Once the baby stopped waking up every two to four hours it would be time to resume normal gaming habits again, or so I told myself.
I’d done nothing for the last four months but get up, go to work, come home, help clean the house, help make dinner, give the baby a bath, put the baby to bed, hang out with my wife for an hour, go to bed tired, wake up exhausted – rinse and repeat. Every night I sat on the couch and stared at the growing collection of games that I had no time to play but refused to stop buying. Invariably the task of actually picking one, just one, to play to completion would prove too daunting and I would spend the night in search of even more sedentary activity.
Usually this devolved into trolling gaming sites or curled up on the couch, eyes slowly glazing over as the latest in a long list of depressingly banal, and thoroughly unentertaining, rom-coms sent me into an inevitable eight-hour coma.
It was okay though because soon, I was going to take at least part of my life back – I had a plan. I was going to play Fallout 3 as both a good guy and a bad guy (experiencing all the game had to offer both times). I was going to consistently be the dude with the most kills on my deathmatch team in Modern Warfare 2. And lastly, I was going to play through all of those quirky XBLA, PSN, and WiiWare games that my impulse buying seemed powerless against.
At first, these didn’t seem like such tough goals to attain. After all, my love affair with gaming has waxed and waned over the years. I’d fallen out of love at the end of the N64/PS1 era but become smitten once again with Metroid Prime and GTA: Vice City. I’d called it quits after Resident Evil 4 but reconciled with Oblivion.
This was just cyclical, I told myself. It was a phase, right? Why should things be different now?
Well, mostly, because now things are different. I’m different. I don’t get the same thrill out of pursuing achievements, or doing the 15-hour quest that offers you a purple sword for finding every last little collectible. I didn’t feel like sticking it out when it became apparent that God of War is a whole lot of “Whoa, boobs!” and “Decapitation? No way!” or when Ratchet and Clank felt like an upgraded Jet Force Gemini (I love my PlayStation, I really do).
But I didn’t want to give up gaming altogether. That didn’t feel like the right answer – it wasn’t that I felt that all games were childish or stupid (or not worth my time anymore). That wasn’t true either. Whatever the problem was, I needed a solution. I couldn’t keep spending money on games that I had no real intention of playing.
So, just like everything else, I decided that my priorities needed to change. I had to take a different approach to how I got my game on – and since then, I’ve felt a whole lot better about it.
Read on to see how I used five simple rules to do it and how you can too.
- Only buy games that you’ll be playing immediately. This was a hard rule to get used to – because back when I was a kid, games disappeared. While this is still kind of true, it’s fairly easy to find (even rare titles) due to the prevalence of Amazon, Craigslist, and Gamestop. If you have the money, fine. But I don’t and, if I were a betting man, I’d guess that you probably really don’t either. The upside to this is that after about three months most games go down in price. That money belongs in the baby’s college fund anyway, so if you’re gonna waste it, waste it wisely.
- Take it one game at a time. Rushing through Demon’s Souls so you can blitz through Super Mario Galaxy 2 before Call of Duty: Black Ops comes out is a great way to suck the fun right out of this hobby. Games are meant to be enjoyed, so have fun with them. First of all, don’t rush; you’re not a professional reviewer on a deadline. Second of all, I promise that literally not one person in this, or any world, cares that much about your e-penis. And neither should you.
- Don’t believe the hype. As media savvy as I like to think I am, I’m a sucker for a good advertising campaign. You’re probably the same and that’s okay. But, hey, if you’ve never enjoyed Madden, odds are that the 2012 super-deluxe edition with the really funny Zach Galifianakis commercial won’t end up changing your mind – regardless of how excited your frat brothers and EA’s marketing department may seem.
- Trust your instincts. If you don’t like combo-based button-mashers and the new God of War looks like a bunch of “press ‘x’ to win”, maybe you should steer clear. Or if you think JRPGs are antiquated and boring, Square-Enix’s latest offering probably isn’t up your alley. Look, you have way too many competing interests at this point in your life. Don’t waste precious playing time trying to convince yourself that you’re some kind of gaming renaissance man. Trust me, I don’t think that such a thing even exists.
- Pick your battles. There are good times to pick up a controller and then there are times that are less than ideal. You wouldn’t take an extended and impromptu break right in the middle of an important business meeting, after which your boss would then fire you, would you? Well, getting divorced and having to watch as some yuppy dude named Lance romances your former wife and raises your kid because you were too much of an idiot to help out with the dishes is kind of like getting fired.
Now this list isn’t a cure-all and it’s not supposed to be. But it is a good base to start with if you’re having a rough time adjusting to the full-blown adult thing because, let’s be real here, who isn’t?
With just a little discipline and a lot of patience, you can be a full-time dad and a full-time husband with a full-time job and a not-quite-full-time hobby – thanks to these five simple rules.
Is it hard for you to find time to game? What tips do you have?