On the perceived waste of giving up halfway

I’ve been playing Skyrim. About 150 hours into it, not even halfway through all the game has to offer. Now, Skyrim is a fine game, does what many do not. Let my 150 hours in it speak for how much fun it has been. But I’ve played many other RPGs, and I’ve had the experiences of Morrowind and Oblivion (Skyrim’s two predecessors). In the end, it’s just another game where I can fetch things, deliver things, kill things, protect things, and a handful of more interesting interactions. After a while, it all starts to look like Progress Quest. The only value in that game is in its stories, which are only worth it half of the time. So why do I keep on playing it? And if I decide to stop permanently, why do I have a hard time deleting my save files?

I’ll tell you why. It feels like a waste. This is true, but we tend to let it lead us to a false conclusion and poor decision.

There are certain goals that take prolonged effort, and a partial effort uncompleted is practically an entire waste of that effort. Consider a race where a racer simply quits on the last lap. He gets nothing for his partial efforts, even if he had been the fastest racer until that point. Only completing the race brings value and meaning to all the effort leading up to the finish.

Contrast the above with goals that are in themselves already a waste. For example, reading a particularly crappy webcomic, watching a poor quality film or show, or suffering through a dumb novel. Those things are a waste in proportion to how much time you spend doing them, and no value in added upon completion. It is the same with dumb video games. As soon as we realize we are wasting our time, we should stop as there is no redeeming what we’ve already wasted. All we can do, and should do, is prevent future waste.

There’s also the issue of money. We think to ourselves, it would be a waste if I paid $60 for this game and never got my money’s worth out of it. The truth is that the money is gone, and there’s no redeeming it. All we can do is decide whether to also waste our time or not. Wasted time does not make the money well spent. Not wasting time does not make the foolish purchase any more foolish.

All I’m saying is, if the game’s not worth playing to its conclusion, just delete it and its saves immediately. You’ll add that many hours to your life. If the story is worth some time investment, but not as much as the game demands, go read the game’s wiki.

edit: I thought my own advice was good, so four days later and an additional 4.5 hours wasted in Skyrim I deleted my save files and the game itself. It’s amazing that I can still feel such a great sense of liberty from such a simple action.

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