Enjoying games during school/work - the constraints of time.

It’s no secret that video games reward time in a way most hobbies do not – the more you play the more interesting content one gets to see, the more immersed one becomes in the setting of a game, the better one gets at it, and the mechanics become more intricate and interesting. But I find, especially during school/study, it becomes increasingly hard to both play games and to enjoy them. I go through phases of what I want to play – for a week I feel like a competitive shooter, other weeks I feel like an RPG, and this too can be an obstacle in terms of my capacity to enjoy games. What do I play? How can I stick with a over an extended period of time? It’s hard to have a hobby that demands time like games do, but I think it is important to find time to enjoy and maintain hobbies.

How do you pick a game? I’ve talked to my friends about this a lot, and it seems like a common experience is opening up Steam or the Xbox dash, seeing the massive list of games, and just closing it all down to watch Netflix. It can be overwhelming. When I was younger (or in summers) I just play whatever I want because I know I can get to everything. When time becomes a precious resource, it feels too overwhelming to choose. I’ve circumvented this by just playing. I don’t try to think too much about it. I was bored this week and had a minute, so I just randomly booted up State of Decay 2 because I was feeling a zombie game. Just make the call quickly. I’ve found that this really does help me to move past the indecision.

In my current situation revisiting games after weeks, or even months, is a necessity. This is frustrating on a number of levels. Not only is it overwhelming to jump back in to a story if you don’t recall it perfectly, but learning controls again is a killer. Honestly, I don’t have a good solution for this one. I always open the quest log and try to read as much as I can, hoping that I can recall past events and play sessions. I google the controls and mess around for a bit until I remember them. But its hard. It’s frustrating to be bad at a game, and it does diminish the value of narratives to not remember the small details and the nuance. Gaming indecision is very real, especially when the constant nagging thought of “will I ever be able to finish this game” is on my mind, but I’ve just tried to get way less cerebral with how I treat games – there isn’t an obligation to beat stuff, or play certain games. Just have fun.

I’ve come to realize that I need to be happier with small sessions. I can’t beat the entire mission in one sitting or finish an entire quest chain. This drove me away from many games for a long time, and it took me playing World of Warcraft again to realize that this was a me issue, not a games issue. MMOs set tiny, granular goals for you to reach, which makes them fun in long sessions or in very short ones. I began trying to do this for myself in all games. What am I going to do today – perhaps just walk over to the next city where the quest is, or do a small mission, or play one match. Setting small, contained goals allowed me to enjoy my play sessions more and not think about how I don’t have the time I want to play through larger portions of games.

Finally, I think delegating specific times to play games was really helpful. It always feels like there is more I can be doing for school, study, work… The only way I found myself playing games was if I scheduled myself time each day. From 9-11 I can do whatever I want. This is a good tactic for all hobbies, not just games. If you don’t delegate the time, relaxing can cause guilt and stress. So I try to be conscious of maintaining times each week to read, play games or relax.

@aiomon/@libraryloadtime on twitter.

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