.

It was the decision to take some time away from Twitch which helped me move past this. Removing myself for a while made me realise that the most important thing about streaming was getting fun out of it, and achieving that meant only playing games I was interested in. So why shouldn’t it be the same for blogging and gaming in general? One evening I decided I wasn’t going to reach for the controller as I usually did because I really wasn’t in the mood and you know what? The blog didn’t fall apart.

Sure, I’m still worried there’s going to come a point where I’ll have nothing new to write about. And yes, I’m still in a slump where new games aren’t grabbing my attention and those I’m really looking forward too are still under development. Despite the rise in digital expos, the cancellation of physical events such as EGX Rezzed and MCM Comic Con has left me without some of the usual stuff I’d cover throughout the summer and my upcoming schedule is looking rather more empty than it has done in the past.

But hobbies are nothing if they’re no longer fun, and the blog will always be here for me even if the number of posts I’m able to publish each week eventually decreases. We’re going through an unprecedented time right now and that gives us the opportunity to look at things from new perspectives and offer fresh insights – as well the chance to take a step back and assess where we’re going. It’s also proven how the people you meet online can turn into good friends in real life who are there to support you when you need some reassurance.

It’s time to stop picking up the controller after logging off from work because it feels like a second job, and start doing it because I want to lose myself in a video game. That’s going to mean searching out more from the genres I love and no longer feeling guilty about switching off a title if it’s not doing it for me. Give me more adventures, interesting stories, detective mysteries and full-motion video (FMV) games. (I can hear everyone who joined us for the stream of Dark Nights with Poe and Munro groaning right now.)

Whatever you’re trying to achieve through gaming, blogging and streaming, make sure that one of your priorities is to enjoy yourself. I think we all deserve a little bit of fun right now.

Kim View All

Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.

36 thoughts on “Lockdown gaming: when a hobby stops being fun Leave a comment

  1. Yeah, I was really looking forward to doing the conventions again this year, the absence of those means ‘picking up the controller’ to an extent to interact with others in the absence of that physical experience. Not as much fun 😏

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    • I had plans to meet up with some blogging friends at events this year so I’m really disappointed that I won’t get to see them. I know it’s for the best considering the current situation, but I’ve missed the whole buzz of the expos and catching up with people there.

      I can’t deny though that the extra time for gaming and the opportunity to get to know certain bloggers better during the lockdown has been great! I’m just ready to get back out into the real world now, if you know what I mean.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s so difficult to figure out if and when they will become safe and manageable in the near future unless there is some vaccine or something. Tightly managed queues and checks would just sap the fun and enjoyment from them.

        I get the need to get out. With all this advanced bookings for anything in London have booked up all my weekends in August to go to places. Holding out super slim hope the Trek event in November may go ahead but that’s me being optimistic 🤞🏻🤞🏻

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        • I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you! All the upcoming expos we had tickets for have now been cancelled, but none of them were as late as November so there’s still a possibility your event will go ahead. 😄

          I’ve got no idea how they’re going to handle the conventions next year if we’ve got to maintain social-distancing. I keep thinking about Rezzed, and how small some of the rooms are, and how many groups of people pack themselves into them… it’s going to be tough.

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  2. I suspect most “game” bloggers are going to hit this point eventually, with or without a lockdown. Almost every game blogger I can think of that’s been blogging for several years either slowed down and finally stopped or broadened their remit to write about things other than games.

    Lockdown may have accelerated the process for some but for most it was always going to happen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is a good point. A lot of bloggers I follow have widened their subject-area in the past year (not because of lockdown) and now write about board games, movies, as well as video games. I’m not sure this would work for me though, as gaming is my primary hobby and I just don’t have the same level of interest in anything else.

      Do you think think we’ll see a further increase in the number of bloggers going off the radar as the lockdown continues to ease?

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  3. Just no more Poe and Munroe. Other FMV yes but oh my that game… 🤣

    I’m glad you have come to see thar you need the fun in it and aren’t forcing yourself.

