I have played hundreds upon hundreds of games in my lifetime. For all I know, I could have reached somewhere into the thousands. Throughout all those titles, I’ve played plenty that didn’t click for me, others that were fun, and fewer that were an absolute blast. Then there’s the smallest group of games I’ve come across; the ones that touched me to my core.
We all have games that fundamentally changed us, and will no doubt stick in our minds for years to come. I’ve been lucky enough to encounter a decent amount of those titles, and I remember each one of them like I played them yesterday. What I also remember is the immediate weeks after playing those titles, as they have led to somewhat of a gaming slump.
Being the act that follows the one that kills the crowd is an incredibly tough spot to fill. The easiest analogy is the comedy club scene, where one comedian knocks it out of the park, and then the follow-up questions how in the world they can measure up. It’s not an envious position to be in, and sometimes it leads to a situation where no matter what comes next, it simply doesn’t seem good enough.
This very much applies to all forms of entertainment. Whenever you’re lucky enough to hear an album that blows you away or see a movie that wows you on a deep level, whatever follows is going up against near insurmountable odds. Even worse, as the person taking in these creations, you can find yourself failing time and time again to discover the next piece that breaks through and entertains you.
I’ve faced this situation a considerable amount of times with games, and to be honest, I’m in one right now. You might have caught my recent review of Meg’s Monster, which turned out to be one of those magical games that wiggled its way into my heart. The game brought me to tears multiple times over, made me think about certain aspects of my life, and will forever remain an example I’ll point to of just how incredible the world of videogames can be.
As soon as the credits rolled in Meg’s Monster, I knew I was going to be feeling ‘gamer gloom’ in a big way. Meg’s Monster was more amazing than I could have ever expected, and having such a moving experience made me yearn for something that could measure up. It doesn’t matter if the next game offered something astonishing in terms of gameplay, story or music, I just desperately wanted to experience something on a similar level. Obviously, it’s completely unfair to ask any game to deliver on such lofty expectations, but it’s a feeling I have nonetheless.
I’ve been here a number of times in the past. I felt the exact same things after I worked my way through Earthbound for the first time. I experienced this again when wrapping The Last of Us: Part 1 and 2. Life is Strange broke me in a very similar way years ago. I still drone on about the emotions I went through and epiphanies I had when playing Undertale and Doki Doki Literature Club. In one way or another, all of these games took me to the exact same mental state.
It should go without saying, but I’m forever grateful for experiencing moments like this from games. Truth be told, games have moved me to these moments more so than any other form of entertainment, and to a deeper degree as well. I am constantly stunned by how often games can find a way to reach my heart and mind, and through methods that are only possible through the world of videogames. This is exactly why I also have such a hard time getting out of the gaming slump.
As with most things, the passage of time usually helps with the moving-on process. No matter how unbelievable you find a game to be, pieces of your memories will fade. You might hold on to the core feelings for the rest of your life, but the other bits become a bit fuzzy. You remember what happened to characters and music that moved you, but lines of dialog here or small gameplay sections there become lost to the ether.
Personally, I’ve also found that heading into the opposite direction with your next game can also help you to move on. If you played a visual novel with an incredibly deep story, make your next game one that’s completely gameplay-driven with as little narrative as possible. This certainly isn’t a guaranteed way to solving post-game slump, but giving yourself such a shock from one end of the gaming spectrum to the other might help in jostling you lose from the metal lock.
While I may be extremely eager to find a follow-up that matches or tops an earth-shattering game, I never hold it against that next title when those feelings don’t come. It would be completely unfair to judge any game based on what you played last, unless we’re talking about a direct sequel. If I play a game while in my slump and it doesn’t do it for me, I know that it might not be the right time or place, and it’s on me to give it another fair shake down the line. My head is clearly still processing what I last played, and it’s going to take time for me to clear the brain fog.
I find myself to be very lucky to live in a time where I can play games that manage to impact me on such a fundamental level. Truthfully, I don’t even believe that gamer gloom or the post-great game slump is a bad thing. If anything, it shows me once again just how fascinating games can be. These moments, among so many others, are why I’ve been a fan of games since I was a little kid. They’re why I’ve covered games as a job for the last 2 decades, and why I’m a bigger fan of games now than I’ve ever been. The facts that games can take me to these points is why I’ll always scream from the rooftops about the power of games.
