Video games

Finding time for gaming

Getting older means a balancing act to squeeze in all your commitments. Perhaps setting aside the things that you’d like to do with your spare time (gaming) with things you should probably do instead (like being a responsible adult).

Trying to go through life without the things you enjoy can mean things can quickly become a burden. So I measure my gaming time as quality time for myself. That said it’s becoming more difficult with each passing year to find time for it at all.

A balancing act

A quote from the Kevin Smith film Dogma seems oddly appropriate at this moment.

“He said that faith is like a glass of water. When you’re young, the glass is small, and it’s easy to fill up. But the older you get, the bigger the glass gets, and the same amount of liquid doesn’t fill it anymore. Periodically, the glass has to be refilled.”

Like anything in life, even the most effortless pasttime becomes another burden in our busy adult lives. Things were simpler when we were children, our minds were unburdened with worry, stress and commitment. We were free to simply to relax, play a game and enjoy it properly – without the distraction of social media, family responsiblities, work and the other minutiae of life.

As I’ve grown I’ve lost faith in a great many things, but I have yet to lose my faith in video games and the video games community. For better or worse this community is vibrant and compelling and I couldn’t surround myself with better people. Gaming as a body of work continues to motivate this wonderful community of ours and that’s only going to get more exciting as gaming gets older.

The downside is we’re getting older too, and it’s occasionally a struggle to keep abreast of all the changes and developments that gaming has to offer, sometimes (just sometimes) it doesn’t feel like my community anymore. It can all go faster than I can manage.

I find myself looking back to when I could manage it better. One of the many reasons I have a fondness for gaming because it is a constant reminder of the person I used to be. Games continue to be a comforting reminder of when things were simplier. I think back to games like Final Fantasy VII – one of the first games I experienced with the presence of the internet, and how exciting this new experience of playing a game in paralell to so many others was.

I’d always like to play games more than I am able, but I think I actually have richer and more rewarding gaming experiences because of how precious my gaming time becomes. Commitments such as work and maintaining my home life always come first naturally, but my game time has become more of a reward for the difficult moments.

A constant struggle

The internet has had a profound way on the way we play video games. I remember the time before the internet was the norm, if you were stuck on a particular moment in a game you relied on magazine for help, or the advice of friends to see you through. You learnt secrets about games by watching other people play them. Crucially there was no single resource for our gaming queries. Now our gaming time is infrequent, and we have less patience for finding things out organically, it’s easier to look things up online or discuss them online rather than taking the time to figure out what we’re doing wrong. Realistically as adults we don’t always have the time to persevere as we once did.

There is an improved tolerance of gaming now as it popularity increases, but even so many of us find it difficult to make time for gaming because of a lack of understanding by the people closest to us. There is definitely some pressure from people who do not understand games for us to play less than we do, to use our gaming time for something else – anything else deemed a better use of our time than gaming is.

There’s another more subtle effect at play here too. A lack of time to commit to gaming can affect the games we choose or are able to play. A bias arises towards games that suit the limited time we have rather than larger sprawling games that will dominate what little time we can commit to play. Bigger games such as RPGs will have goals and hundred hour completion times that can now take (us time pressed gamers) weeks to complete rather than the hours it would take someone with more time.

I only manage to accumulate the little gaming time I can slice out of the day because I am lucky enough to live with another gamer. I appreciate that not everyone can be in this position, but I am also genuinely saddened by how many people who really enjoy gaming have to play less or hold back on their interests or collections because of a partner or friends who actively discourage their pastime. This seems pretty common – despite gaming becoming more popular in this decade than it’s ever been.

When we were children finding time to settle down and play a game was effortless. These days I definitely have to work harder than I’d like to so I can make the time. I am playing less games than any point in my life even though my desire to play hasn’t diminished any. This is a problem that plagues all gamers, but seems to have more of a negative impact as we get older.

However I’ll always make time for a great game, and despite a lack of tolerance for our hobby, and the stigma frequently assosciated with gaming, that’s never going to change.

Video games

Let’s play together

As I write this the sound in our gaming space is punctuated with the fire of gunshot. It takes me out of my train of thought for a moment but it’s suitably apt. When did the term “multiplayer gaming” become so synonymous with first person shooters and MMOs?

It’s fantastic that we can so easily play games with others online, and it’s a key part of life as a gamer now. I just wish we all had more opportunities to play with others together – in the same room. It’s my de-facto gaming experience, and here’s why.

A good atmosphere

Playing games with others takes me back to my very first experiences of gaming. As a young gamer I used to experiment with games that I found difficult by playing them co-op with my friends. We used to pass the controller back and forth as we each struggled with moments that we found difficult. It’s a beautiful metaphor for local co-op games. There’s an indescribable pleasure in co-op gaming, you’re sharing a pastime that you adore directly with another, and they are often with the people closest to you. You talk, share ideas, and enjoy the game together.

As annoying as games without online co-op play are. I can’t help but be a little bit gleeful when games are made with no online support. Take Scott Pilgrim (pictured) as an example. It’s a vibrant, action-packed, scrolling beat-em-up. Which can only be played with others when done in the same room. It makes the chances you do get to play all the more special. No matter how inconvenient finding someone to play with might be, I can’t help but agree a little bit with the decision. Seeking out someone who’ll try a particular game with you, and finding the time to do so regularly can be the making of a game.

This “intended” method of play can become crucial to a games sense of magic, with every session as anticipated and exciting as the last. The electricity of play isn’t just on the screen, but it spills around the room too. It’s a neat way to include people that may not always play video games. Your confidence as a gamer can often get non-gamers involved and serves as a backup to those who need a bit of extra help and guidance.


I love playing video games with other people. I think it’s the main aspiration I have for my game-playing time. I enjoy gaming a great deal, but there’s something even more wonderful about playing games with another person. The experience becomes as much about the atmosphere in the room, the company of the person or people that you’re spending your gaming time with and the banter you share as you play. Other people are an important sounding board for difficulty, as you can battle on together to solve a problem, rather than struggling alone.

This is backed up by my extensive list of favourite games. (Of which Phantasy Star Online and Monster Hunter are but two). So many of the games I could continue playing forever are cooperative experiences. That said, while I enjoyed playing PSO online a great deal, I enjoyed the experience of playing it split-screen far more, but as a general point I can think of a great many games that come into their own when played with others.

Online play

To me the primary benefit of gaming is how inclusive it is. Many of us enjoy playing games with someone else in the room, but how often do we get a chance to do so? The added convenience of online play seems to have diminished the need for local co-op. As superb as online gaming is, I can’t help but think it’s diluted our need to play gaming in it’s most natural state. Games like Rock Band can be played online, but overall you get a better experience (and something closer to the one the developers imagined) from encouraging three others to play with you in person. A great deal of that is due to the pleasure of using the instruments, watching others using them, and the particular sense you experience by having people over to play in your band, but the same principle applies for many multiplayer games.

Video games can be quite complex upon occasion. In the process of playing a new game you learn how to control the game, how to navigate the menus and find the information you need. You also embark on a series of objectives whether explained literally, or understood over the course of the narrative. It’s a slow process that we as gamers do almost naturally. Multiplayer games are a great way to balance the complexity of games against their inherent sense of fun. You muddle through a game together, talking through approaches, and experimenting with a friend or friends.

Let’s make the time to play together more often, we’ll only get better and more frequent co-op experiences if we demand them (and use them).