I am a total achievement hound.
Recently, I've been putting many not-that-fun hours into Stardew Valley, because dammit, I'm only missing two artefacts for the museum, and I must have them. According to the guides I've been reading, one is found in town, the other by the bus stop, so I scour them every game day, then run around giving guide-approved gifts to villagers to make them be my best friends. I probably played without looking up too much stuff at the beginning, but once I got about a year into the game and started being hungry for achievements rather than pure gameplay, I was reading how-tos and making checklists and generally being more than a little bit obsessive for, you know, a casual cute farming sim.
So I absolutely loved this article on Polygon, about a father's experience watching his son play Breath of the Wild by exploring and savoring every inch of the world and discovering it, one moment at a time. I don't have a Switch yet, let alone the new Zelda game, although I reeeally, desperately want to play. I've seen gameplay videos, though, and it seems both like a beautiful, expansive game, and like the sort of game I would immediately start looking up guides for. Where are the places I need to go? What are the secrets I shouldn't miss? How do I get that achievement? The idea of "wasting time" just exploring a game world, when I might be doing it wrong and missing out on cool things... it's just not something I do anymore. I used to do it, before online walkthroughs became A Thing. I spent hours of my life walking back and forth in Monkey Island, trying to combine everything with everything, completely clueless about how to proceed in the game. When my friend got stuck on Day of the Tentacle, she'd call me, because I'd finished it already, so I might remember and give her a hint. Now, we'd just Google it. And sure, it's more efficient. But I'm really not sure it's better. Where did that sense of exploration and discovery go?
Maybe that's one reason I really like watching certain Let's Plays. I like seeing other people explore games and mess around doing things that I probably wouldn't do. I feel like I'm discovering the game world along with them, rather than rushing through it to reach the next objective. It's almost certainly why I loved Undertale, playing it completely blind at the same time as friends, getting "did you see THIS?" hints from them, and then watching and enjoying other people playing it blind on Youtube once I'd savored the world for myself, and discovering more secrets along with them.
Because the way I play most games... it's like reading with an eye on the page count, on how long it'll take me to reach the end, or trying to reach a target of novels read in a year. It's a checklist approach, using whatever resources I can get to check off that item faster, rather than savoring each experience and seeing where it takes me.
So, yes, this article has given me a lot to think about. Maybe I need to start playing games and reading books more like my ten-year-old self would have. Get lost in the discovery, and not in the checklist of achievements.