In a chaotic year, I found comfort by replaying old, favorite games

The year 2021 has simultaneously been a very long and short year. With the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic came a lot of general fatigue across the board. And for me, that resulted in a little shift in how I approached playing games this year. I’m normally very into starting all kinds of new titles when I get the chance, and while I still played a number of new games this year, I found myself replaying a handful of games in place of new titles.

Replaying games that I enjoy is definitely nothing new. I’ve replayed plenty of games like Kingdom Hearts, Tomb Raider, and other titles on a fairly regular basis when the urge hits. But as 2021 comes to a close, I noticed that I replayed a few specific game, much more than I have in the past.

I feel as if I can chalk this up to a mix of genuinely enjoying replaying games several times over in the course of a year and the general lack of focus that I need to start new games because of the big, overhanging stress from the pandemic.

With that lack of focus this year, I found myself stuck in replay loop.

The replay loop

When I say “replay loop,” I mean that in the best way possible. While other players might have been chipping away at their “to be played” list that only ever seems to get longer each month, I was, for the most part, enjoying games I know like the back of my hand for a good part of 2021.

And enjoyment is the most important thing I can get out of a game.

There are countless reasons why people like to replay games. From getting to make entirely new decisions in each playthrough to embracing one’s inner achievement hunter, there’s a lot that can come out of revisiting video games. Looking back at the games I’ve replayed this year, the experience of playing a familiar story with characters that I connect with was certainly the biggest takeaway for me.

Main characters from Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade.

The two games I sunk a lot of replay time into were Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Final Fantasy VII Remake. Uncharted 4 is a game I’ve played a countless number of times since its release, and FF7R saw an immediate second playthrough after it came out in early 2020.

I tend to get fried out when my brain is working to focus on a ton of information at once. And 2021 has been a year that has been quite chaotic, so my attention was pulled in a lot of different directions — from my own work to just trying to keep up with friends as the year went on. And that’s where my replay loop came in.

Head empty, comfort games only

The familiarity of Uncharted 4 and FF7R were great in the midst of the pandemic because they immediately brought up good memories for me. These memories range from long conversations with friends about the games themselves to hours of playtime on my own and watching friends stream to even the times where I’ve played through both games and made different choices.

I spent so much time going back to these because they’re both comfort games for me. Everyone has at least one or two comfort games: The game that you just vibe with and you find yourself going back to over and over again.

Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

Uncharted 4 has a very streamlined story and map, but the character interactions, setting, and exploration never get boring to me. And FF7R’s familiar story and characters kept me occupied when I wanted to play video games, but otherwise didn’t want to invest what little focus I had into a new title. Replaying both of these games multiple times this year has been fun and really brought me a sense of completion, even though I’ve already played them through so many times before.

There’s a certain level of expectation in the video game community to spend a lot of time playing new titles. That can be a self-imposed stress created by the player themselves, who may feel like they need to “keep up” with gaming. But replaying games that you enjoy can sometimes get pushed to the wayside because of that urge to cut the dreaded “to be played” list down a few titles.

My time in a replay loop has been good. I get to play games that help me to relax and bring me a lot of joy. And while I might not have played as many new games this year as I normally would have, I can’t say that I feel as if I’ve missed out on too much.

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