It's been four months since I posted about not really playing games anymore and I thought it was time for an update.

It’s been four months since I posted about not really playing games anymore and I thought it was time for an update.

(First, a quick refresher on the old post: I theorized that a big part of my enjoyment of video games came from them enabling me to focus my attention in a way that I normally find difficult, so once I started taking focus-enhancing nootropics this advantage went away and video games became much less appealing compared to other activities. Instead I started spending my free time doing personal data cleanup and related tasks.)

So, what have I been doing since then? A few things. I have been continuing with minor tasks on my personal projects when I can come up with good ones. They’re mostly not the sort of data curation or “gardening” tasks I talked about last time because I’ve run out of those (though the good thing about the debacle with Sony announcing they’d close the PS3/Vita/PSP stores (before backpedaling) is that getting my Vita and PS3 libraries in order was a great few-days-long gardening task). Instead, I’ve mostly been making small improvements to my various web projects. For example, yesterday I added entries for “fun pain” and “perfectible” to the game design glossary on the main Pixel Poppers site, which had been low priority on my to-do list for quite a while. Maybe next I’ll update the site’s mobile layout to put the navigation stuff in a hamburger menu instead of at the bottom.

This stuff requires more thought than the gardening tasks, so it’s less relaxing, and I’m having to figure out new ways to relax. Video games have slotted back into my life as one of several ways to relax but I still approach them very differently from before. I no longer look for “go places and do things” games or seek to feel like I am occupying a world. I want the experience to feel contained and not take up space in my brain when I’m not playing it. I want it to be something I can easily pick up for a bit and have it not matter whether I ever come back to it. I’ve found that what works best is low-context arcade-style experiences (racers, puzzlers, twin-stick shooters, rhythm games, etc.) or story games that can be completed in a single sitting (short visual novels or walking simulators like What Remains of Edith Finch or Wide Ocean Big Jacket). Games that are based on larger-scale progression, exploration, or worldbuilding (RPGs, 3D platformers, probably open world games - which used to be some of my favorites) don’t do much for me anymore and I’ve bounced off a few of them in the past couple months.

So it’s still the case that games are occupying less of my mental real estate than before and I have less to say about them. I might still decide to post more stuff here - I have an idea file with about fifty seeds for potential posts, though I don’t know how many of them are actually worth developing (does anyone care about the weird variety of ways Senran Kagura has handled DLC over the years, for example).

But the truth is… I haven’t gotten what I’ve wanted out of Pixel Poppers for years. This could be a much longer essay, and it’s one I’ve tried to write a few times, but in short: Back in Pixel Poppers’s “golden age” when I first started posting regularly in 2009-2010, I got a lot of comments and discussion on my posts and I felt like I was actually part of a great community. I mostly stopped posting in order to focus on my job and by the time I came back in 2018, the internet was a very different place. I got a couple of comments here and there (more on Tumblr than anywhere else) but I mostly felt like I was talking into a void, which was terrible for my motivation to work hard on quality articles. My impression is that the game analysis community has almost all moved to YouTube and if I want to be part of it again I have to switch to making videos and chasing YouTube’s mysterious and fickle algorithm and I just don’t. want. that.

Please understand: This is not a dig on my audience or intended to make anyone feel guilty. You don’t owe me comments or anything else. If you’re reading this at all, I am grateful and I love you! This is just about me facing the reality of what I’m looking for and what I’d need to do to get it in the current landscape. And admitting that the advantage that I thought Pixel Poppers had over other projects - an established audience - is actually much smaller than I was considering it to be.

So I’m also thinking about switching gears to a different writing project, one focused more on things that are at the front of my mind these days. Possibly just a general thoughts blog (which, admittedly, would sometimes be about video games). Possibly a blog about what I do for a living. Possibly making more small games (I’m pretty happy with how Detectivania turned out, after all). Or possibly reviewing all 800+ episodes and films in the Star Trek franchise. Maybe more than one of these things, bouncing around with an irregular schedule, and even slotting in occasional Pixel Poppers posts along the way. And I have to decide how connected I want these things to be - part of me wants people who enjoy some of my projects to easily be able to find the rest, but I also like that right now I can have my identity cleanly compartmentalized and only attach my real name to some things (and thus it’s harder for someone who dislikes my take on Dark Souls to doxx me and dig up my bad/outdated takes on other more widely-impactful things to fuel a harassment campaign or whatever).

That’s where things stand today. I’m not dead. I’m still gaming a little. I may make small posts here every once in a while but I don’t expect to invest a lot of time or effort into it in the near- to mid-term future. And I may or may not announce other projects publicly here. If you have feelings or questions about any of this, feel free to shoot me a DM or an email or whatever.

Thanks for reading.