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 Post subject: How can I enjoy Go without long-term expectations?
Post #1 Posted: Sun Jun 02, 2019 10:22 pm 
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Hello fellow Go players,


Like many of you, I have been fascinated with the game since I discovered it (in my case about two years ago). Despite that, I have not been able to enjoy playing the game casually, and am still a beginner in that respect. Almost all of my Go-related time is spent watching streams, lectures, and reviewing games of other players, all of which I have been enjoying. I've had at least a few correspondence games going throughout the last two years, but have only played about 20 live 19x19 games during that time - and I could have played 1-3 live games most days if I had made an effort.

Now as to why - part of me is attached to the idea of throwing myself at the game wholeheartedly over the next 5-10 years, just to see how good I could get if I really tried. That part of me desperately wants to be a high-dan amateur someday.

An apparently stronger side of me has been drowning that overeager, competitive side with all of the reasons why throwing myself at Go is not a wise idea.

For example:

1) The free time I would spend playing the game could be better spent doing other things, such as other hobbies that might more directly benefit my life. In other words - it's only a board game, it isn't worth that much time.
2) I am too old (early twenties now) to get really good at the game, so there's no point trying to find out how good I can get.

And that brings me to the point of this post - those two perspectives have been fighting for the last two years, and the result has not been satisfactory for either.

The all-or-nothing competitive side wants me to throw everything I have at the game until it is satisfied that I've found out how high I can climb - and if I'm not going to do that then I should cut Go out of my life completely and find something else that I'm willing to commit to.

The other side is convinced that I would look back on such an effort as a waste of time, and that casual involvement in the game is the way to go (pun not intended) - maybe with a five to ten year goal of getting to 1 dan or something.

The problem is, I don't know how to enjoy playing casually, and I am apparently incapable of getting rid of Go altogether. My competitive side is strong enough to keep me from playing casually, yet my interest in the game keeps me from cutting it out of my life - and as a result I end up watching a great deal of Go content without actually playing the game.

So - do any of you have suggestions on what I should do? Has anyone had a similar experience when starting out? Have you been able to learn to enjoy just playing each game, without needing that game to be part of a lofty goal?

I'd be grateful for any thoughts on this, from anyone willing to share them.

Thank you.

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Last edited by Prospective on Mon Jun 03, 2019 10:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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 Post subject: Re: How can I enjoy Go without long-term expectations?
Post #2 Posted: Sun Jun 02, 2019 11:57 pm 
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Prospective wrote:
1) The free time I would spend playing the game could be better spent doing other things, such as other hobbies that might more directly benefit my life. In other words - it's only a board game, it isn't worth that much time.
2) I am too old (early twenties now) to get really good at the game, so there's no point trying to find out how good I can get.


1) Why do you think some hobbies benefit your life more than others?

2) Why do you think that reaching high-dan should be your objective if you tried hard? Many people say they would be satisfied with reaching 1 dan.

And why do you think that you are too old? Bill Spight wrote on this forum (https://lifein19x19.com/viewtopic.php?p=177355#p177355) that he read about "a guy who retired at 50 and started playing go again. He had learned to play in college. He took lessons from a pro and made shodan at age 51, and advanced one stone per year until, at age 55, he made 5 dan. This was at a time when 6 dan amateur overlapped pro strength."


Quote:
and as a result I end up watching a great deal of Go content without actually playing the game.

Watching go content without putting it into practice is an illusion.

Quote:
Have you been able to learn to enjoy just playing each game

Given how slow my progress has been (still in the 5-8 kyu range, depending on the ranking system, after almost 3 years), I don't expect to reach 1 dan, but I still enjoy playing a few games each week.

Actually the situation for me is opposite to yours. I am more than twice your age, and despite Bill's anecdote, it's hard to convince myself that improving is still possible.

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 Post subject: Re: How can I enjoy Go without long-term expectations?
Post #3 Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 1:45 am 
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jlt wrote:
Actually the situation for me is opposite to yours. I am more than twice your age, and despite Bill's anecdote, it's hard to convince myself that improving is still possible.

I can recommend Matt Fitzgerald's How bad do you want it for that.

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Post #4 Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 2:38 am 
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Prospective wrote:
I am too old (early twenties now) to get really good at the game,


Not so. I know players without any particular talent for the game who were 7 kyu or so in their 30s who became amateur dan players in their 40s with no particular effort, just playing once a week or so.