I’m always ready for the next big-impact game in my life. I know more will come, and plenty of them at that. Until that moment, I’ll be working my way through countless titles that make me laugh, cry, smile, and feel pure joy. I know you guys will be doing just the same, and I’d say that’s a pretty damn great way to spend some free time.
Thank you for this article, RMC. That’s totally relatable.
There’s a handful of games that made me feel the same.
For me, it happens more specifically with a particular type of games, they are generally top-down adventure games, they are a bit quirky in their own way and they feature a deep, emotional narrative. I can mention Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Mother 3, and more recently, Omori.
After beating any of these games for the first time, there’s a few weeks when I just couldn’t stop thinking about them!
Glad to know I’m not the only one! I wagered that others out there would feel the same thing. Hopefully by sharing the experience we can help work through it!
Great article, RMC; thank you. As you know, I'm with you on the Meg's Monster post-game nostalgia trip. I even picked up Bear's Restaurant from the same developer, and although it hit me differently, it also hit me very deeply and I enjoyed it very much; felt very thought provoking to me.
Thanks to you and for everyone sharing these similar games here; definitely gonna play all of these that I haven't yet. I'd say I felt the same way with both Ori games, some of the Phoenix Wright games, and the Zero Escape and Danganronpa series.
I recently felt this way after completing Persona 4. It felt like I was losing a group of friends. Took me weeks before I could pick anything else up.
Thank you so much for this article. It made me relive some great memories.
Unfortunately this hasn't happened to me in a long time and sometimes I fear it's because of the high number of games that I've played; That I've 'seen it all' already in one form or another.
I honestly enjoyed the melancholy for the most part as it made those games even more special. And I remember all of them very, very well:
Persona 4 Golden, BRAVELY DEFAULT, STEINS;GATE, Tales of the Abyss, Ace Attorney 1-3, the Zero Escape series and many more.
As you can see they are all story driven.
It also happened the first time I finished all seven Harry Potter books.
Man, I'm getting real nostalgic right now. I wanna feel like this again but I think it only happens when you discover something truly new and sink your teeth deep into it. The last time I enjoyed something new was Yomawari, but even then the first two games were more bite sized so I could'nt get too attached.
HP books are a good one! I remember laying on the couch and getting lost in the final book— it was like time completely stopped. Definitely bittersweet to have that journey come to an end.
Great article man. I can relate, having just finished the excellent Project Naga translation of Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, which makes me wish now for either a remake or a new game in the series that has a similarly serious tone and engaging plot instead of what IS did with Engage. I'm glad you included the image of Earthbound as I had a similar feeling after finishing that game for the first time just a few months ago. Again, great write-up!
Ah yes, the "gaming blues" as it's also known as. I have had plenty of these for several different reasons across the years, but one thing I think all these games have is the atmosphere. For me atmosphere trumps all.
Anyway, I'll not to write a library here (not promising anything though).
The last game I finished that got me in "gaming blues" was Bayonetta 3. Yeah, sure, the game has it's flaws, but what game does not have any?
After that amazing ride, with such gameplay and amazing artistic design and a pretty damn heartbreaking ending I was left in that void. What game can do THAT again? No game can do taht. It was/is a unique experience(all BAyonetta games are like this though).
BEfore that I played through Ghostwire:Tokyo. Now this game just oozes atmosphere from the first milisecond.
The existential Nier: Automata! Oh gawd. The philosophy, how it struck emotions in so many ways and...that soundtrack.
Death Stranding! What the HEll happened? A very David Lynch-y experience.
Killer 7. Another eerie, surrealistic game that had "that atmosphere" that sucked me straight inn and was such dream-like experience I can never forget. I still hear them laughs on many occations.
Let's really go back in time and mention Fester's Quest. My all time fav NES game. Again that eerie atmpshere as if a living, odd dream.
Yeah, I'll stop here since I truly don't want to write a library. Too many games to mention. But in the end I get you, RMC. It's unique for the individual though. Some people just can't stand the games I mentioned, for example, but for me they will stay with me until I die! =)
Great article but this feeling is completely alien to me. There are times that I listen to the podcast and read articles like this that I feel like I must be a damn sociopath or something because only one game has ever made me cry and that was Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana and only certain Zelda songs have ever made me feel that swell in my chest. I guess it must be due to my thinking that entertainment is fairly disposable for the most part. We play/watch/listen to things and just move on to the next.