“The times they are a changing”: How gaming less has made me appreciate it more

gamepad_318-48332.pngI’m sure I’m not alone in this but I’ve found the amount of time I have to game these days seems to be getting less and less – and the times I play those video games has changed, too. I guess, when I look at it, it’s the natural progression of getting older, having more responsibilities (partner/children/work/other interests) and prioritising things –  but, surprisingly, gaming less is not necessarily a bad thing, at least  not for me.

When I was in my early 20s, I was pretty much able to game when I wanted to, apart from while I was at work, of course (although when I picked up a job doing game reviews for a NZ newspaper that shall remain nameless I was able to convince my non-gamer wife that the hours I was spending on video games was legitimate work: It worked most of the time). If I wanted to play a game on a Saturday afternoon, I could but as work became busier and children came along, my priorities changed: Gaming took a back seat for a while, especially when the children were still up.

If I wanted to game while the children were up I had to be selective on what I played, too: I rightly couldn’t play violent first- or third-person shooters in front of them, which was fair enough. There was a silver lining, though, as the children got older I started reviewing more child-friendly games, meaning I could get them to play the game with me: Win-win. Of my two children, my son is the one who games these days. My daughter hasn’t shown an interest in it apart from The Sims from time to time.

As I got older, time to game didn’t become so much of a priority: Other things took precedence. I’m sure many of you have found yourself in a similar position: By the time you get home from work, do the things around the house that need doing, sort dinner, take the dog for a walk (or go for a bike ride) and spent time with the family, it’s almost bedtime! Well, not quite, but it seems I don’t have the energy or time to spent four or five hours gaming in a single session anymore these days. I’m also not usually gaming until after 10pm, which means if I’m too late I’m pretty tired in the morning.

I guess it’s natural for the time you spent on things to change as your life changes but I’m now finding that now I’m in my mid-40s (I know: Old man, right?) while I don’t have a lot of time to game, I’m finding that I’m enjoying it more because it’s more focused. I’m doing it in bite-sized chunks and that suits my life now. I’ll play a mission then go to bed.

Another thing I’ve noticed, too, is that I’ll often be quite happy sitting watching my avid gamer teenager son him while he plays multiplayer COD or a few rounds of zombies on Black Ops 3. I don’t have to be gaming myself to find enjoyment in it. Watching my son is a fascinating exercise in seeing how a young, agile gamer tackles particular  situations or scenarios (it’s also great in seeing how he handles when things go wrong). Sometimes, I’ll just sit, transfixed as he racks up another kill or jump boosts his way through a map, taking down a horde or zombies with a bow. He’s young so has quick reflexes and reactions, unlike me. I don’t play MP games anymore  these days: My hand-eye co-ordination just isn’t up to the task anymore and my eyesight is starting to get worse (I had to buy a cheap pair of glasses from a chain store the other day just so I could read the fine print on a bottle of something)  and I’m not old (at least I don’t consider that I am) but my reflexes aren’t as quick as they used to be. I’ll stick to my campaign/story-based games, thanks.

That fact that I game less now isn’t a bad thing: I think it’s actually made me appreciate gaming more. I think it has helped that I don’t review as many games as I used to. When you review dozens of games a year I think you start to lose the enjoyment factor and the reason why you started playing games in the first place. As a critic, you’re no longer playing games for fun, you’re playing them to find fault. Now that I’m reviewing fewer games and buying more games myself, I can sit back, take as long as I like to finish it, and enjoy it. I’m liking that.

I’m also not so obsessed with collecting Achievements/Trophies as I was as a younger gamer. Now, I want to experience the game for all it can give me and I’m not wanting to blast through it, missing details in the narrative or all it has to offer. I’ve got no problem taking 10 hours to finish a game that Gamer X took six hours to complete. I have less time to game these days so I want to savour every moment.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is if you’re gaming less now than you used to don’t see it as a negative. Embrace it and enjoy it. You might find,. like me,  you start enjoying games a little more.