Most of us own multiple “great” games, and many of those we’ve left unplayed. So why go back to the games we’ve already beaten?

Lately I’ve been stuck in a bit of a rut, gaming-wise. It’s certainly not from a lack of good games to play; even in just the past couple of months we’ve seen tons of great games come out of the AAA-studios like Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Just Cause 3, Halo 5, and the life-consuming Fallout 4 (not to mention the possibly even more life-consuming Xenoblade Chronicles X).

I know I keep coming back to statements about the Pile of Shame, but whether we’ve got tiny ones or gargantuan ones, we’ve pretty much all got backlogs of games that we’ve heard are good, that we figure we’ll probably enjoy, and yet we continually keep on the back-burner. With all of the new gaming experiences out there to discover, doesn’t it just make sense to try to take on something unexplored, something that could broaden our horizons a bit? And what’s the reason for going back to old games, anyway?


The Great Gatsby - Cover

In high school, one of my English teachers assigned us The Great Gatsby, a book which I can admit I “read” in the loosest definition of the term at the time (as my teacher and my grades at the time could likely attest). Still, I could gather that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story had some sort of meaning to it, and when I read it of my own volition years later, I found it resonated with me as a student exiting college, a few accomplishments under his belt, and a couple unattainable home-centric dreams. I’d had my heart broken, broken hearts of my own, and understood some of the entanglements that adulthood created when love and money and society all became intertwined. Or, rather, “love” and “being broke” and “college life.” But they all felt real to me, and The Great Gatsby gave me a lens to reflect on them with.

Years later, after a failed attempt at insurance sales (which I don’t recommend) and reoccupying my old bedroom in my parent’s house, The Great Gatsby meant something different to me. Dashed dreams felt more real, I thought I could really feel the discontent, the longing Jay Gatsby felt for Daisy and for a life that would make people proud and show his success. I’ve planned to read it again; I actually have friends who read The Great Gatsby every year as a sort of tradition, and I think it counts as a sort of moment of reflection. Though the book doesn’t change over time, we as readers do; the book acts as a focal point and we can see ourselves and the world in a more comprehensive light. Of course, there’s also just the pure enjoyment of reading a book you love again, experiencing the scenes in your head and taking off to a place of comfort. Those characters become a sort of family, the voices comforting.


Final Fantasy IV - II Box Art

For me, Final Fantasy IV (originally marketed as Final Fantasy II in the US) takes up the most replay time in my library. Though I may not remember each event moment-by-moment, going back to those games always seems to center me somehow. I know who the traitors are going to be, who’s going to be in my party at which times, which characters will hurl spoony insults at others…Other games have that effect to an extent as well: Final Fantasy XIII, Donkey Kong Country, Jurassic Park, Jet Force Gemini…but I don’t know if any game will replace Final Fantasy IV. Playing FF IV means that I get to spend less time processing the game and more time just playing it, having fun, focusing on me. It’s a sort of gamer’s recharge, I suppose.

Life throws a lot of things at us, and we’ve got access to more media than ever before. There’s a sort of media rat race we run, trying to keep up on all the best shows and watch all the popular movies and read all the popular books, and that applies to games as well. It’s a first-world problem, absolutely, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed by making our way through all the newest games the hype machine throws at us. Sometimes even just making the decision as to which new game to play next can feel like a chore…times like these, I recommend turning back the clock a bit and revisiting an old favorite before pushing forward, even if just for a couple hours.

Unlike some other forms of media, video games are an interactive experience, giving us opportunities to reach in and change the system while simultaneously experiencing comfort and familiarity. When the real world around us gets to be too much to handle, revisiting old games can also feel like a welcome reprieve: we know how to handle these challenges, understand our enemies and their motivations, know we can be the successful hero in the end. Real life doesn’t always provide us that luxury.


Donkey Kong Country - Splash

So, in a season that generally comes with some new games to explore, I encourage you to take some time to revisit old favorites, too. Though there’s temptation to feel guilt when passing over new games for the ones you’ve made your way through, there’s some perspective and rest that come with venturing through familiar territory. The holidays tend to come with traditions of all kinds; start the New Year off right with a little bit of what brought you joy in years prior…then start tearing into those new, future favorites.