With each passing day, I become more and more aware of the multitude of things that require my time and attention and that the time I have to myself and my hobbies and pleasures. The former seem to multiply and the latter shrink at an alarming pace. If you are a college student or (god forbid) an adult, with all the responsibilities that come with that, you’ll realize that you don’t have the time anymore to spend all day playing World of Warcraft or Halo with your friends.
Balancing any hobby with material and social responsibilities is going to be hard. You have to learn to be patient, delay immediate gratification and just generally be more in control of your actions and interests. Sometimes it’ll be easy and you’ll wonder why you thought it was ever a problem, other times there will be no balance to be found and something will have to go.
At this point, you can choose to set aside video games or find better ways to balance and integrate them with the changes in your life and yourself. This article is about the latter and here are some tips to help you balance gaming and your life. Don’t expect to be perfect and do expect to make mistakes and you’ll have a better overall time.
DEALING WITH PARENTS
If you’re a student, you must be familiar with the frequent directions by your parents to stop wasting your time, do something more productive, stop playing violent video games etc. Instead of ignoring or discounting such statements you can instead choose to spend some time talking to and convincing your parents to accept gaming as a legitimate hobby that they should not object to your engagement with.
Not only will it be another weight off your already overburdened student body, but thoughtful parents can also help you arrange your schedule so as to better fit in gaming into your life. Just think of all the kids who miss classes or underperform on tests because of their disordered and disorganized approach to playing games. This is someone who could have benefited from thoughtful parental guidance.
This is also an opportunity to better connect with your parents and help them come to an understanding of the sort of hobbies and interests their kid has. It’ll also help you make the space for a more congenial relationship with your parents than one that is hostile due to a lack of understanding and empathy.
CHOICE OF GAMES
One of the primary considerations when it comes to gaming and balance is the choice of games. If you’re someone who grew up playing MMOs, MOBAs or long RPGs that require hundreds of hours of investments, you may be in a for a rude awakening, Many of us unfortunately simply no longer have the time for such games. Instead of being disappointed at this fact, it is much more fruitful to see this as an opportunity to play shorter and more focused games that perhaps will be of a better use of your time but also more memorable and make you stay off thoughts of gaming being a “waste of time”.
I may choose to skip out an RPG if it involves too much aimless, unnecessary, and time-consuming grinding that is necessary to progress further in the game. I think we’ve all played through those. Your time is valuable, and more so with each passing day, the opportunity cost of time wasted with grind-heavy games will similarly multiply the older you get.
As someone who has to balance gaming between studying for college, artistic training, and reading through, I find myself playing a lot of smaller narrative games that, though perhaps lacking the excitement of something like a World of Warcraft, are ultimately more rewarding.
MAKING A SCHEDULE
If you no longer live with your parents, either because you live in a hostel or can afford your own place now, you will be faced with the realization that for the first time you get to decide what you do with your day. You’ll also realize that you have the responsibility to make the smart choice. To make sure you don’t frantically oscillate between either not playing games at all due to work commitments or assignments, or alternatively, spending all day playing League of Legends and missing all your classes, you’ll need to make a schedule and stick to it.
In fact, a good schedule might end up giving you more overall time to play games over a week than the occasional day-long gaming session that you might find yourself falling into due to an absence of one. Keeping an hour or so every day at night or in the evening and perhaps a little longer on the weekends is a much more sustainable approach to balancing gaming with your life.
As someone who spent a long time coasting through life without a decent schedule and a plan to each day, the amount of time you get back is hard to fathom and so is the realization of how much time is wasted every day doing almost nothing.
You might feel like you just have to play through Red Dead Redemption, the Resident Evil 2 Remake or the upcoming Metro: Exodus, but do you really get the same feeling when you think about Darksiders 3 or the new Kingdom Hearts? Let’s face it, there are some games that you may have liked and even enjoyed while playing but later regret having spent that time. Narrowing your focus and picks of games not only saves time it also makes you enjoy each gaming session more and more.
You don’t have to be anxious about playing through yet another be a barely serviceable slogfest with pretty god-rays and texture packs. There are too many games out there that are not just not worth the time as they are not worth the gigabytes. Just pick something else.
GIVE UP ON COMPLETIONISM
Are you one of those guys that looked under every rock in Dark Souls, explored every cave in Skyrim, spent hours collecting deerskin in Far Cry, tried to unlock every Steam Achievement? Well, not anymore. Just like you don’t have time to play long and time-consuming games, you won’t have time to be a completionist with the games you do play.
Finishing every side quest and pocketing every plant and animal product in the Witcher 3 might be fun, but you may want to consciously avoid such activities in games, or at least greatly reduce their frequency.
And who knows, you may realize that you prefer just doing the main quests and having tighter gaming sessions than spending hours looking for an exact number of brown bears to kill so you can craft one more pouch that you probably don’t even need. Time not spent fruitlessly exploring every inch of a map is also time you can spend focusing on the gameplay or the story.
INTEGRATE GAMING WITH OTHER ACTIVITIES
The following thought occurs in the mind of most people on occasion, “If only there were two of me I could fit in everything into schedule”. There may not be two of you but you can choose to try to combine two or more activities or do them simultaneously to make some breathing room in your schedule. There’s no reason you shouldn’t do this with games as well.
Whether it is something as mundane as playing some mobile games while doing laundry, playing rhythm games with a dance pad to get some of those cardio gains or something more creative like organizing a multiplayer date with your significant other, the opportunities are vast.
