Being an adult today puts us in a unique position. People into their late 20s and 30s are in a position that no other generation has seen before. There have been massive technological advances and social movements that have rocked previous foundations. In particular, though, we've had the opportunity to grow up as console and PC gamers. Personally, I have strong memories of the Sega vs. Nintendo console wars of the 8 and 16 varieties. I remember taking the side of Team Sonic against my vocal Team Mario friends. Then again, all that meant was we'd go over to the other's house whenever we wanted to spend the day on the Genesis or SNES.
This means that a huge portion of our fellow adults grew up as gamers. In contrast to the arcade and Atari crowds that came before us, we had full narrative experiences that spanned several hours if not days. We devoted a ton of time to games like Final Fantasy, Super Mario World, Sonic 2, and more. The more time went on, experiences became more indepth. They also become much longer. It was easy to max out the clock in Final Fantasy VII with 99 hours. Even the Mario and Sonic franchises saw a massive increase in dedication. I can't tell you how much time I spent on Mario 64 and Sonic Adventure. By the time we were teenagers, we had several games clocked in at over 100 hours, and I haven't even mentioned World of Warcraft yet.
This is when things start to get a little strained. Our school work started getting more intense and lengthy. We had to keep jobs in order to pay for our cars, gas, and cell phones. Little by little, the time we used to spent gaming was being spent on making a living. Full time job often didn't pay enough, so we had to get second jobs. If they did pay enough, we likely worked longer than 40 hours to keep them. On top of that, we had bills, family obligations, dating, and more to take up our precious gaming time. Then, some of us got married. Some of us had kids. Gaming then fell to the wayside. It was something we'd only sometimes do, and even then, those epic games simply took too much time to invest in. We became, for lack of a better term, casual gamers.
That's why I'm here to help. As a lifelong gamer myself, I have hit a lot of the same roadblocks as the rest of you. There have been plenty of times I've forgone playing games I love in lieu of other, more important things. In recent years, though, I sat down to fully address the problem. Below, I've listed out my discoveries that helped bring me back to gaming. Hopefully, they can help you as well. You see, the issue wasn't that gaming wasn't as important to me as it used to be. In fact, the exact opposite was true.
1. Gaming is Important
Contrary to popular belief, gaming is actually pretty important. In the time where I stopped gaming regularly, I carried around an immense amount of stress. I spent all of my free time in chunks just large enough to notice I didn't have enough free time to do anything. The weight of work, bills, society, and just being a genuine adult can easily pile up if you don't have an outlet. When gaming is your outlet, cutting it out just leaves you as a ball of tension, ready to pop at a moment's notice.
Science is starting to find out that video games do a lot to help people deal with stress. Hell, a recent study even found that video games can be a better stress reliever than sex (http://www.geekwire.com/2017/video-games-better-sex-relieving-stress-study-says-yes-men/). It seems that blasting away at demons or driving a car into a soccer ball regularly beats having an orgasm. Given, that may not be the case for everyone. It's simply that gamers game. We grew up gaming, and we notice when it's missing from our lives.
But knowing that gaming is important isn't enough. We know that it's better for us to cook fresh food at home, but that doesn't always stop our late night Taco Bell runs. We often stick to what's easiest instead of what's best. When it comes to video games, there's still one huge hurdle in the way. Important or not, the problem still remains: there's just not enough time in a day for a lot of us to game. Or is there?
2. Make a Schedule
This may be a surprise to hear, but you do have time. I'll prove it. Let's say you wake up tomorrow and find you have a flat tire. Now, you have to loosen your lug nuts, get out your jack, figure out how it works, lift your car, remove your tire, put on the spare, lower the car, and tighten the lug nuts. Do you have time for that? Yes, you do. It may be that something has to give, but you have time for it. This is because, at that moment, changing your car's tire took priority. When you really look at it, everything we have time for comes down to priority.
When there's something you want or need to do, you apply a priority to it. There are high priority things, like working and grocery shopping. Everything else falls inbetween. The issue probably isn't that gaming isn't a high priority for you. It shouldn't be. Making a living is definitely more important. The problem is that lower priority items, regardless of how important they are, fall away when you don't have a schedule. Remember what I said about having free time in doses too small to actually do anything? That's because I had no kind of schedule. I knew the things I had to do, but I didn't make arrangements for anything else.
The act of making a schedule has a bad reputation. It's seen as boring and time consuming. "Oh, you want to grab a drink later? I'll have to check my schedule first." However, it doesn't have to be like that. Making a schedule can be as simple as devoting a chunk of your valuable time. Keeping in mind how much time you have and the things you want to do with that time makes a surprising amount of difference. When you tell yourself that you're tucking away an hour for video game time, you end up actually doing that. 9 hours of work plus and hour to commute and 8 hours of sleep still leaves you with 6 hours for the rest of your day. Without a plan for that time, though, it just ends up falling apart in tiny chunks.
