top of page

Boredom, gameplay loops, and the monotony of gaming

Over and over again.

A recurring problem in quarantine has been the overwhelming levels of boredom I, and I'm sure most of you, have no doubt experienced; after all, there's only so much lazing about one person can do. So, naturally, we turn to activities that keep us occupied and cure our boredom, whether it be taking up a new hobby like painting or learning a new skill through online crash courses. For others, its as simple as just turning to the usual suspects like reading a nice book, watching TV or, most importantly, playing a videogame.

Gaming is something that everyone can do, whether you play on your phone, console, or computer. on top of that, it has something for everyone, whether your preference is the cute and cuddly Animal Crossing, or classic, gun-toting shooter Call of Duty. Videogames are designed to be fun, to be a source of entertainment for when we're fed up of reading a book and binging everything on Netflix. Yet, here I am, writing this article, because I increasingly find myself bored of gaming. Now this is not me saying that I don't have any fun playing games, I do, and for that matter always have. But recently, regardless of how much I enjoy a game, the looming shadow of boredom creeps its way back in. This recurring problem has got me thinking: is gaming, at its heart, boring?

In pondering this question, I came to a brutally and unequivocally honest answer, being that gaming is not only repetitive, but monotonous. This statement to many, including myself, is nothing short of blasphemy. But, nonetheless, it is a statement I find to be true. Monotony is defined as a lack of variety and more importantly, tedious repetition and routine; and if there is one thing all games have in common, it is repetition. This is a trait shared by nearly every game you've played, regardless of genre or setting, a result of the fact games all feature a gameplay loop. A gameplay loop is what's used to define how a game will be played by us, the players, and as entailed by the presence of the word "loop", repetition is an essential part of what players do when playing. In context, for online shooters, this would be something like, search for a lobby, compete against another team/players, and then repeat. For RPG's this becomes at tad more diversified by things like storytelling for example, and quests can range from, fetching something, killing something, saving someone etc. When you break it down, you find you're really just doing the same thing: you are asked to do something, you do it, and you return for your reward, like the good errand boy you are.

What these examples show is that the way games are played are inherently the same, they are all preset and have you run in a cycle of rinsing and repeating the same motions you'd gone through the last time you played, even though you may not realise it. These cycles are designed to be fun and addicting for the player, something that, for the most part, works. Though as I've already mentioned, with repetition comes eventual monotony, and repetitive gameplay loops result in the classic case of having too much of a good thing. Enjoy a game all you want but in the end running through the same stuff over and over can become less of a fun activity and more like a chore, a pitfall a lot of games today often fall into.

Aside from this, it is also important to keep in mind that like everything in life, everything comes to an end; and gaming is no exception. Now I'm not necessarily talking about a literal start and end like there is in, say, a novel or movie, because even though this is the case with story-driven and narrative focussed games, not all games are linear in this way. Most videogames today feature a system of progression for us, the players, to work through as way of achieving some goal or task, and that can be with regards to levelling up or earning that cool weapon or cosmetic item you've always wanted, among other things. Progression is important for us as players but also as people because in both instances a sense of progression suggests that we have a purpose: a target, an endgame. The catch here is that in games you will have eventually reached the point of no progression and completed your goal, whether that be completing a game's story, or reaching the highest level you possibly can. So, when you have done and earned everything you possibly can, what's the point?

The short answer is there isn't one. After all, you've done what you set out to do and there is nothing else for you to do other than to play for playing's sake, which for some is fine, and they can happily enjoy the fruits of their labour, but inevitably, the novelty wears off. Playing for playing's sake, while enough for some, is realistically pointless without anything to work towards or achieve, and that can only keep you engaged and having fun for so long. It's like when you finish that show you've been binging for over a month, and as the credits roll, you ask yourself: what do I do now?

So, are games merely a temporary source of entertainment, forever doomed to redundancy and inevitable boredom? Obviously, no. On the basis that for games to keep us having fun they need to be fresh and purposeful, developers and publishers need ways to obviously do that; and, as fortune has it, they already have.

Love it or hate it, to say that battle royale phenomenon, Fortnite, is in no way important and influential to the games industry would be completely and utterly false. It has been influential in several ways, but what we need to focus on is how it popularised the now infamous "Battle Pass". Fortnite, popular as it is, would be nothing without its battle pass; after all, all the game is jumping into the same map, with same the number of players, over and over again with no real reward other than bragging rights. That is of course if that's something you even want to brag about. When it first came out, the only progression system Fortnite had was its battle pass, and it is something, alongside the games abundant microtransactions, that made it the most profitable game of 2019; not bad for a free game.

Even now, Fortnite is still one of the most played and watched videogames on the market, and has stayed so, because it always has something new for players to work towards. By providing a frequently updated and fresh system of progression, the battle pass gives players a reason to keep playing; and nowadays, it would be hard for you not to find an online title without one. The popularisation of the battle pass has not only influenced the games industry as we know it today but has revolutionised how developers can give players a sense of purpose when playing their favourite game. so good job Fortnite, good job.

However, the battle pass isn't the only trend that's helped keep games from falling into the gaping abyss of monotony.

There was once a time where big franchises were the crème de la crème, the top dogs of the industry, with fans more than happy to fork out their cold hard cash, year in year out for a sequel to a game they'd bought a year prior and finished in two to three weeks; or, if you're a shooter kind of person, got tired of after three to four months. Though with the rise of live service games, yearly sequels are starting to become a thing of the past, and many of those big franchises went back to the drawing board, leaving behind a yearly release schedule and opted instead to deliver bigger entries with fresh ideas and continued support. But, if you are Activision, EA sports or NBA 2K, you love your yearly release schedule, and according to your sales, so do your players, in which case carry on.

What live service games bring to the table is this: a game, like any other game you will have bought before with progression, cool gameplay, the full package, but then also a near-limitless lifespan, fostered by continuous updates, additional content and support aided by community and player feedback. Sounds good, doesn't it? More and more, developers are providing continued support for the games they've created, engaging with their players, and molding the gaming experience into something built by both developers and players; something I feel more and more developers need to start doing. It is something which has impacted the way games are made, designed and played in the industry, and something that keeps players having fun, with new experiences, gameplay and ways to progress for as long as a developer wants to provide it.

What's important to keep in mind is that everyone is different, where some people never get bored of playing their favourite game, others can begin to lose interest. Games are, at their basest level, designed to be repetitive and addicting, and no level of technology can create an experience that is near endless is its level of scope and possibility. But, with the constantly changing industry of games, the way game developers and publishers view the game making process and player engagement also changes, and through this they find new ways to help us, the players, always have fun.

But, if you want a simple straightforward answer as to how to not get bored when playing your favourite game, all I'd recommend is maybe try something else, after all, there are thousands of games out there to play, and even other things to do other than play games. so you could maybe, just maybe, take a break.

43 views0 comments


bottom of page