I don’t know if me and my sister are the only people who have bullet journal lists of “Things Completed”. Not to-do lists, but lists of things we enjoy that we actually managed to finish – tv series, books, films and video games. I have an awful habit of putting off enjoyable activities until I’ll “really appreciate them” and it means that I end up refusing to watching films I’m excited about or abandoning a game I’ve been massively enjoying. The list is my attempt to get better at this.
When it comes to video games I can find them particularly difficult to finish. Not because of difficulty (I’m actually quite good at video games), but because of a reticence to let go of the world, characters and gameplay until every piece of content has been appreciated. Picture me running around in circles in The Witcher 3, desperate to collect every resource on the map, not knowing that they automatically regenerate. In a twisted way, the more I tried to get every ounce of value and enjoyment out of the game, the less I was enjoying myself. The lure of 100% completion wasting hours on repetitive side quests just so I can prove to myself that I’ve milked every ounce of possible enjoyment from the game.
The law of diminishing returns means you get 90% of the benefit from 10% of the effort. The last 10% takes the remaining 90% of the effort. And a video game is one of the few hobbies that give you percentage statistics measuring your progress.
Not only that, but these games remained on my mental to-do list for years on end, hobbies that I intended to pursue but never seemed to have the time. In Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she discusses the difficulties with decluttering hobby items. She points out that keeping the paraphernalia associated with un-pursued hobbies around your house makes you feel overwhelmed and unhappy. The guitar that one never learned to play is a constant reminder of how you never achieved that goal. The games I have in my Steam library are an illustration of how I “don’t have time” to do the things I enjoy, and they’ve started to feel slightly like an obligation.
To me, this is a minimalist endeavour as it is helping me to free myself from the self-imposed pressure to be perfect at everything and the idea that I owe the games I’m playing perfection. That I can try to maximise my enjoyment rather than my productivity in a leisure activity.
The lure of 100% is very tempting, but I try to stay mindful of how I’m feeling and try and realise when I’m grinding for an achievement rather than playing for enjoyment. When I notice I’m not currently enjoying myself, it’s time to stop what I’m doing. Maybe I just need to re-focus what I’m doing, or choose a different activity. By keeping my completionist instincts in check, I have got to experience more games, their storyline and gaming experience. I’m getting to actually play many of the things that have been “on my list” for years, and decide whether they’re worth my time or not.