Opportunity cost

[[image:vs081025op1.jpg:Not pictured-Resistance 2, Gears of War 2, Ninja Town, OMG KILL ME:center:0]]
As the deluge of fall titles continues, I find myself unable to keep up with all the games that I want to play. It’s not a bad problem to have, but it’s got me thinking a fair bit about time management. Because I work in retail, this uptick in the amount of games being released conincides with my work load also increasing considerably. My free time is at its lowest when the amount of media I want to consume is at its highest.

As a dope who has invested in all three current-gen consoles as well as both portable platforms, the only thing stopping me from playing every game that looks good is time. Thanks to rental service Gamefly and the fact that I can borrow games from my place of employment, the normal inhibitor of cost isn’t a consideration. However, I am strongly aware that every game I choose to play is another game I’m not playing. Every evening I spend playing a game is another film I’m not seeing, another book I’m not reading, another evening I’m not outside playing with the dogs, another evening I’m not devoting to spending time with my wife, another blog post I’m not writing for the site.

The only thing that even partially ameliorates the huge chunk of my free time that I am investing in gaming is that for most single-player games I can also listen to podcasts or audiobooks simultaneously, which at least offers me the illusion that I’m making productive use of my limited time.

I can’t even imagine how much tougher it must be for those reading this whose jobs entail giving up a huge chunk of their free time. At least when I leave work at the end of an 11-hour day I’m done. For others, that “free time” is just time to get caught up on their work responsibilities.

This probably wouldn’t be a problem at all if I just had patience. I feel a strong urge to play all these games while they are still current: part of the fun of this hobby for me is the discussion surrounding games and that’s always at its peak while the game is in the afterglow of its original release. I listen to a wide variety of gaming podcasts, and they feed into this inclination I have by rarely discussing a game that’s even a few weeks old. Is the internet to blame for the anxiety I feel looking at the over-stuffed game release schedule?

How do you guys manage your gaming time? Do you feel that your gaming hobby is preventing you from reading all the books or seeing all the movies or otherwise enjoying your non-gaming interests?

17 thoughts on “Opportunity cost

  1. Gaming is in fact preventing me from reading, which I regret immensely. Otherwise, I mostly divide up my spare time in such a way that I get a little time for everything.

  2. I wish I had the money for most of the games I see. I have plenty of time since I dont have any kids or many other responsiblities, but at $60 a game its hard to justify spending that on a video game for myself and not something like groceries, gas, a night out, or Festivus presents.

  3. Gaming conflicts with blogging and relaxing at home with my wife, but not reading. I have time to read at work, and podcasts/audiobooks are for listening to while I commute. It is pretty nuts how games all crunch together at this time of year – unlike holiday films, you can’t just spend one afternoon at the multiplex and consider yourself “caught up.”

    And boy do I wish I could rent games in Japan.

  4. Reading: done on bus to college.
    Gaming: done at home when study is up.

    Movies: ahahahaha christ I wish.

  5. I don’t really read and I only rarely indulge in movies or tv. Which isn’t to say I spend all of my time with games: Between work, school, and kickin’ it with friends, there’s little spare time left over for pop culture.

  6. When will publishers finally realize that as the gaming population ages, people with jobs have disposable income and aren’t dependent on grandma for game purchases at Christmastime anymore. We purchase games year round.

    This year-end flood of games is just annoying for the consumer for all of the aforementioned reasons and is just one example of how the gaming industry has yet to fully mature.

  7. Saying “this isn’t the sign of a mature industry” is off-base, since it’s pretty much the same thing as Hollywood stacking all of its blockbusters during the summer months. It’s just the best time to sell relatively mid-range consumer products like games, when people are in a spending mood generally. If the NPD numbers weren’t 50-90% higher in December (or whatever the numbers were; I think MTV Multiplayer had a piece on it last year around this time when trying to predcit non-supply-constrained Wii sales), then, yes, it would be a problem. But companies are simply stacking the best games when people are most likely to purchase them, which is good business sense, just like Hollywood putting out their biggest movies when people are most willing to go to the movies (EG, not winter).

    Personally, it’s funny, but I actually kinda miss my 50-minute commute. Now that I’m a 20-minute walk from the office, I’ve lost my DS playtime and have been buried as a result. No big deal, really; I’ll be fine catching up on stuff for all of next year, and it usually winds up being cheaper to do things that way anyway.

  8. How do I manage my gaming time? Poorly! Joining this site, in particular, has totally thrown off my purchasing vs. playing ratio. In the past, I’d typically have no more than one game lying around waiting to be played, aside from what was in the tray. Any others were games that I’d at least sunk a few hours into, perhaps deciding that they didn’t interest me enough to continue or that the time wasn’t right. Today, however, I have probably 10 games in my queue that are all clamoring for my free time.

    The problem is twofold. First and foremost, I used to be much more patient when it came to high profile games, waiting until the next year when I could grab them at bargain prices. That was before I joined a discussion forum dedicated to such things – now I want to get in on the discussion while the games are still in everyone’s minds. The second problem, also due mostly to my time spent on the forums, is that I’m now aware that some games that I really want to play have a very short shelf life. I snagged a copy of the new Castlevania game as soon as I could, since they tend to completely disappear off store shelves withing about 6 months of their release. That’s not a big deal with a 10-hour game like most of the IGAvanias, but when you start getting into 70-hour Atlus RPGs, things start looking a bit grim for my free time.