Quote:
The free time I would spend playing the game could be better spent doing other things, such as other hobbies that might more directly benefit my life. In other words - it's only a board game, it isn't worth that much time.


That sounds about right. :)

Quote:
The problem is, I don't know how to enjoy playing casually, and I am apparently incapable of getting rid of Go altogether. . . .

Have you been able to learn to enjoy just playing each game, without needing that game to be part of a lofty goal?


One question, which you do not need to answer. Have you ever enjoyed playing any game casually? If so, you can recover than enjoyment. If not, you could probably learn to do so, and that could be a worthy goal, but you might need someone's help.

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Like many of you, I have been fascinated with the game since I discovered it (in my case about two years ago). . . . Almost all of my Go-related time is spent watching streams, lectures, and reviewing games of other players, all of which I have been enjoying. I've had at least a few correspondence games going throughout the last two years. {I have} played about 20 live 19x19 games during that time.


I know that that feels like a problem, but it could be the solution. You have found a way to enjoy a fascinating game. :)

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Post #5 Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 2:43 am 
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I started Go seriously when about 21 and became 5 dan within 8 eight years. That said, I did invest up to 16 hours per day. You are right to expect a very high investment of time to reach high dan. However, reaching 1 dan needs only ca. 1/8 of the effort for reaching 5 dan. In comparison to reaching 1 dan, reaching 9 kyu is almost effort-less, relatively speaking. For 9 kyu, I needed only two noteworthy things: learn from my own mistakes at all; a basic ability of tactical reading with some depth and breadth clearly above that of absolute beginner level.

Without playing and at least some studying, you might not improve. However, it is possible to enjoy go forever and at every level as a player, observer or both. It is your choice how much effort and time you want to invest but do not be ahamed of being a happy observer. Feel welcome! If you want to spend your time with your family or on rescuing the world rather than taking pride in competitive go playing strength, we admire your choice as much as you might admire our to some extent contrary choice. Other hobbies? Most of us have some. Again, it is your choice how to allocate your time to every hobby.

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 Post subject: Re: How can I enjoy Go without long-term expectations?
Post #6 Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 3:58 am 
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In my experience, the majority of people who start out early being obsessed about what rank they can get to don't even get to 10k. The people who are obsessed with actually playing the game, because they are having fun, are the ones who get far.

Every once in a while someone shows up here who has been playing for a week and starts wondering about the roadmap to becoming a pro (your goal is a lot more reasonable than that!). They usually disappear within a month.

If you can't make yourself have fun just playing, then perhaps playing this game is not for you. (I sometimes have trouble with this myself.) But the best way to have fun playing is to let go of the need for every game to mean something. One easy way to do that is to make multiple accounts on online servers, if you get too stressed out about reaching or retaining some rank with your "real" one.

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 Post subject: Re: How can I enjoy Go without long-term expectations?
Post #7 Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 5:25 am 
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Two things stick out to me from your post:
1.) Your comment about age. Many people have gotten to high dan amateur level, starting from their 20s. I am not one of them, but I have total confidence that it'd be possible for a number of people in their 20s.

2.) When you ask what you should do, that really depends on what you want. I heard a quote the other day, which was something to the effect of, "If you kind of want something, you'll make excuses. If you really want it, you'll get it done." I'd recommend that you do what you really want to do, whatever that may be - perhaps the option that'd give you the least regret in another 10 or 15 years?

Good luck!

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 Post subject: Re: How can I enjoy Go without long-term expectations?
Post #8 Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 5:36 am 
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Some thoughts:

Do you attach your self-worth to how well you play go? People who do this usually end up not playing because they can't tolerate losing. What is it that makes the game enjoyable? Can you just focus on the enjoyment and not on how high a rank you might achieve? Don't focus on winning but just on enjoyment. Set smaller goals e.g. reaching single digit kyu level, and when you reach that then set another goal such as 5k or better.

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Post #9 Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 7:13 am 
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gowan wrote:
Some thoughts:

Do you attach your self-worth to how well you play go? People who do this usually end up not playing because they can't tolerate losing.


This is very true. People who refrain from playing likely are afraid to put their self esteem at risk.

As I grow more experienced in giving advice, I tend to grow closer to Bill's advice: do what you enjoy.

