We play games way too fast

5.15am. The thin beam of sunlight stretching across my face wakes me before my alarm does – I switch off the piercing shriek just as quickly as it came. Twitter. Email. News. Can’t miss a thing.

5.35. Straight out of bed, turn on the iron, into the shower. Just enough time to wake up. Then, to the iron. I should really iron my shirts the night before.  Get dressed, wrap lunch, out the door by 6.

6.20. On the train. Twitter. Email. News. Message boards. What’s going on? National news. General steps down in the United States. Royal inquiry into sex abuse. Go go go go go.

7.15. Walk into the office. Turn on the lights. Make breakfast, delve into the news. Financial Review, The Age, The Australian.

8.10. Editorial meeting. Pitch, rejected, pitch, rejected, pitch, rejected, pitch, accepted, pitch, rejected, pitch, accepted, pitch, rejected. Listen, listen, talk, object, listen, talk, listen, listen, listen, go.

8.30. RSS feeds. News, games, film, television, blogs.

9. Write write write write write. 12.30 hits, deadline over. Lunch at the desk, then features til 5.15. Out the door. Straight back home.

You get tired just reading it.

I live a busy life, and that’s entirely by choice. My job is demanding, but I choose to keep myself informed in a wide range of things. Just reading the news and blogs I like and depend on is a full-time job. Let alone spending time with my wife and pitching freelance stories. Where’s the time to play games?

The rush into the Christmas season is one I dread; I just don’t have enough time. Keeping up with the conversation isn’t demanded by anyone, but it’s a pressure every writer feels. If you’re not up with Dishonored or XCOM, then there’s a huge amount of writing going on that you’re not a part of or privy to. It’s incredibly frustrating, especially when most people simply can’t shell over $100 every week to keep up with the latest titles. It’s extremely hard.

It’s also why we rush.

I’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed III for two weeks now. I’m about 12 hours in. To many people that doesn’t seem like a lot, and to me it doesn’t either. But I’ve watched people buy the game just last week and have it finished by the following Saturday. They’ve sat on the couch for hours at a time, powering through Connor’s revolution. They complain about the combat, praise the acting or story, and then that’s it. On to the next one.

We really need to slow down.

There’s an interesting debate among television writers about how watching shows in a day via DVD creates an entirely different experience than watching something week to week. Those people who watched LOST when it first aired will have an extremely different reaction to certain episodes than those who simply power through seasons in a day. The meaning changes. You tend to forget obsessing about little details and focus on the big picture.

The Walking Dead games are so powerful because you’re forced to spend time thinking about what it is you actually did instead of powering through. The game is telling you to stop and reflect on the choices you’ve made. In the case of The Walking Dead, you’ll think about those who you’ve left behind. Or killed through inaction. Or maybe some words you said instead of others. You’ll obsess over what could have been.

On the weekend I delved straight back into pre-revolutionary America. I was Connor, now a full-grown man and dressed in Assassin’s robes. I scaled the trees, and simply sat and watched. Animals came and went. I listened to the birds, watched the sun bouncing off the river. I sat back and admired the craftsmanship of its artificial beauty. I even put the controller down and just watched.

Now, Assassin’s Creed III can’t beat John Marsten’s old west. And perhaps it’s not as interesting as Arkham City. But it’s peaceful, and pretty. And it deserves to be looked at. While the game itself is definitely an argument against “more, larger and longer equals better”, it still represents what we should all take into account: that worlds deserve to be lived in.

If we rush through these games to get to the finish line, purely for the sake of finishing, then we’re missing out on what makes them so important. These worlds are carefully crafted for our enjoyment. When they’re made with such technical skill, oughtn’t we spend a little time taking a stroll in the woods?

I spend too much time moving from place to place, have too many games on my pile of shame, that rushing through a new title is the easiest way to assure myself that I’m keeping on top of whatever’s happening. That I’m in control. But nothing bad is going to happen if Assassin Creed III doesn’t make its way onto my hard drive in the first days after release. If it takes me a few weeks to get through a 20-hour game, no one is going to die. And just as The Walking Dead shows time can cook a deeper response, putting down the controller, or walking away from the keyboard, can do the same.

It’s hard. It’s incredibly hard. Not all games demand respect, but they do deserve time. Perhaps if we played them a little more slowly, took some time to switch off and wait a day or three between sessions, we might just end up enjoying ourselves a little more.

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