Balancing Video Games with Work, Parenting, and Life

Video Games as an Adult - Balancing Video Games with Life

Video games when you’re a kid or a teenager are just about the best thing ever.  They are a medium with nearly unlimited potential to provide entertainment, foster social connections with others, and allow us to experience alternate realities we could otherwise only dream of.  There are breathtaking worlds to explore, interesting and inspiring characters to get to know, and experiences that are unlike anything else out there.  The best thing about video games at this stage of life is that we have the time to play them.

Enter adulthood.  Congratulations, video games have officially become the worst hobby.  We’ve grown up and our free time has been significantly reduced by the likes of full-time work, bills to pay, chores and errands to do, parenting (for those with children), and all the other time-consuming activities of adulthood that I often like to refer to as “adult crap”.  Trying to make the time to play video games becomes a constant battle between “being responsible” and “doing a hobby you love”.  The worst part is we may have the money now to afford whatever games we want, but we simply don’t have the time.

The Struggle is Real

This personally has been a big struggle for me.  I’ve always been a very big fan of video games.  I started playing when I was 5 years old on the Sega Genesis.  Sonic the Hedgehog was my first game.  The memory of moving my character across the screen for the first time and knowing that I was controlling that was a magical feeling.  I remember thinking that I couldn’t believe this was actually real.  I was hooked.

Video games quickly become one of my biggest hobbies.  A lot of my free time was spent playing video games all through grade school and high school.  Some of my best memories were just getting together with friends and spending the nights or weekends playing the latest games while eating pizza and drinking iced tea.  They were the frequent topic of discussion in my life and with my friends all while growing up.  I loved them so much I ultimately pursued game development as my first professional career.

Decades later, now an adult, a parent, working full-time… my relationship with video games significantly changed.  Trying to play video games seemed to clash with almost every part of being a “responsible” adult.  I often felt I would be better off just giving them up and finding a new hobby.  Even when I had time to play games, I was often too tired to enjoy them or I felt heavy guilt that my time could be better spent.   The video game experiences that were once fun and fulfilling now felt empty and wasteful.  Even my friends who played video games were all feeling the struggle of growing older as we all found ourselves reflecting more on the “good old days” rather than actually playing games.  Trying to keep a video game hobby was becoming a source of stress.

Refusing to Give Up My Hobby of Video Games

Despite the challenges that trying to balance video games with adulthood brought, I desperately wanted to find a way to make it work.  I had inadvertently given up a lot of my hobbies over the past years as I grew older.  Video games were one of the few hobbies I had left and I was determined to keep them on the radar.  In truth, I still enjoyed video games just as much as I always had.  Deep down, a part of my soul twinkled with passion and joy when I managed to find the time (and the proper mindset) to play.  The recurring issue above all else was actually finding this time and focus to play.  The games I liked to play and the ways I preferred to play were not fitting into my busy adult schedule.

So to make it work, I found I had to make some changes to the way I play games and the type of game experiences I played.  When I was younger, I loved all types of games and often would spend hours per day playing them.  I played tons of online multiplayer games like Battlefield, Call of Duty, and League of Legends.  I lost hundreds of hours to RPGs/MMOs like Diablo 2 or Guild Wars.  In single-player games, I would play to 100% completion not leaving a single secret unturned.  I also often play through games multiple times and even try to beat them on the hardest difficulty mode.   Unfortunately, it just wasn’t feasible to continue enjoying games like this as an adult.

How I’ve Changed the Way I Enjoy Video Games

Fast forward to the present day.  I still enjoy video games as much as I always have but I’ve made some big changes along the way to allow myself to still enjoy the hobby.  First and foremost, I have absolutely zero tolerance for tedium or grinding in games.  I also have no tolerance for poorly designed games (unfortunately a lot!) or games that don’t really provide a sense of unadulterated fun.  The more conveniences a game has included, the better.  This means that mechanics like fast travel, auto-saves, and skip actions are crucial.  I literally cannot even if I die and have to replay a significant amount of game to get back to where I was.

The same goes for the overall fairness and progression in a game.  Games have to grip my interest quickly and keep progression flowing smoothly to keep me interested.  Slow-paced or snooze-fest like sections in games just don’t work for me now. Grinding required for progression is also a big no no.  Games that add bland content as filler content for no purpose other than to stretch out a game drives me crazy.  Tedious sections of gameplay or parts of the game with unfair encounters or ridiculous difficulty spikes often cause me to quit that game altogether. I used to cringe at the thought of playing “easy” mode when I was younger, but now I select the option more often than not.  I need games that respect my time.

Speaking of time, a big issue with enjoying many video games was the large time commitment they required to get a sense of satisfaction from them.  Imagine something like an RPG or MMO game… A thirty-minute play session on one of these games can literally feel like nothing. It can be really frustrating trying to enjoy a game like this when you either don’t have the time needed, or you feel completely exhausted and have trouble following the game because you’re so tired.  Even some more linear based games can have levels that take a couple of hours to work through so quitting in the middle can feel frustrating.

Because of this, I’ve found myself drawn to a lot of simpler or more casual games.  These tend to be games that are designed to be played in smaller 10-20 minute spurts of time, or games that are easily picked up and put down when needed.  These more casual and easy to play games have become some of my favorite types to play.  In this same regard, I’ve found that when I do play more in-depth games, I no longer have the desire to play as a completionist.  Never in a million years did I think I would be satisfied to end a game after beating the main ending with only 60% completion, but that has now become my preference.  Unless additional content in a game is especially interesting or fun, I am perfectly fine with just rushing through the main game start to finish.