The problem with that is that what you enjoy doing, won't usually get you where your ambitions lie. This leads to frustration. There are 3 ways of dealing with this:
- lower your ambitions so that they coincide with where you are likely to end up by doing what you enjoy (few people give up on their ambitions right away)
- start doing the things that are necessary to achieve your ambitions (some people do this, but if they don't enjoy that, or don't get positive feedback - read: rank boost - soon enough, they give up
- keep your ambitions, keep doing what you enjoy, and stay frustrated (most people do this)


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Post #10 Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 7:21 am 
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I have no idea whether playing this game seriously would be good for you. I also don't know how good you could be or if you'd find something valuable from the game despite not becoming a high dan amateur.

But I do know this: Even you can't know until you try it. Take a few months and do the things that you think you need to do to take the game seriously. Then revisit the question.

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Post #11 Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 7:32 am 
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Knotwilg wrote:
As I grow more experienced in giving advice, I tend to grow closer to Bill's advice: do what you enjoy.

The problem with that is that what you enjoy doing, won't usually get you where your ambitions lie.


This is a common criticism of Bill's advice, but I think it misses the larger point. One's ambitions are predicated on one's experiences. Following interests and giving yourself the opportunity for new experiences provide us with the information we need to evaluate our ambitions.

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Post #12 Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 8:01 am 
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One of the benefits I've found in Go is that it's an excellent laboratory to understand and mold your mind. If a play a distracted move in correspondence Go it's often a blunder. So my mind has become better at saying "don't ask me right now, I'm not paying attention." And that's a useful skill in regular life. As beginners we often throw more and more stones at a dead group, wishing it alive. As we improve, we learn to accept the board as it stands and play away, saving it for ko threats if nothing else. Again, a hugely valuable skill if you can transfer it to life, to accept what you can't change, to change tactics when your current approach isn't working.

I don't think there's anything simple that will blunt your competitiveness (other than age, and that'll take care of itself). Rather, if you want to be able to play solely for enjoyment, you just kind of have to practice. Notice your anxieties before a game and try to release them. Notice when your adrenaline is pumping in a game and try to calm yourself. Temper the highs after a win. Get back on the horse after a loss. Play playful moves, play non-joseki moves. Set aside some regular time to just play. Create multiple accounts if that'll help you avoid worrying about the effect of a game on your rank. If you work at it, you'll get better at ignoring your competitiveness.

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Post #13 Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 10:39 am 
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First of all, thank you to everyone for the thoughtful responses - I read each one, and am still thinking them over. A lot of good stuff though to be sure.

By way of my own response and answering a few of the questions:

jlt wrote:
1) Why do you think some hobbies benefit your life more than others?

2) Why do you think that reaching high-dan should be your objective if you tried hard? Many people say they would be satisfied with reaching 1 dan.

And why do you think that you are too old? Bill Spight wrote on this forum [...]


1) I'm not sure what to make of that question - hobbies that are not the same would have different results in one's life, and therefore some would benefit my life more than others. Perhaps I'm missing something. At the very least it would seem that different hobbies would provide different benefits, and some benefits would be greater than others, right?

2) I should clarify that my objective would be to get as strong as I reasonably could (without the rest of my life falling apart). I mentioned high-dan because that is the most I could hope for, but if it turns out that I can't get past 3 dan, or 5 kyu, or heck even 10 kyu, then so be it - but at least I'd have tried.


And several of you mentioned the age thing: thank you for linking that anecdote from Bill Spight, and to RobertJasiek for sharing your own journey - those were both encouraging. As for why I thought I was too old - I think it was me conflating two things. Virtually all professional Go players started before the age of 10. That said, I have no delusions of being a professional, and there are exponentially more high-dan amateurs than there are professionals, as could be said with low-dan VS high-dan and so forth. It would stand to reason then, that one doesn't have to start playing go before they could walk in order to be a strong amateur - I'll try to keep that in mind.

Bill Spight wrote:
One question, which you do not need to answer. Have you ever enjoyed playing any game casually? If so, you can recover than enjoyment.


