And Then I Got A Job: Finding Time To Game And Valuing Free Time

August viewings: TV shows versus games. Yeah. Grim. (not pictured, Borderlands 2 and Gone Home, because PC)

 

When I was a kid I used to get bummed out that, when my dad came home from work, he would sit on the couch and watch TV for most of the night, and do nothing else. I’d want him to play games or do other stuff with me, but it was always the same excuse, ‘I’m tired,’ or ‘it was a long day at work’.

Some ten years later, I come home from work, make myself dinner, throw myself on to the couch, and don’t move until it’s time for bed. I now completely understand how he feels. Like father, like son, I guess.

About a month ago, I was unemployed, and had been for the entirety of this year, which comes with its own sorts of serious bouts of depressions and troubles but does have a few benefits in the leisure and entertainment department. Having an absurd amount of free time meant that every game I bought received my full attention and was played through to completion in a relatively quick manner (although as a converse quality of being unemployed, a lack of income means you don’t buy all that many games). I don’t really think I would have ever finished Ni No Kuni if I’d held a job at the time, or certainly in anywhere near the time it took me.

But now I am employed, as you might know from my annoying work tweets, and now I have money. All the money. I can buy anything I want! Or, well, a lot of things, but within reason because I am a reasonable and sometimes responsible person. The point is more that now I can see a game and think ‘yeah I can buy that’, and not scrape around in my wallet thinking if I’ll need that money for anything else like food or transport, which I’ll have you know usually won out over new games (because I am responsible, you see). Now the world has opened up with so many possibilities.

And yet here I am coming home every night staring blankly at my TV for a few hours because I’m damn tired. The photo above is for the sake of comparison: games played versus TV shows watched. There’s quite a difference.

It probably has a bit to do with adjusting to a new schedule, or even having a schedule at all, but it’s definitely the case that spending at minimum eight hours working (and about two hours travelling) can be tiring. The result is that I just haven’t gamed that much in the past month, and that leaves me feeling sad. I was overwhelmed: how can people find time to game when they work so much?

Games are entertainment too though, Alex. Why can’t you play them instead of watching TV? Because games require a conscious input, which equates to effort. It’s simpler to watch TV for hours or even read a book because you take on a very passive role when doing so – you just take in the information. Video games require constant reaction and response and, at the end of a long day, sometimes you just don’t have the energy to do that.

So it was that my first few weeks at work left my games library abandoned and lonely, but every cloud has its silver lining. Weekends have more meaning now – they’re not just another day of the week with the difference that everyone else is at home too. They feel earned, and that time becomes more valuable, and as a result it’s easier to justify spending an entire day playing Borderlands 2, and way more enjoyable to boot. In fact, Sundays seem to have become my primary gaming day – I spent this Sunday playing One Piece for an absurd amount of time. So like most people I’m finding the majority of my gaming happens over the weekend and, for the forseeable future, I think I’m okay with that.

Restrictions can sometimes be freeing. Having all the time in the world to play games leaves you without any appreciation for that time at all, and you waste it more often than not. Finding your time more limited means that you’ll appreciate what you have that much more, and manage that free time a lot more wisely. And there’s a certain joy to be found in feeling like you’ve essentially earned the right to play games with that free time.

None of this is really going to be anything new for you folks who’ve been in the workforce for much longer than I have – especially if you have other factors like families or significant others to occupy your time with that make all of my woes even more inconsequential. All of this comes across as a bit of a wanky learning experience for me. Value your time more, use it wisely, don’t just sit around on the internet watching stupid YouTube videos. Finding time to play games is going to be a lot harder now. No more wasting the time I’ve got.

Which is why you might find what I write about tomorrow to be mildly amusing, if not terribly annoying.

One comment

  1. Ha! You thought you were depressed when you were unemployed. That’s a good one.

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