Have you ever felt like you’ve plateaued and can’t get any better at a game? Maybe you’ve begun to feel upset every time you play that particular game, maybe sometimes you just ragequit out of sheer frustration. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Many gamers experience burnout with the games they love most and lose the passion to play and learn like they used to. This is perhaps doubly frustrating with serious gamers who dream of going pro or reaching a certain level and likewise sink most or all of their time into a single game. As creatures of play, we enjoy the basics of trial and error, learning from mistakes and gaining an edge on future opponents, but when the game boils down to simply winning or losing, we often lose sight of learning opportunities and find ourselves stagnating in skill level without any sign of improvement.
For me, this was the case with the RTS game StarCraft II (SC2). For several years, I had sunk countless hours into studying the game, practicing mechanics in custom games for several hours a day, studying replays, and nailing down exact timings for upgrades, units, etc. When I watched professional games, I could predict what was going to happen two to three minutes in advance down to the exact timing and food supply. I watched every major tournament and wrote several strategy guides; honestly, I devoted all of my free time to it.
But then it happened. The Crash. I had spent close to four years in the upper echelon of players but could never quite get my Master League ranking. When I was motivated to play, I’d play a bunch but feel like I wasn’t really improving enough, so I’d get easily discouraged and stop playing for a month. Most games I played became frustrating and no longer fun. This cycle continued off and on for something like six months until I had finally had enough and uninstalled SC2 from my PC entirely.
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I know for a fact that other people experience similar situations. I’ve talked to several friends, even professional players, who have found themselves grinding without purpose and failing to achieve their full potential. Gaming was no longer an enjoyable activity, it was a chore.
Diversify Your Gaming
Luckily, there is a solution to burnout. You don’t have to lock yourself into an endless spiral of disappointment trying to play a game that you love. Taking a break from it, even for just a week, can help reset your attitude and allow you to come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. During the interim, play other games.
For a long time, I was a bit of an elitist when it came to gaming and didn’t want to play games that I associated with “lower skill” or “boring”, but after my gamer’s breakdown, I had to start looking for new avenues to play. I began playing random Steam games with friends in the evenings, started getting into MOBAs, and even played a few MMOs. Surprisingly, I enjoyed a lot of what I played, even though I originally wouldn’t have considered the game fun. Games like Orion: Dino Horde, Path of Exile, and Town of Salem took me by surprise and gave me countless hours of raw fun, something I hadn’t experienced in SC2 for quite a long time.
One of the most revealing things about playing other games is that, not only does it reignite passion, but it also builds you a greater gaming skillset. Playing a logic game like Portal or Antichamber will build a lot of problem solving skills that you can then port over and apply to a game like SC2 or Heroes of the Storm. First Person Shooters (FPS) will give you greater mouse accuracy and jumpstart your reaction time, allowing you to make clutch plays in other games that you were previously slow at. The list goes on.
All in all, if you want to be a healthy gamer, diversify what you’re doing. Focusing on a single game, especially if you’re a competitive person, isn’t a bad thing, but something needs to change when you start to experience irritation and resentment toward the game. Give yourself a little off-time, play games with friends, and experience new genres. More often than not, you’ll find yourself coming back sharper and faster than before and make rapid improvements where you previously couldn’t. It’s our identity as gamers to continue to learn and grow. Don’t let tunnel vision ruin your growth — expand your gameplay and broaden your horizons.