When I was younger, gaming was something that was always present in my life.
From the days of the first Nintendo system to the day I bought my first console with my own money – a PlayStation 2 – I had always held a special place in my heart for the way turning on a new game made me feel.
Even now, there’s nothing quite like putting that new game into my PS3 and embarking on a journey all my own, complete with the feelings of the unknown and the excitement associated with the twists and turns of the storyline.
However, in between those stages in my life, there was a change. Not necessarily in how I feel about gaming, but in how I needed to approach it – for the benefit of myself as well as my family.
After all, it’s easy to play video games all night when you’re single and have very few responsibilities aside from a part-time job and some high school classes. But when you get to the point where I am – married, employed full-time, the father of a six-month old and busy most weekends – it’s easier to see the need for prioritization (but not necessarily easier to accept it).
That said, I’d like to share a few things that I have been trying to do to ensure that my gaming hobby doesn’t create problems with my real life (which can be tricky to do when your wife is not at all interested in gaming):
– Have a set gaming time —
This is something that I’ve only recently been doing more of. It’s setting aside a time in the day (or in my case, the evening) that you can enjoy your games. For me, it’s after my wife and son are in bed and after my responsibilities for the day and the evening are taken care of. After all is said and done at home, I can turn on my console and play until I’m tired, which requires me to include my own “STOP” button to ensure I don’t fall asleep at work. It has been an adjustment for my wife and I so far, but I believe in the long-run, it will be more beneficial than hurtful, allowing me to spend time with my family and take care of our home without trying to squeeze in some time on the games I’ve worked hard to pay for.
– Plan out your game purchases —
I knew very early in the year that this fall was going to be very difficult to obtain the games I wanted to play unless I took the time to determine which games I wanted the most. So, that’s what i did – I narrowed down my list to the top three of the many titles coming out (all within the same month, for some reason – come on game makers, what’s up with that?), determined how much I would need in total and went from there. Because the goal of this exercise is to spend as little out-of-pocket money as possible as a means of providing necessities for my family, I sold some of my own things to ensure I could afford the games I wanted. Besides, it’s not like I’m always wearing some of the authentic football jerseys I parted with, and my family comes first.
– Try before you buy —
This is sort of an extension of the previous thought, but one that I believe many people tend to overlook. With the economy the way it is and with the price of games sitting at around $30 for a decent, used title, it may suit you better to try out the games you want first. It used to be, console demos were reserved for discs with short, playable portions of games that were either coming out very soon or were already out. However, with the evolution of consoles to include downloadable demos of considerable quality, there’s no reason for people to buy games only to realize they hate them. Want an extended trial? Rent it from the local video store or get a one-day rental from your local Redbox (though I don’t recommend keeping for more than one day). This may seem like common sense to some, but for many, it’s an afterthought – especially (and surprisingly) now that money is usually best spent on other things.
– Don’t fight about it —
As I eluded to earlier, my wife is not a fan of my gaming hobby. Part of this is my fault, as I tend to be a vocal player when engaged in multiplayer contests and can get caught up in the moment when going through difficult moments in the game I’m playing. I honestly can’t blame her for being hesitant about me playing because of this, but fortunately for me, this does not define my typical playing experience. Still, that doesn’t mean my wife and I haven’t had our scrums about it in the past. Because of those instances, I have worked to minimize the instances that might lead to a disgruntled spouse. Part of this process has been cooling down my competitive nature – games are just games, after all – and focusing on why I enjoy the games, not why they sometimes get me frustrated. There is no reason for a game of any kind to come between spouses, so if it is, you need to consider taking steps to eliminate the problem.
– Don’t have time? Don’t play —
Finally, like all hobbies, sometimes time is just not on your side. There will be days (even weeks/months) when you won’t have time to enjoy a multiplayer session or beat a mission (or even goof off in a dungeon or two if you’re an RPG player like myself) – and that will have to be okay. While I experienced this a little bit after getting married, it was the birth of my son that made this regular occurrence. Instead of those before-work gaming sessions, I have to make sure that I am ready to go and that he is ready to go to the babysitter. When I get home? I have to make sure he is either taken care of or take care of housework that needs to be done. But you know what? That’s ok. Because by putting him and my wife first, I will be showing him what it means to prioritize with my actions – even if he doesn’t understand it until he’s older.
Some people may read this and laugh at the notion that gaming would require prioritization at all. But those of us who are adults and who have lives know better. And for those of you who have had trouble with it in the past? Maybe some of the things I’ve said will help.
Since this topic has more to it, I’m splitting it into two separate discussions, the next of which will discuss ways to keep things fun for you despite growing up (or at least attempting to).
As always, happy gaming!