Earlier this week, I finally deleted Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 from my hard drive, a video game that I had spent the better part of a year lying to myself about getting into. I played several hours at launch, not really feeling it but not really hating it. I checked in every now and then for the sake of chipping away at the massive amount of game, waiting for the moment when I would finally find my groove and plunge in with gusto. It never occurred, perhaps because I don’t really do anything “with gusto.” Or maybe it’s because I don’t want to play The Division 2.
The Division 2 is a live service game meant to be played more or less endlessly. You build a super-troop in post-apocalyptic Washington, DC, and work towards rebuilding the government, mostly by shooting people. It’s an uncomfortable experience if you think about the story, but it’s also a video game that wants you to think much more about numbers, and how finding better kneepads and guns will make those numbers go up. Since video game maths is fun, I gave it the old college try and... I just couldn’t do it. Something about the way the third-person shooting feels just collides violently against the pleasure centres of my brain, like a pigeon that can’t tell a glass skyscraper is right in front of it.
I kept trying, though, because it was an endless game. An endless game! What a concept. If I gave The Division 2 enough time, I could maybe do all sorts of cool stuff, like see what their version of raids are like, or wreck fools in the PvP arena, or gain a new “specialisation” which would give my (totally on the up-and-up) militia-man a cool new gun or ability. All while wearing a Hawaiian shirt too, should I find one in a loot box.
Endless games like The Division 2 have a magnetic appeal to them – even if I don’t like this one, maybe someday I’ll find one I will? The idea of finding a game that you could be happy playing forever is kind of powerful, so much so that even if you already play one (like myself and Destiny 2) it’s still tempting to see if you can find another, for variety’s sake. There’s always more.
The flipside is that pull is only felt while you’re in the river, swept up in the current. Take enough time away from anything – a video game, TV, the Internet – and you stop feeling that tug. You wonder why you cared, or you figure out the one thing that you actually found compelling wasn’t what you thought it was. (In my case: I have video game FOMO, which no one game will ever fix.)
So I deleted The Division 2, and I feel quite nice. Almost as nice as the nearly-100 gigabytes of hard drive space I now have for other things that excite me more.