Despite enjoying many of the benefits and responsibilities of being (apparently) an adult, I do sorely miss the days when I could pour hours of my week into the latest video games. In the golden years of 2008 to 2011, I was able to complete the Portal 2 co-op campaign in a single sitting, enjoy an uninterrupted 12-hour Star Wars experience in The Force Unleashed, and dedicate dozens of hours to the Mass Effect Trilogy.
Now? Not so much.
Life is different. I’m no longer that single, semi-unsociable, definitely-irresponsible, early 20s lad who could throw himself down onto a couch at the end of the day and not move until I realise all my housemates are asleep and it’s 4am. Now, I’m a responsible 30-year-old father-to-be, with three podcasts to cram into what little spare time I have and a long-neglected aspiration to become a published author.
So games will have to go. Well, not go, but I need to be pickier with what I play. While the 2008 me still lurks inside somewhere, chomping at the bit for a new Mass Effect, the 2016 me has to remind him that there’s no time to replay the trilogy before it arrives.
This post is a declaration of intent. Something to hold myself accountable to. Something to curb my enthusiasm and ensure I’m getting the most out of my increasingly limited gaming time.
Here are the new rules:
Nothing too long
If a game is boasting ‘hundreds of hours of content’, it’s an automatic no-no for me. If the word ‘epic’ is used in relation to the story or length, it’s gone. As of now, I will be entrusting the handy howlongtobeat.com to gauge how much of my life a new release demands. Anything under 20 hours should be doable. Ten hours or less is gold!
(There will, of course, be exceptions to this – mostly anything by Rockstar, Bethesda or BioWare)
Nothing too old
There are countless classic titles that I missed as I grew up, primarily because I was a Nintendo-only gamer until 2007 – and even then I missed out on most of the iconic SNES and NES games. That actually extends to games as recent as the previous generation, with Uncharted and The Last of Us perhaps the most embarrassing entries on my pile of shame. Unless I have a desperate need to go back to these unplayed gems – or it’s a title I’m playing for Rare Replayed – I need to accept that I will never play them. By extension…
Leave them unfinished
It happens to all of us. You get really excited by a new game, get a third or maybe halfway through – then get distracted by a shiny new release. I’m particularly stubborn and refuse to trade those games in, convincing myself that one day I’ll go back and finish them. And yet they remain unfinished. I’m implementing a two-year limit: if I haven’t finished it within two years, give up. Sadly, this probably means saying goodbye to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.
Best played online
Probably not for me then. While the idea of online play appeals to me – particularly with connected worlds like Destiny and Tom Clancy’s The Division – I lack the skill level to enjoy these at their fullest. Taking Destiny as an example, I spent less than an hour in the Crucible as I found I was just fodder for superior players (i.e. all of them). Also, online games tend to be based purely around a seemingly endless journey of progression, levelling up your character and acquiring better loot – something that inevitably requires weeks of ‘grinding’ (See: ‘Nothing too long’)
Best played online with friends
Definitely not for me then. I have friends (honest) but the chances of them being online at the same time is me is minimal – it certainly hasn’t occurred more than once or twice in the past few years. Yes, I could arrange a time with them to meet in whatever online arena we choose, but the arrival of a child will probably rob me of the flexibility needed for this. I certainly won’t be able to duck out of parenting for a two-hour Destiny raid.
Ignore the zeitgeist
I’ve long since given up on playing the latest games as everyone’s playing them. I’m only halfway through Fallout 4, six months after release. I’m already behind on Quantum Break. I missed Firewatch. I’m just going to have to accept that while everyone is discussing the latest and greatest our industry has come up with, I won’t be able to contribute until weeks/months/years later. Apologies in advance if this annoys you.
Ignore the extra padding
Almost an extension of the ‘Nothing too long’ point. I don’t have time to be collecting all those Assassin’s Creed Unity cocades, crafting all the Sunset Overdrive amps, unlocking all the Lego Marvel Super Heroes gold/red bricks, earning every Batman: Arkham Knight Riddler trophy, building settlements in Fallout 4, completing side quests in… er… anything. I’m in it for the main campaign. Once I’ve reached Happily Ever After, I’m done.
Take it Easy
If I don’t have time for any of that extra gumpf, I really don’t have time to be playing the same sections of the game over and over again because it’s too difficult for me. So I’ll do what I have been for a while: playing on Easy. Or Novice. Or You Suck. Yes, this won’t help improve my gaming abilities. Yes, in some rare cases, I’ll be getting a watered down experience, and the achievement might not be as palpable. But at lease I’ll able to finish the damn thing.
I’ll no doubt make exceptions to these rules. I might drop some, I might adopt others, but by and large this is my new Gaming Manifesto. This is how I will game going forward. The hobby is meant to be enjoyable, so I’m going to enjoy it at my own pace. And for everything I’m missing out on? Well, there’s always YouTube.