If you’re an avid reader, you might be familiar with the term “book hangover” when you finish a book you’ve become heavily engrossed in. It can be tough breaking out of the stupor you feel as you try to return to ‘normal life’. Recently, I’ve realized that this same phenomenon can happen with games as well. After finishing The Beginner’s Guide, the new story line in Guild Wars 2’s expansion, and even the Let’s Play of SOMA that I watched, I felt those same distinct symptoms I feel finishing particularly good books. So what are these symptoms and how can you deal with them?
One big part of a game hangover is continuing to think about the plot, settings, or characters of the game hours and days after finishing it. It might feel like a pebble in your mind you have to return to and turn over again and again, trying to make sense of a surprise twist or come to terms with the death of a character. On top of just thinking about the game on your own, you might be obsessively searching the web to find others online discussing the game. How do others interpret that one character’s actions? What are others speculating will happen in the sequel or next expansion? This is a way for you to cling to the game’s world that you were so pleasantly immersed in.
Most frustratingly though, you might find that after finishing an amazing game you are finding it hard to concentrate on other tasks. For me especially with the three games I listed above I wasn’t able to do much of anything after completing them. For SOMA and The Beginner’s Guide I was plagued by existential theories and the meaning of life and creation. For GW2 I was just really sad because certain things happened. Another frustrating aspect of this symptom is that you might find it difficult to even play any other games. It feels like, “Well if I can’t be in that game world then what’s the point of being in any game world?”
The bottom line is, you feel weirdly disconnected from the real world because your mind still wants to be immersed in that wonderful game’s world.
All’s not quite as bad as it seems, though. There are some ways to shake off those awkward feelings and continue being a functioning human. Mostly, anyway.
The best treatment is to discuss the game with a friend. Find a friend who has played the same game – or better yet, play through the game with them! You can talk through all your feelings and theories about the plot and characters. As time passes and you continue to turn over that game in your head you might think of more things to discuss, so don’t worry if you feel like you need repeated applications of this treatment.
Another option is to find a different way to express yourself – write a blog post, do some fan art, discuss your thoughts on a podcast – anything! Combine your pent-up mental energy with some creative energy so that you can be productive rather than just laying on the floor, staring at the ceiling, and contemplating what it means to really be human. Not that I’ve done that recently or anything…
And finally you can try to sink your teeth into a new story in a different medium. Can’t bring yourself to pick up another game to play, even if it’s in a wildly different genre than the one you just finished? Try a book instead! Or maybe finally crack into that TV show you’ve been meaning to catch up on. Ultimately I think what we crave is a good story to get immersed in, but sometimes the medium kind of catches us up after we finish a really good story. By switching mediums you might find it easier to get into a new story and stop thinking about the previous one quite as much.
Have you ever had a game hangover? What did you do about it?