    I’m sad that I won’t hear about Rezzed and things like that from you this year. I really enjoy them but maybe next year instead. Things have been weird this year and I’m pretty sure you still have things to talk about even if they don’t come to mind right now. A break away from gaming can be good and I think you have shown that. Keep having fun!

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    • There was absolutely nothing wrong with Poe and Munro. I refuse to hear it. 😆

      Pete and I are planning to do a stream in September, covering the games we’ve found at expos in the past to make up for not being able to go to Rezzed and EGX this year. It obviously won’t be the same but at least it’s something for us to look forward to!

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      • Hey I support your Herdy Gerdy playthroughs! Does that not count for something 😆 Poe and Munroe was just not my favourite of games you have played on stream haha.

        Oooh how exciting! That would be fun.

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        • To be fair, Poe and Munro was one of the weirder FMVs I’ve played. There are some far better games in the genre out there, I promise! A few new releases are due out later this year so I’m afraid to say there might be more FMV on Twitch at some point. 😉

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  4. Argh, all the digital conferences… I’ve missed E3 more than anything because it just gets everything out of the way in a short space of time. This constant drip-feeding of information isn’t working for me. Watching the Microsoft and Sony stuff with other people in the community has been fun though. Shoutout to Gaming Diaries, Phil and Gaming Omnivore 😎

    I burned myself out during the pandemic on Spider-Man, of all things, playing through it twice back to back for that platinum trophy. That’s why I’ve taken a nice long break from a second play-through of The Last of Us Part II, so it doesn’t feel like a chore! I’ve just gone back to Spider-Man to mop up after a few months away too.

    You’ve got nothing to worry about in terms of the blog, by the way, you post so much as it is I can’t keep up personally, there’s so much of your content I’ve missed over the last three years. Those “This time in SomeYear” tweets you send out are great, every now and then something new I’ve never seen comes my way. Always write what you want to write about, even if that’s the same 15 games from your childhood! Your writing is amazing and always interesting no matter what the subject is!

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    • Yeah, I know what you mean about the drip-feeding. I’ve stayed away from a lot of the online events because I just can’t seem to work up the motivation for them. It feels hard to keep track of who’s doing what and when, and it seems like every gaming news site has announced a ‘brand new event for 2020’ – which turns out to be an hour-long presentation on trailers we’ve already seen elsewhere. 😕

      Thanks for all the kind words and support, Dan! I’m just going to keep writing while I’m having fun and have got something to say. Alternatively, I can always devote my time to making more #KaraokePete albums…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Have to admit that I overindulged in lockdown gaming, and by the time the call came to get back to work, I was ready for it. I didn’t realize how much of a reward gaming had become for me until I had all the time in the world to play. Before COVID hit, since I had little time during the week for gaming, I relished the few hours of weekend “me” time it provided. Now, I’m pretty sick of myself (LOL); I’m happy to see other faces, talk about other things, and I look forward to gaming becoming something special once again.

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    • It’s a bit different for me because I’ve been able to keep working throughout the lockdown, so I’m interested to hear about your experience. Have you returned to using video games as a reward yet? Or are you finding that you’re not ready to play them, because you’ve missing getting out and seeing people?

      I know exactly what you mean about that ‘special’ feeling though… I think this may have given me an idea for a new post. 🤔

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      • Things are getting back to how they used to be – weekend gaming divided into little chunks of time of me playing alone and with my husband. These gaming moments just feel so rewarding after getting through a hard week of work, yard work, house work, all work! Since it’s still difficult to get out and do social things regularly, Saturday night gaming has become something of a “date night” activity for us. It’s proving that we’ll be able to cope together should the world really go to hell. 😜

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        • That’s so lovely! You know you’ve got a player two you can rely on. I guess one of the silver-linings about the lockdown is that it has given us an opportunity to spend more time with loved ones, as well as get to know internet friends better. 😄

          Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m finding the digital expos and conventions to be pretty dull. Of course I understand why we can’t have physical events now, but still — missing out on my annual con is a bit depressing.