    The biggest problem for me isn’t missing out on a hot new title, but rather that this accumulated backlog detracts from the pleasure I take in playing games. It creates a constant pressure to move forward, rather than savoring a good game or exploring its nooks and crannies. I’m trying to combat this by not acquiring too many new games, but so far that isn’t working out too well for me. My must-buy list for 2008 is down to three games (LittleBigPlanet, Persona 4 and Left 4 Dead), but with only 2 months left in the year, even that’s probably more than I’ll manage to play.

    You have to admit, though, that if this is the biggest problem any of us has, we don’t have a lot to complain about.

  9. First off, MCBanjoMike’s last comment rings very true: if this is one of the biggest gripes in my life, I’m doing pretty good.

    This year is particularly troubling for me because I’m not in a good position financially. There are 8 or 10 games I want to buy between September and December, not to mention my desire for a PSP, to move all my Rock Band stuff over to 360 (I have it all on PS3), and other maybe purchases. Realistically, I can really afford to buy 4 or 5 of these things. Fallout 3 and LBP come out in a couple days, and the reality is I’m going to have to pick between the two.

    The only good thing about waiting is these games go down in a price after a couple months…but yeah, by then no one is talking about them.

    I think the only big exception to the phenomenon that no one on gaming podcasts talks about games older than a few months is the 1up Yours guys talking about the Yakuza games. I’ve been playing Yakuza 1, and it’s great.

  10. Well, there is a backlog segment on the 1up FM podcast where they discuss older titles like Indigo Prophecy, and of course the Retronauts podcast talks about even older titles: but with my backlog of current titles the way it is, trying to fill holes in my gaming history seems an impossible task.

  11. If you are a fan of more than one type of media, you’re fucked. There’s just too much media coming out, in every form, for anyone to “keep up” with everything that might be interesting, unless your tastes are ridiculously specific. It doesn’t help that advertising is so targeted and forceful that it’s difficult to feel like I’m enjoying something when they keep telling me to check out this other cool thing.

    This is part of why I almost welcome the worldwide economic crisis — maybe it will slow down my hobbies to a pace I might find manageable. Obviously, I can’t do it myself, so something extreme is going to have to happen. Less money means less things existing, which means I can finally relax and enjoy all those things I kept rushing through and towards.

    Or it could just be that I need to gain some more perspective and self-control. To learn that I don’t need to experience everything that might be good or interesting; that it’s okay to ignore and pass on things I might like.

    …nah. That one could be really fun, right?

  12. I solved this particular problem by rounding up the games I want to play and funneling them into two categories: “Oh my god, I will have that!” and “Man, that would be really awesome to play.” Games in the OMG category get purchased, games in the Really Awesome category don’t get purchased, unless the gods are smiling, such as Xmas bonus week.

    Example: There’s a lot of great DS games out recently and in the near future: Kirby SSU, Castlevania: OoE, Dragon Quest 4, Chrono Trigger, Sonic Chronicles. Of those, only Castlevania and Trigger are in my OMG list. I would love to play/own the others, but it’s doubtful that’ll happen. And that’s fine. As BP mentioned, it isn’t necessary to experience everything.

    There’s also the added bonus of having more time for other media. As soon as I finish Castlevania, I’ll run down to the Barnes & Noble and pick up the new Gregory Maguire Oz book and the new Neil Gaiman book; hopefully, I’ll be finished with those by the time Trigger is released.

    And, of course, there’s that whole “spending time with the family” thing.

  13. “Gaming is in fact preventing me from reading, which I regret immensely.” What Kat said is true for me too.

    My first year out of college I quickly paid off my debts and then I spent some time like a kid in the candy store with a hundred dollar bill – I bought whatever I wanted, played new releases, tracked down obscure classics, bought tons of stuff on a whim because it was cheap. Now I have enough games to last me for years… and there’s more stuff out every week! I can ignore the onslaught because being between jobs means I simply cannot allow myself to buy new games for $60. However, with my backlog, I won’t be bored anytime soon…

  14. Gaming, sadly, is an orgy of consumerism.

    That statement is arguably true of all forms of media in this day and age. With a cultural landscape that has fragmented into a million niches, all with quantity and quality to spare, blind consumerism has, sadly, become a path of least resistance for anyone hoping to experience everything.

    Or, maybe that’s always been the case and we’re only noticing now because the rise in product has been so bluntly exponential.

    Personally, I’ve largely opted out of this rat race; I read, listen, watch and play but I do it at my own pace on my terms. Frankly, time is the one thing I’ve got on my side. I’ll never run out of sheer stuff to go through so I don’t pretend there’s anything that I absolutely must play just because someone else says so.

    Two cases in point. I’m only now grappling with the original Half Life and the first MGS. I’ve absorbed every conceivable opinion over the years regarding these games but broadly ignored that when playing them; it just doesn’t feel relative to my personal experience as a gamer.

    Likewise, I’ve not bought a new RPG in years because I’m still working my way through La Pucelle, Disgaea and Phantom Brave. It galls me to feel at all pressured to do anything other than play these games for my own entertainment or to feel that I should leave these games by the wearside for the sake of some newer releases.

    Agonizing over every new game, comic, power tool etc which I couldn’t possibly have the time to enjoy and, similarly, agonizing over leaving every other film, book, pair of shoes half unfinished are modern consumerist impulses which I have no use for. Acting according to remove that kind of petty strain on my life has left my free time much simpler.

  15. This is an issue I’ve struggled with in the past few years, but the short answer is I don’t buy most things when they come out any longer. I’m now 6-12 months behind most new releases (save for my ultimate favorites) and by that point these $60 games are often half price or less. It’s a tough process when you’re letting yourself fall behind, but once you’re there, it’s better. For the $60 you might spend on a game on release day, you can usually get that game PLUS more but a half year later.

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