There have been a few other changes as well.  Gone are the days of playing online multiplayer games.  Not only do I have zero tolerance for a lot of the toxicity in online game communities, but I really need games that allow me to “press pause” on the experience.  The real-time and fast-paced nature of online multiplayer is not conducive with parenting when kids can need care at LITERALLY any moment of the day (or night).  Single-player video games have become essential to enjoying the hobby.  I also appreciate systems that have suspend modes so I can put down a game at any time and come back when I’m ready to pick up right where I left off.

Balancing Video Games with Being An Adult

In addition to my preferences for games changing as an adult, I’ve also significantly adjusted the way I balance the hobby in with all the other busy parts of life.  Long gone are the days of having what felt like almost infinite time to enjoy video games as a kid.  Now I am lucky if I have ten hours a week to play games.  I’ve found I had to get very strategic with how I find time to play games.  I also had to mindful about choosing the “right” times to play as distractions or just being too tired to play were recurring issues.

The obvious time to play was after the long day of work was done and the kids were to bed.  Distractions were minimal and guilt was less present since then day’s work was done. There was the issue of being too tired to play, but I often found this well remedied by having a cup of coffee at night, a simple solution that took me far too long to realize.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to satisfy my itch for video games completely.  Many nights I only had an hour or so to play after all the work and chores were done, and some nights I didn’t have any time available for gaming.  Some nights the caffeine boost didn’t do it for me either.

So I found new ways to find time for games.  Having young children, I was thrilled when I found out that they would sometimes be interested in watching me play video games (kid-friendly games of course) for about 30-45 minutes or so.  It was even more fun seeing their reactions to the games and it was cool to get them involved with one of my favorite hobbies.  We often made it an interactive learning experience as well by asking them what characters were doing, what colors certain things were, or just asking them to describe what they were seeing.   Being able to play video games with my kids was a win-win.

If all else failed, I simply scheduled time on my calendar for a weeknight or weekend (or a couple of them!) to play video games.  I treated it no different than any other hobby that had a more structured schedule associated with it, such as a bowling league where you would go out once a week for a few hours.  By adding the time on to my calendar and allotting it time, I found it easier to make it work since my family knew my intentions and it wasn’t interfering with any other parts of life since I specifically mapped out the time for it.  Sure, it’s not quite as easy to find time to game compared to when I was a kid, but this was working.

Gaming on the Go

One of the biggest changes I made that helped me find time to play games was embracing portable gaming experiences.  I was always a console or PC type of guy growing up and the handheld platforms were never too interesting to me.  If I had time to game, I was either doing on the big TV or at the computer.  Now as an adult, portability is key.  I love the fact I can take a game with me from the kitchen table, to the bathroom, to the bedroom, to the living room, and even on the go.

This has been especially helpful with having children.  I can play a portable game while they play with toys in the playroom or run outside in our fenced-in yard.  If they are watching TV, I can still play my favorite games on my portable device.  One of my favorite consoles currently is the Nintendo Switch and I could go on for ages about the varied use I got out of it in all types of situations.  Portable games and consoles have helped a ton with squeezing in the time to play.

This also led to me embracing gaming on the go more as well.  I was never one to really game outside of the home very much, but now my time spent on the go were some of the best opportunities to play.  If I had a public transit commute, I could easily slip in some good gaming time thanks to portable gaming.  When I had business trips, my games could come with me and the downtime of the airport and the flight were uptime for gaming.  By being able to take games with me wherever I went, it meant that any idle time became an excellent time to squeeze in some gaming time, all the thanks to portable gaming.

Looking Forward to a Future with Video Games!

I feel in a pretty good place currently with my ability to play and enjoy games.  It’s not as easy as it was when I was younger, but I feel successful in maintaining my hobby for playing games with working full-time, being a good spouse and father, and being a responsible adult.  I’ve made some significant changes to the way I play games, but I don’t necessarily feel off any worse for it.  I still am getting to experience some wonderful adventures in the world of video games on a fairly frequent basis.  I might play through a few shorter (ten hours or so) games each month, and I can even get through an RPG or longer game in a month or two.

I’m interested to see how my hobby for video games continues to evolve and change as I get older as well.  My kids will get older, I’ll move up in my career, and who knows what else life may throw at me and my family.  Not only that, but video games are a quickly changing medium and I’m genuinely curious to see how advancements in the industry shape the way people play games.  There are things available now in games I would have never thought possible ten years ago.  We’re also starting to see developers build more accessibility into games as the generation of early video game adopters are all in the same phase as me, growing up and getting older.  These factors can all greatly change the way I approach playing games in the future.

I often find myself reflecting on that future.  Will my kids love video games once they get older and we’ll spend lots of quality time playing games together, or will they be disinterested and have other hobbies?  Will I ever get into MMORPGs or heavily involved games again?  What about online multiplayer games, especially the competitive ones?  Will I find a group of older friends who enjoy games, allowing me to relive those awesome childhood memories of gaming together, or will I game in isolation?  Part of me wonders if I may even reach that point where I don’t play games at all anymore.  All is just pure speculation, of course, but it’s fun to think about.  Either way, I plan to keep playing video games as long as I can and I’m determined to keep finding ways to make it work.

What About You?

My hobby for playing video games has changed a lot as an adult and I’m sure it will continue to evolve more as I grow older.  It was fun sharing my experience with video games as a hobby throughout life, but now I’m curious to know about your experiences!  If you like video games, how has your hobby changed as you’ve grown older?  Let me know if the comments below and thank you for reading!

Yours Truly,
– Mr. Happy Work

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