When a single game becomes its own hobby

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Next time you’re filling out a profile on a dating site or social network, stop for a second on the “hobby” or “interests” section. There’s a large chance that many will fill out the ambiguous “videogames” as part of their interests.

I ask that you do this because, for me, actually playing videogames has become secondary to my other hobby: playing The Binding of Isaac. Between the four versions of the game over the years I’ve easily put in 250 hours myself, plus watching it on YouTube is my main use of that platform.

I’m currently on part 200. Yes 200, of a Let’s Play series by YouTube content creator Northernlion . Each episode is anything from 20 minutes to almost two hours long.

Now this isn’t going to be a feature-length article looking at the long, complex story of the game or the insane depth of its mechanics, but rather a tale of my descent into videogame monogamy.

Strangely, it didn’t actually start with the The Binding of Isaac, but with Warframe. The free-to-play MMO is often called “Grindframe” because of the repetitive tasks and extreme dedication players need to put in.

Let’s throw around some big numbers, because my first head-over-heels adventure was a short lived relationship indeed. In less than three months I put 400 hours into the game.  I did all those hours by being employed as a programmer who got to work from home. I’d wake up way too early, power through my work load for the day, and then burn the rest of it with Warframe.

All those hours don’t even include watching videos about the game, reading community discussions and patch notes, begging veterans for help when I started, and then helping out the beginners when I was one of those veterans. This one game took up a huge portion of that time

This all reached a head when Warframe introduced a travelling salesman who would only pop up once per week to sell exclusive items (think Xur in Destiny). The only problem was that I was out of the province and without a laptop that could run the game. I originally planned to fandangle my way into it by leaving my PC running and using remote access to nab my items. Unfortunately, the internet connection where I was staying was absolute trash. Seriously, I think the hotel was somehow buying a connection from the 90’s.

Regardless, as junkies do, I found a way. My older brother, who has never played a PC game or done anything remotely like this, was chosen as my remote avatar to log into my PC, load up Warframe and guide my space ninja in a spacecraft to a central hub where he needed to locate a man on a platform that looked like Elton John crossed with Lady Gaga.

It was a painful 45 minute call to accomplish a task that would have taken a literal minute had I been at my PC instead of my brother.

After that my interest in the game petered out. Looking at that 400 hours played in Steam made me feel a bit sick. I could have had a second job, worked out, written a damn book. But nope, I used a rocket-powered virtual hammer to turn virtual space marine enemies into virtual paste.

…But the massive amount of free time I now had was soon swallowed by The Binding of Isaac. I picked up the original on Humble Bundle and “finished” it offline. This only took me around 24 hours of play.

Little did I know that what I thought was the end of the game was more like the end of a short starting chapter. After I returned to the game and got my fill, a massive expansion came out.

I then played that to death and got similarly sick of it. Then, the game was remade! The original version was made in Flash, a medium that couldn’t completely handle the ridiculous physics and mass items which sometimes appeared in the game. So, it was remade and renamed as The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. Oh, then a new new expansion was added that included almost an entire new game’s worth of content.

And now, just as I pass the 200th episode of the playthrough and my umpteenth next run of the game, that familiar shame and fatigue is starting to set in, and Isaac is starting to loosen his bind on me.

Once again, a mountain of free time is about to be freed up by my waning interest; maybe I’ll write that damn book after all. Or maybe I’ll just wait to see what other new obsession is on the horizon, because let’s face it, one is sure to come along. That’s gaming for you.


Clinton Matos

Clinton Matos

Clinton has been a programmer, engineering student, project manager, asset controller and even a farrier. Now he handles the maker side of htxt.africa.