Yes, yes I have. But this got me thinking about how I was able to do that, and I realized a common theme. The games I was able to enjoy playing casually had no formal rating system. That isn't even to say that I didn't take them seriously, or that they were not a competitive outlet - I was simply more focused on improving, period, rather than achieving X rank. Go servers do tend to constantly remind us of our rank, but a couple of you did suggest playing on multiple servers - and even multiple accounts on those servers to combat rating obsession. That seems quite reasonable.

RobertJasiek wrote:
I started Go seriously when about 21 and became 5 dan within 8 eight years. That said, I did invest up to 16 hours per day. You are right to expect a very high investment of time to reach high dan. However, reaching 1 dan needs only ca. 1/8 of the effort for reaching 5 dan. In comparison to reaching 1 dan, reaching 9 kyu is almost effort-less, relatively speaking.


Thank you for sharing this, I haven't seen it put in perspective quite like that. It is entirely possible that if/when I reach 1 dan that improvement won't have quite the same pull. In the meantime though, on to 9 kyu; it's an almost effortless journey after all - how hard can that be? :study:

Kirby wrote:
When you ask what you should do, that really depends on what you want. I heard a quote the other day, which was something to the effect of, "If you kind of want something, you'll make excuses. If you really want it, you'll get it done." I'd recommend that you do what you really want to do, whatever that may be - perhaps the option that'd give you the least regret in another 10 or 15 years?


That's a really good quote - so much so that I looked up the source,

"If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. If you don't, you'll find an excuse." - Jim Rohn

Needless to say, I've been finding more excuses than ways recently. In fact, I'm going to steal that quote for my signature here - hopefully you don't mind Kirby.

gowan wrote:
Do you attach your self-worth to how well you play go? People who do this usually end up not playing because they can't tolerate losing. What is it that makes the game enjoyable? Can you just focus on the enjoyment and not on how high a rank you might achieve? Don't focus on winning but just on enjoyment. Set smaller goals e.g. reaching single digit kyu level, and when you reach that then set another goal such as 5k or better.


Some solid questions here. I wouldn't say that I have difficulty tolerating losing (at least not more than normal), I have more difficulty tolerating stagnation, and feeling like I'm not getting any better - one of the things that spurred me to make this thread. I'm plenty happy to lose if I think I'll be better for it next time.

As for what makes the game enjoyable - I'm starting to realize that it is steady improvement - not winning exactly. Where I seem to get into trouble is tying improvement to objective ranks, although that may be one of the biggest motivators long-term. Somehow I have to learn to enjoy seeing the improvement without holding myself to some future number goal. And that's despite the fact that the numbers are just sitting there, begging to be turned into goals.

Knotwilg wrote:
The problem with that is that what you enjoy doing, won't usually get you where your ambitions lie. This leads to frustration. There are 3 ways of dealing with this:
- lower your ambitions so that they coincide with where you are likely to end up by doing what you enjoy (few people give up on their ambitions right away)
- start doing the things that are necessary to achieve your ambitions (some people do this, but if they don't enjoy that, or don't get positive feedback - read: rank boost - soon enough, they give up
- keep your ambitions, keep doing what you enjoy, and stay frustrated (most people do this)


That's my situation in a nutshell. I suspect my solution is somewhere between the first and second suggestions, but only time will tell, if that.

BlindGroup wrote:
I do know this: Even you can't know until you try it. Take a few months and do the things that you think you need to do to take the game seriously. Then revisit the question.


That seems very reasonable, and if it turns out that I don't enjoy it, it would hopefully be a simple task to dial back practice time, and focus on what I enjoy most for the long haul.

Thank you again to you all for your thoughts, they've been most helpful. I'll certainly continue reading replies if there are any more, and responding as needed, but you've given me plenty to think about already, and I appreciate it.

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"If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. If you don't, you'll find an excuse." - Jim Rohn


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Post #14 Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 12:28 pm 
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Hi Prospective,

Beginners sometimes overthink, both over the board and otherwise.
Often, those who reach decent levels don't overthink but spend their time wisely and efficiently on improving, like Robert did.

And some reach pro level, then think big thoughts and create superhuman entities, like Demis did. :salute:

ymmv :mrgreen:
...and save $20,000:

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 Post subject: Re: How can I enjoy Go without long-term expectations?
Post #15 Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 1:56 pm 
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So you enjoy studying the game to some extent, but somehow you don't play much.

I'd say that you will need to play more to improve. Enjoy the immersion that actually playing a game offers. Don't focus too much on improving. Focus on the the game you are playing right now and not on the next game or the game you'll play next year.