You also don’t have to be limited by trying to tie in disparate activities, you can also choose to combine multiple hobbies or pleasures into one. You can listen to podcasts and audiobooks while plowing through zombies in Dying Light or a match of Apex Legends, you can listen to that new Childish Gambino album you’ve been meaning to get around to while racing through Driver: San Fransisco etc. Again, the possibilities are endless.
CUT YOUR LOSSES
Most people aren’t completionists but many do feel the need to finish things they started. Get used to the idea of dropping games. Sometimes a game that looked great in the trailer just doesn’t deliver the goods, other times it starts out well enough but completely loses steam midway through, sometimes the steam doesn’t even last past the introduction. Sometimes the games are great all the way through, but past a certain point, there’s nothing new to see.
The latest Mirror’s Edge may have had great parkour mechanics but haven’t I already made enough runs to see everything the game has to offer? Do I really need to see Lara Croft go through another tomb? Does Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey really need finishing?
Sometimes the fun and pleasure of the next hour of Fallout just isn’t worth it and it’s better to move on to something else.
REPLAY OLDER STUFF
Imagine downloading a game that you were hyped up for weeks and then installing it, only to find that it’s just a worse version of something you played a few years ago. Every one of us has had that experience at some point. And on such occasions, it’s reasonable to why you wouldn’t rather just replay the original again? Well, perhaps you should. Replaying games can be quite a rewarding experience, not only do you get to re-experience something that you know is good and you know will scratch all the right itch, but you also know which parts to slow down and savor and which ones to race through.
After a somewhat lengthy break from gaming occasioned by malfunctioning hardware, I was really excited to step back in with something new. Maybe a new release that everyone was looking forward to or a recent game that I had missed out on. After trying a few things however I realized nothing was cutting it, only to eventually come to the realization that what I needed was something old and comfortable, something I knew was good and would help get back into the swing of things. So I picked up Dying Light and played through the entire campaign again, having almost as good a time as my first playthrough.
PLAY ON EASIER DIFFICULTIES
Most long-time gamers might shudder at the thought of turning down the difficulty settings, games like Wolfenstein even make jokes at the expense of people who do. You might think you’re missing out on the challenge and essentially wasting your time with the game.
But that’s not necessarily that case, most well-designed games have much to offer regardless of the difficulty you play them at. As one game design mantra goes, “Good games are good even on God mode”. You may not want to turn on god mode but playing Dishonored without Powers and a mini-map might be making things harder than it needs to be without adding enough to make it worth your while.
Not only that but playing on easy also makes you realize how many mediocre games pad out their lengths with unnecessary difficulties that serve no other purpose than to distract from the bad design. You may also discover that some games are just better on easy, Bioshock just feels so much more alive on easy, you can take in the world and explore every nook and cranny of Rapture without having to be constantly anxious about and on the lookout for a splicer jumping out at you or a Big Daddy in the next room.
Of course, there are games you’re not gonna want to turn down the difficulty on. The Resident Evil 2 remake is just not the same on easy and is genuinely a much better on the higher difficulties. There are other, like Dark Souls, where no such option to control the difficulty is even available. But these exceptions aside, you’ll often come across games where nothing is lost by turning down to easy and much is gained.
BE AWARE OF YOUR PRIORITIES
Sometimes you really do have to drop the controller and go take care of things that need taking care of. Prepare to have to cut into your gaming time every now and then to accommodate the diversity and uncertainty of everyday life. Sometimes it is a good idea to spend those extra hours studying for those tests and not on Super Meat Boy. Hanging out with your significant other is probably more urgent than a Destiny raid and your Professor probably won’t take Witcher 3 as an excuse for being late with your assignments.
In fact, if you prioritize and take chores and responsibilities off of your list first, you will be a lot less reticent and be much less likely to feel guilty to play games afterward and thus have a much better time without these worries. Having things hanging over your head won’t just make you more anxious and piss off your colleagues, boss or significant others, they may even lead you to resent games as something you once enjoyed but now only spell trouble. They don’t. You just need to learn to prioritize.
This is not just true for gaming but for most hobbies, sometimes work and responsibilities have to take precedence and making those calls is something every adult has to do. Don’t let games turn into something you can’t turn off. Always be ready to get up and take care of things that need taking care of.
PRIORITIES AREN’T ALWAYS OBVIOUS
You may also realize that you would rather play the new God of War than watch the latest Marvel film, that playing through Resident Evil is more pressing than the latest Car Seat Headrest album and you probably don’t need to read that new Neil Gaiman book.
Be ready to sacrifice and diversify your media intakes to make room for gaming. You probably burn through more time randomly flicking through youtube videos than playing the new level of DUSK and you will most likely have a much better time with the latter. There’s always room to make by cutting out other stuff that you may prioritize over games but without good reason just because you’ve forever been told that games are a time waster.
KNOW THAT THERE’S NO WINNING
Not just with games but with most things in adulthood, balance isn’t always possible. Accept that you’ll sometimes spend too much time playing games and sometimes not enough. That you’ll miss out on things or annoy some friends. Balancing isn’t something you do all at once and then forget about it, like setting an alarm clock, it’s a continual process.
You’ll always be shifting things and moving stuff around and every now and then hit a stride that seems perfect where everything works as is should and feel like you have to time for everything. The feeling probably will not last forever however and the balancing will soon have to start anew.
Would you like to subscribe to this post?