When you do this, you find that your life still has room for gaming. Sure, you probably can't binge World of Warcraft for 8 hours each day, but that's not what this about. Everything is about balance. When you find a game you're interested in playing, you do have time to play it. Regardless of how long the game is. Which brings me to another point.
3. Do Not Fear the Long Games
After making a plan for my time, my biggest issue was deciding what game to play. I wanted a game I could jump into and enjoy right away. Unfortunately, that meant I couldn't play anything complicated. If I was only giving myself an hour or so to play, I didn't want to waste it watching cinematics and learning mechanics. Because of that, I ended up with a lot of short indie games in my Steam library. Sure, plenty of those games were amazing. I still love Gone Home and Undertale. But more often than not, the games I decided to play were time-wasters. Dinky puzzle games and the like took up a lot of my time in the early days. And far too often, I'd stop playing with the same question: "Did I even have any fun?" The short answer: "No."
It was only when I got frustrated with those games that I took a long look at my Steam library. I spent more than one of my gaming sessions just staring at that damn list. What the hell was I doing? To be honest, I was looking for the "perfect" game. One that was easy to get into, went right into the action, was tons of fun, and was entirely fulfilling. I hate to break it to you, but those games are extremely hard to find. They only come out once in a blue moon. So after Undertale, I was in an eternal loop of searching with no end.
That's when I got too frustrated to care. I wanted to play a damn game, not look for games to play. At this point, a friend of mine couldn't shut the hell up about Dishonored. I had bought it when it came out, but I hadn't touched it until then. So I buckled down, installed it, and loaded it up. Sure, the first session was just the intro of the game. I didn't really do anything of note. But I noticed something when I finished my first session with it. I was excited. I was really excited, actually. The game looked great! The lore of the game world was intriguing. The bit of gameplay I experienced had a lot of promise, and I couldn't wait to try it again. It had been a long time since I felt that about a video game. That's when I realized that my fear of long video games was entirely unfounded.
When you're a busy adult, longer games don't seem worth the time. It's easy to forget that they totally are. When it comes to video games, you have to consider them the same way you do books. There are some great short stories out there, but nothing beats an immersive and epic novel. This was the same time of my life when I decided to read the whole A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin. If I was willing to give literature the chance to immerse me in a larger work, then why not video games? It's all the same. So when you start devoting some time to video games, don't be scared away by how long or complicated they are. Speaking of complicated.
4. Embrace the Learning Curve
Sometimes, the issue wasn't that a game had a long storyline or took time to really get going. Most of my issue wasn't with the game taking too long. It was me. For example, I was a huge fan of Demon's Souls. Part of the reason was that I had a lot more free time in 2009. But when Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2 released, I felt I didn't have the time to actually learn how the play the games. I knew my Demon's Souls swagger had gotten rusty. The Souls games don't take long to get moving. The whole thing is a carnival of death. It's just the thought of me relearning proper dodge timing and counter attacks turned me off to even trying.
There was one thing I kept forgetting about those games. That whole learning curve is a lot of the whole point. It's one of those things where the journey is richer than the destination. Sure, it feels amazing to finally best a boss who's been kicking your ass. But the most enriching experience of Dark Souls is in getting good enough to make that boss your bitch. Those games are nothing without all the death montages and salty tears of defeat. That's something I unfortunately forgot during my puzzle game bonanza.
Avoiding those games kept me from some of the best titles over the past several years. If a game had an in-depth perk system or some kind of leveling tree, I didn't give it a second glance. My go to genre as a teen was JRPGs, but I felt I had no time to learn a whole new skill and ability system. All I was doing was cheating myself. Nothing worth a lot of value comes cheap or easily. Sure, I was able to quickly play and understand the games I was playing, but there was no substance there. I may as well have been playing free flash games. The games I was playing had no sense of accomplishment or mastery. And after a while of playing games without them, I started to miss those things.
I ended up learning a lot during that time, but these were the defining truths I desperately needed. Believe me, I know it seems like a total crap-shoot. It seems like you have so many other things in your life that are far more important than video games. I'm just here to tell you that you're dead wrong about that. I understand that it doesn't feel that way right now, but I guarantee you that it is. A lot of that compounding stress you feel can be managed with a steady regimen of video games.
Just remember that you have more time in a day than you think. All you have to do is make a plan for that time. Get organized and realize that, as a gamer, playing video games is an important part of your life. And once you hit that point, don't shy away from intimidating games. Whether they feature 120 hours of story or complicated gameplay and mechanics, they're worth looking into. If you're more of a social gamer, then spread the word around to your friends. Online gaming and co-op games have come a long way in recent years. There's no excuse to completely abandon the passion you've carried around for decades. Gaming is important to you. It's important to all of us. Because we are gamers, and nothing can change that.