    My experience has been a bit different since I’ve been kept working all this time, but I imagine if I were to just start playing games 24/7 I’d sour on them too. I hope things in the UK are at least better than here in the US. The response here in general has been a complete disaster and we’re all bracing for a long-term quarantine.

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    • We have several friends over in the US and they’ve been keeping us up to date on everything that’s happening. I hope you’re taking care and staying safe – these are really weird times we’re living in right now.

      I’ve done a couple of the digital expos but on the whole, I just can’t seem to work up the motivation for them. It feels like a lot of the events are simply covering the same content, and there’s only so many times I can watch the same trailer rather than experiencing the game for myself… 😆

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I hear you on the sort of game burnout thing. I was feeling a bit like that about a year ago but was still ploughing on playing things, even though I wasn’t really enjoying them. In the end my family and I moved to a new city, jobs, school etc and I didn’t have time to play games, so I took a step back that way.
    In fact, it was lockdown that finally got me back into it! I’ve been doing the same as you a lot of the time: work-game-sleep-repeat.

    Totally agree that it has to be fun as a priority.

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    • Sounds like there are a lot of us looking forward to a change of routine. I’ve appreciated the extra time for gaming during the lockdown but can’t wait for it to become something I do again as a ‘treat’, if you get what I mean. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Speaking of conference calls, I just read this awesome article while I was enduring one. Thanks! 😁

    We have to do what makes us happy. When the real world seems to be falling apart it’s extra important to make your personal world a happy place. Keep being awesome and play/pursue whatever makes you happy! (Even if that’s FMV games… *shudders at Poe and Munroe memories* 🙃 )

    I’ve been doing some self-reflection of my own lately. There’s a reason why I left all social media behind before the pandemic hit and those realizations are coming back now that things are normalizing here. I truly enjoy writing posts on my website, reading other blogs, interacting with my close online buddies one on one, but all the other social online stuff… not so much anymore.

    Like you said, the things we truly enjoy doing have to be our priority. No shame in that! 😎

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    • Why is everybody so down on Poe and Munro?! 🤣

      I promise that the FMV games I sent you are far better. There are some really good ones out there – but there are also some terrible ones that give the genre a bit of a bad name. Her Story and Dr Dekker might not convince you to come over to the dark side, but I think you’ll enjoy them because they contain some clever elements.

      The more lockdown has gone on, the more I’m finding myself staying away from social media. There’s an awful lot of negative stuff our there which we don’t need in our lives, and I’d much rather speak to good friends outside of Twitter and Facebook. 😘

      Liked by 1 person

      • *declines comment on Poe and Munroe*

        Don’t tell anyone, but I’m actually excited to try out the FMV games you sent me, haha. Gotta finish God of War and then the Thief series first (long story, haha). Thanks again!!

        Mainstream social media is so meh for mental health. I’m grateful for our nice little blogging community 😁

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          • I… ended up playing Thief for 10 hours today… 😲

            I’m not a huge fan of stealth games, but every now and then one comes along that clicks with me. There’s something quite charming about this one that’s hard to describe. Garret is so sarcastic. I love him, haha.

            Disclaimer: I am also shamelessly following a walkthrough.

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  9. I’ve been in this slump too. I was playing a lot of games March/April/May, but June/July I’ve slowed down. Like you, there’s nothing really coming out that interests me, but it’s mostly my depression kicking up that has me feeling unmotivated to play much.

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    • The novelty of lockdown and having more time to play video games is definitely wearing off for some of us. As much as I know it’s not so simple and can acknowledge some positive things that have come out of the past four months, there’s still a part of me that wants to return to ‘normal’. I miss video games being something to look forward to rather than something to do to pass the time.

      I hope things improve for you soon and you start feeling that motivation again soon. ❤️

      Like

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