No, this isn’t an explanation for our weird habits. That’s something better left to sociology majors. I’m not even trying to comment on human behavior. There are swan-wearing Icelandic singers that do that far better than I could. I just want to talk about content consumption, why it is that we can watch the same thing over and over again – and why that, in some cases, we prefer it.
I have an ever increasing pile of shame. There are brilliant games that I’ve never played, some of which I own. I know I’d enjoy the rest of ‘Grand Theft Auto IV,’ for example. And I feel like it’s important to my gaming literacy that I complete at least one ‘Tomb Raider’ game. Yet I end up playing ‘Civilization’ yet again. Currently it’s ‘Civilization Revolution,’ which isn’t as in depth as its big brothers, but is much better suited for bite sized chunks of gaming.
I’ve got movies to watch too. ‘Heat’ is at the top of my movie pile. I’ve been putting it off for years. I’v seen ‘Beerfest’ at least five times, but I’ve never seen an Akira Kurosawa film. I’ve had the ‘Vengeance’ trilogy on my Netflix queue for a year now. They’re even available to watch streaming, and I haven’t gotten as far as the opening credits to ‘Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.’ But don’t even ask me how many times I’ve watched ‘Monster Squad.’
Television may be even worse. I’ve seen every episode of ‘Home Movies’ at least four times through, and the third and fourth seasons even more. I’ve seen ‘Arrested Development’ from start to finish at least once a year for the last three years. I’ve watched the full season of ‘Firefly’ more times than I’d care to admit. But I’ve never seen ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ or more than a few episodes of ‘Breaking Bad.’
I think it’s partially because I like experiences with a bit of a nostalgia factor to them. Every time I play through ‘Final Fantasy VI,’ I remember reading through the instruction manual as a kid, and sneaking from my room to the television at two in the morning. I get a bit of that feeling back.
It’s also, in part, due to the fact that these are tried and true. I know ‘Shaun of the Dead’ will be great every time I watch it. With another movie, I’d be taking the chance of not enjoying it. So why not just go for something that I know is good?
In a way, it’s a bit of a ritual. When Christmas comes, I always watch ‘Scrooged,’ ‘Die Hard,’ and ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol.’ Once a year I’ll read ‘Ender’s Game,’ not because I expect to get something new out of it, but because it’s what I do.
I know I’m not the only one. If I were, no one would own movies. What, after all, is the point of buying something you’re only going to watch once? If you’re shelling out $30 for a Blu-ray, chances are it’s for a flick you wouldn’t mind seeing a few times. So what is it that compels you to watch the same thing over and over again while neglecting other experiences that could be superior?