Over the years, as video games—especially massive AAA titles—have evolved into spectacular, open-world spectacles, they’ve also increased in duration. What used to take 20 or 30 hours to complete now takes five times that. The question is no longer “Do I want to play this game?” but rather “Do I want to sink 100 hours of my life into it?” Because once you start, it can be very, very difficult to stop, even when you want to.
Sure, in some ways longer games are good. You get more bang for your buck. (One hundred hours of gameplay for $70? Not bad at all!) And sometimes it’s easier to return to a familiar world than it is to boot up an entirely new one. But huge games are also often bug-infested, patch-needing nightmares that were incredibly grueling for the devs who created them. Not to mention that, once you get the game and sink 50 or so hours into finishing it, it’s really hard to walk away without feeling like a failure, even if you hate it.
Yet this, dear reader, is where I find myself.
I’ve been playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla since November. It is now March. I’m 100 hours into it and I’ve lost all sense of purpose. I’m actively avoiding this game; like haven’t-touched-my-PlayStation-5-controller-in-a-week avoiding. (Hello, Switch!) When I think about playing Valhalla in the little free time I have, it sparks very little enthusiasm. It’s not because it’s not a great game; I had a fantastic time for the first 60 hours or so. But things have gotten more repetitive, and when I do check in and play for awhile, I’m barely paying attention to the story or dialog. I stopped doing side quests, and as much as I like Eivor, I’m not sure even that is carrying me through.
Ultimately, I know I’m only playing this game because I’ve already played it for 100 hours and giving up at this point feels tantamount to wasting 4.167 days of my life. It’s like avoiding breaking up with someone simply because you’ve already been dating for a year and they met your family and … ugh. I no longer look forward to this game, but if I stop now, what sense of accomplishment will I have?
It becomes even more complicated when you think of the concept of “game chores,” which anyone who’s been playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons for the last year will tell you is a whole thing. I can’t begin to explain to you how many times I’ve opened that game just to check in at stores, talk to my villagers, get my NookMiles for the day, and log off. For weeks on end that’s the only interaction I had with the game—I wasn’t playing or deriving entertainment, just doing chores in my video game. I forgot to log in one day, broke my NookMiles streak, and that’s the very boring story of how I stopped playing Animal Crossing.
Games these days incentivize us to check in once every 24 hours. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla does this in a few ways, including new quests and inventory items from Reda, a character from a previous game. The quests aren’t all that interesting (in fact, it’s basically the same thing over and over), and the inventory items are fine, but I’m not an in-game collector, so I can’t say I care all that much. And yet, for a while, I kept logging in just to see what new things were on offer.
I want to quit. I need to quit. But I also feel like I should be getting stuff done, even in my entertainment, and if I abandon a game before I’m finished with the story, it’s lost time, a failure. What do I have to show for the hundred hours of my life I’ve already put into this?