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Post #16 Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 2:11 pm 
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For what it's worth, I'll share three experiences of mine. I share your thirst for improvement and can get bored when I no longer improve.

1. Go - when I stopped improving, my last major boost having been a jump from 2k to 2d somewhere in the early 2000s, I stopped playing competitive Go. In the 20 years since, I have been on and off studying the game. Hikaru, the Gu-Lee jubango, AI, occasional pupils ... have managed to revive my interest. I find pleasure in studying the endgame but I no longer pursue a higher rank. Even if I'm 3d on KGS these days, or 4d on Foxy, I consider myself a 2d for life. Now I'll grant you I'm a happier man stalling at 2d than I would have been stalling at 6k.

2. Guitar - my motivation for playing the guitar is derived from my half-vocation in life, to write songs and perform them for a small audience. I'm pretty good at writing songs, at least I'm happy with my craftsmanship in that domain, but I'm perennially frustrated with my level of guitar playing. There's no rank system in guitar playing but it's easy enough to judge my lack of talent by seeing yet another teenager passing by in swift manor. However, music is such a rich domain, full of sensations, beauty, joy ... that I can still enjoy playing the guitar while s***ing at it. Playing modest variations of the melody of "Summertime" to a backing track, is not the hardest thing in the world, but it can provide satisfaction already. So I keep practicing and evolving, mostly "horizontally". Playing yet another song, with the same skill set, is more satisfying than playing another game of Go, with the same skill set.

3. Table tennis - for five years now, I've played table tennis and unfortunately will likely need to stop due to persistent tennis elbow. TT is probably even more competitive than Go, if only because there's a major amount of psychological warfare going on between either end of the table. Still, there's a lot to learn and you can objectively measure your mastery of strokes, serves or other technical/tactical aspects of the game. It's easier to measure objective improvement by other measures than winning, than in Go. And it's also easier, I find, to convert improved skills into victories, than in Go.

So here we have it: compared to other pastimes, Go is competitive, with a dominant measure of improvement (winning), which is prone to single error, and where it is hard to know what skills to develop which will affect that measure. While one is struggling to improve, just playing more games at the same level does not give similar satisfaction as, for example, music. But beyond a certain level, and I'd say the dan level is chosen quite aptly for that kind of barrier, it becomes possible to enjoy the game, for its richness and versatility, learning from the pros, building strategies, focusing on certain aspects of the game, and being able to keep a steady level throughout the game (while still making the occasional mistake leading to another stupid loss).


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Post #17 Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 6:14 pm 
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Prospective wrote:
Kirby wrote:
When you ask what you should do, that really depends on what you want. I heard a quote the other day, which was something to the effect of, "If you kind of want something, you'll make excuses. If you really want it, you'll get it done." I'd recommend that you do what you really want to do, whatever that may be - perhaps the option that'd give you the least regret in another 10 or 15 years?


That's a really good quote - so much so that I looked up the source,

"If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. If you don't, you'll find an excuse." - Jim Rohn

Needless to say, I've been finding more excuses than ways recently. In fact, I'm going to steal that quote for my signature here - hopefully you don't mind Kirby.


I don't mind... If I really wanted you to stop using that quote as your signature, I'd find a way to make it happen! Just kidding ;-)

Anyway, good luck. I hope that you find enjoyment in go and in life.

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Post #18 Posted: Mon Jun 03, 2019 6:40 pm 
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Trying to grok the consistency of this last part:

Knotwilg wrote:
While one is struggling to improve, just playing more games at the same level does not give similar satisfaction as, for example, music. But beyond a certain level, and I'd say the dan level is chosen quite aptly for that kind of barrier, it becomes possible to enjoy the game, for its richness and versatility, learning from the pros, building strategies, focusing on certain aspects of the game, and being able to keep a steady level throughout the game (while still making the occasional mistake leading to another stupid loss).


Do you mean that you didn't get (significant) satisfaction in go while struggling to improve, unless improvement was happening (e.g. in the form of winning more games and/or increasing in rank)? And now that you've reached dan level, you are able to have satisfaction without the struggle to improve?

Or do you mean that you get enjoyment from the game while staying at the same level, but not the same level of satisfaction as with music?

Or something else?

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