Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Time Out For Fun

(image source) 
Being a grown up gamer is not always easy.  Aside from a significant portion of the adult populace believing gaming is an immature pastime (a future post will address this), simply having time to play video games is challenging in and of itself.  Or is it?  I've often read on internet gaming forums over the years people saying something to this effect:

"I love video games but I just don't have time to play them."

If you are an adult who thinks something to the effect of the above sentence, this Ardent post is for you.

It's obvious as an adult that you don't have as much free time as you did as a kid. You don't have as much free time period.  What with a full time job, a full time relationship, a house to take care of, kids, and a bajillion responsibilities/obligations/chores to contend with.  I know this well, because I deal with all of those things as a grown up gamer myself.  Yet I also have time for video games on a very regular basis, and I'll get to why that is in a minute.  But I want to put out the real reason adults don't have "time" for gaming.  Let's look at what the average adult does with their free time.  According to the latest data of the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

"Watching TV was the leisure activity that occupied the most time (2.8 hours per day), accounting for more than half of leisure time, on average, for those age 15 and over."

Funny that so many people have no time for gaming supposedly, but have almost 3 hours a day's worth of time for watching TV.   The truth is this situation has got nothing to do with time.  It has to do with energy.

Energy is what many adults actually don't have enough of when it comes to gaming.  One of the best things about video gaming is that it's an interactive hobby.  It's not passive most of the time.  That's a very important distinction versus watching TV.  You can lay on a couch and a movie will show itself to you, music will play itself to you, the internet asks only that you can click in its general direction.  Books at least require some thought processing, but are largely inactive versus video games.  Video games are the only entertainment medium that requires you invest real energy into it in order to enjoy it.

The point I'm making is that when you're tired, video games are certainly the most demanding pastime of the lot. And that's why many adults don't play video games despite being interested in them.  After a long day of work, kids, chores, etc. and it's finally time to unwind... the average adult is simply too tired to play an interactive video game.  They want to relax with something that just plays itself for them as they lay on the couch.  Hence Netflix's and Youtube's wild popularity right?  Yes despite not having the energy for gaming, the average adult still manages to stay up late watching TV.

Now I'll admit that I don't get as much sleep as I should.  On weeknights I average six hours of sleep.  But I'm not alone.  I've seen more and more studies showing that adults are not getting enough sleep.  Such as this one and that one .  So while some adults say they don't have time for gaming they are still staying up late for passive entertainment.  They have time for low energy activities.  So it stands to reason that if they had more energy could more people play a game as they say they wish to?

Let's go with that tangent next then.

I'll talk about how I get my energy.  First off I won't lie, caffeine is my friend.  It may be my enemy in the long run, but for now it's my friend.  But caffeine is not my only friend for fighting the evening energy slump.  Far more important are proper diet and regular exercise.  Nutritious food provides energy, that's a no-brainer.  Eat crap and you feel like crap.  Eat good stuff and you feel good.  It's as simple as that.  As for exercise, it's been proven again and again doing exercise increases your overall energy level. My favorite exercise is walking, for reasons, reasons, and reasons.  I eat well, exercise often, and indulge in caffeine a fair bit.  These are the things I do to increase my own energy for the evening.

But energy is only half the recipe for adult gaming success.  The other half is a gaming schedule.

Human beings are creatures of habit, we all know that.  Most of the time we associate habits with negative activities that we want to stop.   But we can also create positive habits that enforce our body's ability to want to do the same thing, at the same time, on a regular basis.  That's why I created a gaming schedule that I stick to.  Mine is 10pm-12:30am.  It starts at 10pm because by then the rest of the house is asleep (aside from a particularly insane cat). So unless I have a serious obligation in the way, come 10pm I'm playing a video game.  Come 12:30am I'm winding down for sleep.  This means I can get 15 hours of gaming time in a week, give or take.  Simply by sticking to a schedule and having the energy for it, I manage to be a responsible adult who still "has time" for gaming.

But let's say you're one of the few adults who actually value sleep.  Obviously a late night gaming schedule isn't going to work for you.  However, throughout the day you do take breaks, right?  I am sure if you examine your day you'll find times where you have 15 to 30 minutes of downtime in-between your responsibilities.  (If that's not true you have bigger problems in life than not being able to play video games.)  Well you're in luck then, because video gaming has never been more portable and convenient than it is now.  

Right now we have awesome handhelds such as the Nintendo 3DS and Sony Vita which provide outstanding value.  They are not insanely expensive and have excellent libraries to choose from.  And if for some reason you're too self conscious to be seen holding a handheld gaming platform in public, then your smartphone is there for you.  Whether you use Apple or Droid, there are plenty of excellent games to play on either platform that are easily managed in spurts of 5 minutes here, 10 minutes there.  (I beat the RPG Ravensword: Shadowlands in bits and pieces and had a great time.)  So while you might not have the time to play a console game for hours at a time like you did as a teenager, you do have this option.  Portable gaming is truly great, it's never been better than it is now.

So let's recap how to have "time" for playing games as an adult:

1. Work on increasing your energy levels.
2. Make a gaming schedule and stick to it.
3. Watch less TV, read less internet, play games instead.
4. Sacrifice sleep because you're probably doing that anyway. 
5. Play portables intermittently during the day, if you can't game for long at night.

That's really all there is to it.  Unless you've got three kids and you're working two jobs, I don't believe you if as an adult you say, "I love video games but I just don't have time to play them."  Because if you're not playing video games then you definitely don't love them.  You actually just love the nostalgia you have for them.

I'll end this post with relevant video from Devo:



  1. Great writeup! I can totally relate.

  2. Hahaha, I think everyone likes your tips how to have "time" for playing games as an adult :)