When Gaming, Anime, and K-Pop Don’t Excite You Like They Used To
Back in 2017, life wasn’t perfect by any means. I was struggling through high school and was burdened by a myriad of mental illnesses. There were days that I wondered why I was even still going. I didn’t have any local friends, I stayed cooped up in my room all day, but there was something giving me joy every day. And this is the main difference compared to where I am now. Do I have happy moments in my daily life? Sure I do. But the happiness is fleeting, and I’m so focused on how things have changed for the worse rather than focusing on what I loved about life in the first place. The hobbies that I used to be so fond of are now an object of my criticism, but perhaps there’s more to it than my post-pandemic outlook on life.
K-Pop: From Consistent Bops to Superficial Perfectionism
K-pop in 2017 was truly at its peak. Artists that I loved were putting out music that I still consider some of my favorite k-pop tracks to date. Taeyeon released her first full album, My Voice, Twice came back with their hit song Likey, BTS had their addictive single Not Today from their second album repackage. The year was full of excitement and anticipation as I waited eagerly for yet another song that I’d fall head over heels in love with. However, as 2018 arrived and the years went on, I found myself becoming less and less involved with the k-pop fandom. I used to watch dozens of live performances in one sitting or Google different versions of a certain album to see which one I would be ordering. Now, however, I’m no longer on the edge of my seat waiting for my favorite artists’ music videos to drop. I usually find out that they’ve released new music by accident, and I’m left to wonder, How on earth did I miss this?
In the lovely year of 2022, k-pop has ditched quality for quantity and the inevitable human mistakes for perfectionism. It’s almost a chore trying to find k-pop stars that are singing live nowadays, and when they do sing live, their vocals are often heavily autotuned. K-pop artists are no longer required to have vocal talent, rather companies are more focused on potential “visuals” and catchy dance moves that can go viral (take, for example, the TikTok swipe motion from ITZY’s Swipe). K-pop is losing its touch that brought people to the genre in the first place. Individuality is substituted for the need to follow trends, albums are no longer affordable (yes, I am looking at the companies with nine different versions for one album…), and some groups are abandoning their activities in Korea for a chance at bigger fame in the west. What initially drew me to k-pop was how personable the stars seemed — all their variety shows and interviews made it possible to appreciate them as people — but now more than ever they feel out of reach. When you lose the connection between musicians and fans, what’s the reason for keeping up with them anymore?
Gaming: Infinite Possibilities, Only if You Have the Time to Find Them
As the years go on, we are introduced to more and more video games that are continuously breaking the mold, going above and beyond the greatness of their predecessors. There is more to see and more to do in these fictional worlds, but…is that actually a good thing? When I first got my PS4 in 2016 and played through Final Fantasy XV, I realized how captivating and immersive the worlds in these games truly are. I couldn’t help but wonder how much I’d been missing out on all those years. I have always seemed to favor an open world with a storyline that isn’t so linear, but as the pandemic rocked the world and my attention span shortened, I came to a realization: too much to do can be a bad thing, too.
I’m currently in this loop where I can’t finish anything because of how daunting they appear to be. Even my favorite hobbies feel like a chore, especially gaming. However, this issue becomes much more prominent when you’re playing a game like Genshin Impact where you have the whole world at your fingertips, but you simply don’t have the time to do everything: explore the new region, finish the new events, wish for the next character before the next patch comes out. Combine too much to do with monotony, and you have a recipe for procrastination. Open worlds and non-linear storylines are great, but when there is so much of the story left to explore, it becomes daunting. I can only say that the pandemic is what has contributed to this shift in my opinion.
Anime: Long-Lasting Stories That Take a Long Time to Adapt
I’ll still tell you that anime is my genre of choice when it comes to television. I’ve always preferred animation over live action (the farther from reality, the better!). I still find myself in awe over the unique stories anime has to tell and the amount of work that goes into making an adaption picture-perfect. Anime has a special way of connecting with both your heart and soul. It won’t take long for you to find a series that you’ll be hooked on from start to finish. However, when you get so invested in a show and then you spend one year waiting for the next season…then two years…and then three…it’s extremely hard to keep your interest from slipping. Then when the next season is finally announced, you probably have to go through the process of rewatching all the prior seasons to make sure you have a good grasp of what’s going on.
This isn’t exactly an issue just related to anime, as I know the pandemic greatly affected the production of games, shows, music, and more, but as an anime fan, I find myself getting frustrated waiting for another season of anime such as Haikyuu!! when I know it’s going to come out at some point. It’s a waiting game, and you’ll find yourself having to dive into another anime because of the lack of content. The other side of this is when series are prolonged or companies wait until the last minute to announce if this is where it ends, if there’s a movie in the works, or if there’s going to be another part to the final season (yes, I am referring to Attack on Titan’s “Final Season”). I want to fix my short attention span, but when you’re unsure of when your favorite show will come back (if it will ever), you can’t help but search for something else to fill that void in the meantime.
What is likely a productive of the pandemic, too much time on my hands, and a growing sense of anxiety with the waythe world is going, my favorite things have lost their spark. You could argue that it’s just depression, that it’s a product of me not going out enough, but a few years ago, I was in the same situation. Yet, somehow, I was happier as a person. I wasn’t so concerned about the details or the specifics, I was just enjoying things for the sake of enjoying them. This may also just be a part of growing up. I’m a fully-fledged adult now at 21, and I’ve come to realize just how much your perception of the world changes when you have so many responsibilities thrust onto you. The anxiety takes away from the joy of life, and your focus is no longer on making the most of your youth, but on how you will became a “proper” adult. It’s saddening to see people who are so young come to dread just waking up in the morning. This is supposed to be our bright beginning, not our midlife crisis.
I know I’m not alone in this situation. Even if you and I don’t share all the same hobbies, I’m sure our feelings overlap. The fear of what could happen, the monotony of life, the stress of making sure money keeps flowing into your bank account. It’s overwhelming. But it is important that we take a moment to slow down, to realize we often make situations more serious than they are, and try to enjoy things just because we want to. As the phrase goes, “Art for art’s sake.” Maybe I need to stop looking at all the flaws of my hobbies that I’ve listed above and remember what drew me to them in the first place. Will I find myself happier? Will my outlook on life start to improve little by little Who knows? Only time can tell.