The Balance of Gaming and Life

The types of games I enjoy are all-encompassing. A good game will pull the player into the world and make them feel like a part of it and provide an engaging system of mechanics as well. The artistic direction of the game world paints the mental image the gamer will take away from the game after standing up from the keyboard or controller. A well-composed track will evoke nostalgia powerfully.

Seriously, try to contain the nostalgia!

I used to think about games and their mechanics all the time. In fact, the number one cause of my loss of quality sleep was due to thinking about the different interactions between classes and class abilities in Final Fantasy XI. My fixation revolved around the intricacies of the way the tanking classes protected parties by mitigating damage (Paladin) versus avoiding damage (Ninja). This fixation extended to all of the major games of the past twenty years. All of my spare time was spent on these wondrous adventures.

As the years went by, I continued my hobby, despite changing responsibilities.

Getting a full-time job didn’t change my gaming schedule too much; I just found ways to efficiently prepare for work and my meals so I could spend the time enjoying my current fixation.

Getting married changed things a little bit; my wife is tolerant of my hobby. While she spent time on her hobbies, I spent mine gaming. Sometimes, I even managed to draw her in to my world (coughSkyrimcough)

Having a child dramatically changed things! For the first few months, I could continue gaming unabated, as my son spent most of the day asleep. As he began to crawl, and eventually, walk, the amount of time I had to spend on gaming rapidly began to decrease.

Despite these advancements in my personal life, I sometimes think about the fun times I had while immersed in my games of yesteryear and want to take comfort in them again. However, some of the games are old now (from the mid 1980s-1998) and have game mechanics too clunky for me to enjoy now.

Some of the games are MMOs that, while still around, have been streamlined to appeal to the “casual gamer” which, as it turns out, is me. This change is beneficial, as it affords me the potential to enjoy the game now, but I find that the streamlined game mechanics may fundamentally be different than the ones I remember.

Being at a different place in life has changed my perceptions and the value I place on things. I didn’t see it coming, but it sure enough did. If you’re where I was — worried about how much I cherish gaming despite advancing responsibilities — know that it’s possible that the changing of location, time, or people in your life will also involuntarily change your perception and how much you want to game.

The balance of life and gaming has been a struggle to me for a long, long time. It only now feels like I’ve begun to tilt the balance back in favor of my accomplishments in life. I’ve long suspected that, with age, I would involuntarily change my priorities. Gladly, this is the case.

In my late twenties, I never thought I would be able to successfully balance my accomplishments in life with my desire to game. I was doomed to this addiction. My outlook was grim, and I seriously questioned my self-worth and my prospects in life. As cliché as it may sound; if I can do it, then I know anybody can.

It’s not easy. I won’t lie. The desire to play is like any addiction. What I’ve found to be most effective is to remind myself of the value of the things I receive in exchange for my time spent playing:

  • Time with my family
  • Time to pursue other ventures
  • Time to better myself
  • Money not spent on games

Every now and then, if I have the time, I’ll indulge for a few hours. The re-release of DooM has me wanting to play every evening after work. In fact, I’d like to be playing it right now, but I’m forcing myself to write this article instead. And it’s working. Will power. The sheer act of creation has kept me from reverting to the easy thing to do and say “eh, I’ll play for thirty minutes”.