University was a horrible time for me. That may come as a shock to anyone that thinks it was the greatest part of their lives, but I did not get that quintessential college experience. I want to CU Boulder, so all I got was racism and cold fingers from -1F weather waiting for the bus. On top of that, I was going through school when centrism was at its absolute peak, and I was debating with people on why we shouldn't let nazis have free speech in my Sociology electives.
So besides my rapid slide into radical leftism, Uni gave me only one other thing that I'm thankful for: time. As a student, I had a mixture of autonomy combined with free time that I probably won't ever have again. Classes took up my time, but if I wasn't there I had plenty of time to myself, even with homework. I never had a class before 10AM if I could help it.
Lots of time meant that I could play lots of videogames. Whatever hot release was out, I was there. Whether it was FFXV, Nier Automata, Tales of Berseria, or whatever random 3DS game I picked up from the shelf of the local mom & pop game store, I had ample time to play and finish everything I started. This was mostly to my detriment, in retrospect, but we'll get to that.
That level of freedom that comes with time stuck around a little after college too. I mostly worked remote jobs that didn't have much in the way of actual work - for every 4 hours I was actually working, there were another 4 where I was playing games on the clock (don't tell my old bosses, lol). And then, of course, came the pandemic, where I had a lot of time to play games - between job hunting, of course.
It honestly pains me to admit now, having gotten older, but looking back on it, games have been a major part of my identity since I was 4 years old and was given a Game Boy and a copy of Link's Awakening from my mom. You could even call me a...*blegh*...gamer. I've always loved to read, too, but games have been easiest for me to talk about, analyze critically, and find new ways to enjoy, whether that means picking up new genres or replaying old favorites to gain new insight on what I liked about them in the first place. They're the reason I started this blog!
On top of all that, I was an anti-social gremlin for much of my life, which meant I hung out in online spaces to talk about games long before the internet congealed into 3 websites. If you're reading this and wondering how I didn't become a right-winger, don't worry, I wonder about this sometimes too.
Anyways, all of this to say that I've reached a point in my life where I no longer have an infinite amount of time to play games. In fact, I have less time than ever to play them. A full-time job, numerous other responsibilities, as well as new creative endeavors, have forced me to come to terms with this, and that's part of what this post is. So let's talk about what it means, how I'm working through it, and what I think about this shift.
Cutting the Wheat from the Chaff
When I was a kid, my mom got me a game about 3 times a year - my birthday, Eid, and when I did well in my classes. This forced me to be ruthlessly efficient in what I picked to play because I had to live with it for months afterward.
In college, I had more disposable income and more time, so my reach expanded. But now I have much more disposable income and not nearly as much time, so I have to shift back to the same approach as I did back then, but with some twists.
Because I'm a weirdo, I did an audit of the games I've finished the past two years, and took data from them. Here are my findings:
I pretty much never play games past the 25 hour mark. If it's longer than that, my chances of finishing decrease dramatically unless it's a game I'm absolutely in love with - your FF7Rs, your FFXIVs, what-have-you. Shorter experiences work better for shorter sessions, and I'm playing a game for at maximum an hour a day on any given week.
Unique Experiences Above All Else. I've been spending so much time with my Oculus lately, and finishing tons of games on it. Why? Well for starters, most games on the Oculus match my X < 25 hours rule. But even more than that, VR has been a new, fresh, unique experience for me. The novelty may wear off someday, but it's been a blast that I haven't felt since the Wii first released [Quest 2 Review]. Focusing on those unique experiences helps me derive more enjoyment from the games I choose to play.
Turning games into a social experience. I want to play games. I want to hang out with my friends. The pandemic got me to break out into playing games with my friends online, and even using my voice - which, yes, I was scared of doing, despite never shutting the hell up in comms now. If I can choose between a single-player or multiplayer game, I'll go for multiplayer every time. It lets me catch up with my buddies, and on top of that, games like Halo and Apex Legends don't require much start-up when I can just jump in and run a few rounds, which is what I want most after an exhausting day at work.
New Creative Chapters
I'm an avid writer, but even when I write, it tends to be about games. Whether it's on Twitter, my blog, or my Guilded server, I always seem to be writing about some form of bleep and bloop. This year, I decided to try something new, which is make music. I've written extensively on this journey already [Music Blog Post] but in summation, I am absolutely in love with it. It's the quintessential hobby, which is a concept that's always been out of my reach. By that I mean I can work on it without feeling like I'm competing with everyone better than me, and I'm pretty much always happy with the final product, even if it won't blow anyone's minds or push me to my absolute limit creatively.
The more I get into making music, the more it takes up my time. So while there's capitalism crushing me down into a fine point, sucking away 10 hours of my day, I still want a few hours of the rest of it to be music related. And on weekends, where I could normally binge a game, I'd rather use all of that free time to work on whatever beat-based project I have next.
It's funny to say now, but there was a point where I thought I'd always be playing games, even as I got older. And while I still do, the relevance they have in my day-to-day life wanes with each year. And with a Graduate Program looming on January's horizon, it's only going to take even more of a backseat for me. But that's fine! Part of being human is finding new things to be passionate about. Part of it is also doing what you gotta to pay those bills. I'm comfortable knowing that I have other things that I want and need to do.