Attention Budget and Sturgeon’s Law

I find myself in the doldrums when it comes to PC games these days. I feel like I’m cruising through a Sargasso Sea of endless games that almost but not quite hit the mark. Stellaris, Battlefleet Gothic: Armada, and Offworld Trading Company all appeal to my sensibilities, but when I sit down to play, I find the experiences oddly flat. And don’t even get me started on Doom; I’ve long since lost interest in frantic, old-school first person shooters. Give me something a little more thematic, with a meatier story.

At first, I thought that I’d lost my love of strategy games, but I still find myself firing up XCOM2 occasionally. I think what’s really happening is the predictable outcome of a long run of great games. I obsessed over Dragon Age: Inquisition, Rise of the Tomb Raider, XCOM2, and, most recently The Division. At some point, the brain and body need a break.

I’ve faced this PC gaming ennui before, so found that taking a break refreshes the inner gaming meter. For the moment, the Friday Night Follies LAN parties I host, plus firing up XCOM2 to move my Ironman game ahead one mission every other day or so seems to slake my PC gaming desire. I’m also prepping for Kublacon, an upcoming local tabletop game convention, so board games have my attention for the moment.

Or maybe the games that shipped recently really don’t appeal. Mirror’s Edge arrives in June, and I’m quite looking forward to that. The Civilization 6 announcement perked me right up. Having come off a string of terrific titles, anything that fails to measure up — even if it falls just a little short — can’t command my increasingly limited attention budget.

In fact, attention budget seems to be a frequent factor these days. I find myself having little patience for any unappealing media. There’s so much rich content on television, the Internet, games, and movies that wasting time on titles that don’t measure up means I drop them like a hot rock.

Maybe that’s the real issue. So much good stuff competes for our attention. Toss in the Sturgeon’s Law factor means I’m constantly bombarded by well-crafted crap which, on first examination, may be hard to distinguish from the actual good stuff. Reviews and streams of content don’t help as much as they used to, because those just represent additional content that competes for my attention.

Once upon a time, discussing games or books or media with friends was fun and simple. With so much content available, good, bad, and indifferent, finding commonality becomes more difficult. So we seek out like-minded communities on the internet, which simply reinforces cultural balkanization.

Let me be clear, though: I do not yearn for a “good old days” where things were simpler. I lvoe having this rich array of media, games, and literature crying out for my attention. I just wish I had a better way to figure out what will work for me. I’d much rather spend my limited attention budget on Sturgeon’s ten percent.

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