I’m sure you’ve heard of the dreaded gaming slump. That time where you seem to lose all interest in video games, trailers, release dates, and the like. Where your friends are all ordering special editions of this and that, while you’re sat there on the sofa thinking “Meh”. Nothing is rustling your jimmies or sparking that fire inside you for gaming that you thought you had. We’ve all been there, right?
So taking a break seems like a good idea. You turn that PS4 from rest mode to fully off, close that 3DS or power down that PC. What do you do now? What do people do with their free time if they aren’t gaming? Well if you’re like me, you’ll be hopping in the car and driving out of town for a cool trip, or a show. Or maybe you hit the cinema, run to the bookstore and nab that new novel you heard about, or something entirely new. Maybe you just started a new relationship and it’s so exciting and strange that you’re just wholly distracted, or you just had a beautiful new baby and your life is experiencing a whole new twist.
By now I’m sure the gaming slump is something that happens to everyone, and I’m in one right now. It was a combination of a new job, reconnecting with someone, and holiday travel. My birthday just passed recently and that’s always a time for self-reflection. Since my birthday falls near the end of the year, I can always process the previous twelve months and wonder what I want to do differently going forward. I’m also just hitting that phase where I’m not a kid anymore. I’m now firmly in my early 20’s and everything just feels a bit…weird.
I took some time late last year to go to a new place and meet new people, and it was super rad. I followed that trip with another two short adventures. I’ve also jumped back into reading books again, which is something I love deeply but seemed to just fall off of after school ended.
All this has meant that, by and large, gaming has been shoved off for different, new, and exciting things. But now things have settled down a tad—I’m getting into the swing with my new job, taken a break from being away every weekend—so I want to play some damn games! Yet, I’m not. Call it a lack of new releases, or more accurately, a lack of interest in any of those new releases, but I’m just not gaming that much. I’m reading Stephen King’s It right now as well as planning some cool trips this year—but those aren’t taking up all my time. Nothing catches my eye on either my Steam and PS4 libraries. Well…except one thing.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth.
I’ve talked about the game before in podcasts and articles, but time and time again The Binding of Isaac is my only constant when it comes to gaming. The little roguelike, dungeon crawler infiltrated my gaming space and never left. Despite all the changes, hard times or even exciting times in my life, I usually squeeze some Isaac in there somewhere. Since its release in late 2014, The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth and I have been real good pals. It’s currently the only game I own on three platforms—soon to be four with the Switch—knocking Dark Souls off its pedestal as my most purchased game. I’ve drowned around 500 hours into the game in total, and that number is rapidly on the rise. I haven’t even purchased the new DLC and probably won’t for some time. I’m currently sitting at a 60% completion rate on the achievements, and I’ve still got two characters I haven’t even unlocked yet. My current playtime on just Steam? 324 hours.
Now you might be thinking, “What the hell man? 324 hours and you still haven’t completed the game?” No, I haven’t, and I couldn’t be happier with the complexity and difficulty it takes to progress and unlock new things. Even after 324 hours with the Steam version, Isaac still feels fresh and exciting. It still feels strange and hard and unique. I’m still seeing items and thinking “Now what the hell does this thing do?” and half the time my question is answered with a ruined playthrough because man, Ipecac and Crickets Body really don’t work well together.
But it’s not just about the game being packed to the gills with hundreds of items, hundreds of enemies, dozens and dozens and dozens of bosses. It’s also because it’s so easy to have a movie playing on my second screen, or be in the car playing on Vita, or just having a conversation. The game is complex and at the same time very simple. Simple enough you can understand the intent in a paragraph, but between each of those words are 40 more paragraphs and a thousand crazy ass items that do god knows what to your build.
It’s that level of weird and elaborate game design that keeps me playing, even when life is hurling fastballs at me left and right. It’s so easy to grab my controller, plop down in my favorite chair and play for 30 minutes or three hours. And while I come away frustrated as hell sometimes, I’m always eager to get back in and break that losing streak. And if the wheels do come off and I lose that gaming itch, I’m still usually going to sit down and play some Isaac here and there. It might not be much, but sometimes it’s the only game I play.