Tracking Plays

Yes, I am in a small crisis.

We live in an age of data. We carry in our pockets sleek devices of glass and plastic that hold more computing power than multi-million dollar supercomputers from the decade of my birth. Being the titans of technology that we are, we use these mighty tools to take pictures of food and to navigate a vast sea of mostly trivial information, like the name of that character from Avatar: The Last Airbender that always had a weed sticking out of his mouth. We accumulate data like tourists collecting truck stop trinkets. I saw this movie. I read this book. I ate this burrito. I visited this donut shop more often than that dude. I played this game.

Many gamers, myself included, choose to log or track their game plays. We debate about the merits of recording details like opponents, win/loss stats, or the time it took to complete the game. There is a lot of talk about whether to track games that you play online, or how you should keep track of short games, but lately I’ve been wondering why I keep track of my plays at all?

What does the tracking of games actually do for me? This month, looking at the number of games that I’ve played has done nothing but make me sad. Let’s say I set a goal to play a certain number of games each month, because I know that playing games helps me keep the warp coils in my brain aligned; however, if I fail to meet that goal, like I failed this month for example, then I feel bad not only for failing to meet that goal, but also for not playing enough games and for writing extremely long and probably grammatically improper sentences, like this one. The easy answer would be to just not set a goal, but there’s more to it than that. Why bother logging how many times I play games?

It’s not like I’m going to forget to play games. I play games because I enjoy it. I just don’t see what I’m getting out of logging my plays. I don’t log any winning or losing stats, because I don’t care. I guess it’s cool to contribute to the five and dime list, but I’m not really sure what that does for me either, especially when I hit months like this when I’m not playing squat. I guess you could say, well there’s no harm in bothering to log your plays, but I kinda think there is for me. I have more than enough stuff in my life that wears me down and makes me feel bad. Why should I allow any negative aspect into one of the few things that helps to alleviate some of that stress and responsibility. Maybe that’s a key concept here. Why should I feel any kind of responsibility to log my plays? I have more than enough responsibilities without adding in something like that.

You might think I’m being silly. Why don’t I just stop logging my plays? Why is this a decision that anyone, myself included, should care about? But I know that other people have had similar feelings about this. Also, once I stop tracking my plays, then the completionist in me says, well you can’t ever start again because your data will be incomplete. Even as I wrote that I realized how ridiculous this sounds. I need to just let this thing go. I should probably let a lot of things go, but I’m going to start with this.

I will no longer log my plays. I will not do anything to make what is fun not fun.

9 thoughts on “Tracking Plays”

  1. Jeff, just e-mail me after you play something and I’ll keep that info for you πŸ™‚

    I certainly know where you’re coming from. When I started keeping track of my plays, after that first year, I set a goal to hit 100 new-to-me games every year. And that was fairly easy the first batch of years. Eventually I went from reaching that goal around October, to reaching that goal early December… to getting people to play 5-7 new-to-me games on New Year’s Eve πŸ™‚

    And there was something fun to that. It’s the reason I once got grown-up adults to play the Polly Pocket: Fashion Beach with me, plucked from the shelf of my friend’s 7-year-old daughter’s game collection πŸ™‚

    But, when I eventually gave up that 100 goal (3-4 years ago), I admit: it was liberating. And it also “allowed” me to play my old favorites a few more times each year.

    So while I didn’t fully abandon ship, I hear ya, Dude.

    For me, it’s a diary. It’s a long-term investment. I don’t look at it day to day, or even month to month. I just update it when I get around to it (and woe is me if/when I lose one of those little slips of paper with my plays on it), and move on.

    But when I get to the end of the year, I like seeing the big picture. And then comparing that to last year’s picture. Which is why I’ll likely never stop doing this. But… I bet I could, at this point. It’d be hard, initially… but after that, I think I’d just move on.

    1. I think the one thing I would miss is being able to look back at the year. I guess I could continue to log plays and just not look at it until the end of the year.

      My daughter used to love Polly Pocket. It was her favorite toy.

  2. trivial information, like the name of that character from Avatar: The Last Airbender that always had a weed sticking out of his mouth.”

    What the what?! Who are you, and what have you done with Jeff?

    1. What? Okay Jeff is. Feel not inside your emissions of doubt regarding this being and identity. Aliens not involved in this transaction. Aliens not exist. Be happy Joe.

  3. Huzzah! Shake off the shackles of documenting minutia!

    I tried logging my plays one year, and stopped about 6 weeks in. It felt like homework, and like you say, I couldn’t figure out exactly why I’d wanted to do it in the first place. And if it’s actively decreasing your game enjoyment, screw that. Gives your brain more space to store names of Avatar characters.

    1. When I first started logging plays, I did it by logging in to BGG the next day. I’d revisit or revise my rating, add or update my comments, and reflect on the game. Now, however, the ubiquitous apps allow me to just click and go in the moment, and my ratings and commentary have suffered greatly. I used to log games as part of the evaluation process; now it’s just data collection. I could easily see stopping the latter, but I would prefer to go back to the former.

      But that brings up one interesting point: your log data has value to others. Whether viewing your plays (and comments) individually or amassing them into trends, others can benefit from you logging plays. You are a node in data stream. Don’t leave us hanging!

      1. Now that’s something that I hadn’t considered. I forget that BGG is really just a big database and that people actually use that data. I also check ratings on books and restaurants, and that data comes from people like myself, putting in all that data on our pocket computers.

        Maybe the best solution is to keep logging plays, but don’t look at my own data until I want to do something with it, like write a post about the past year or something. It’s not the data itself that’s making me sad, but rather an expectation that I’ve placed on the data. I could keep the data and remove the expectations.

    2. It doesn’t really decrease my enjoyment of games, but it does remind me that I’m not doing something that makes me happy, so thinking about the absence of a positive become a negative. Wow, integers are awesome!

  4. From your post, it really sounds like the issue is not tracking plays per se but the goals you had set for number of gamers played in a month. You write that “It’s not like I’m going to forget to play games. I play games because I enjoy it,” but that comes right after you admit that you’ve been putting pressure on yourself to play a certain amount and then feeling bad when you don’t meet the goal.

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