It is often the case that getting older means having less time for recreation. Between work, chores, and family time, it can even be hard to have the energy to enjoy something, regardless of how much you love the thing. But finding time to game, if that’s what you enjoy, can be healthy. One might even call it self-care. So let’s look at some ways to slot gaming into our busy, adult lives.
The method I’ve found most effective is to sacrifice the slamming of the snooze button because that time adds up. Instead, I try to wake up an hour earlier than I have to. Not only does this avoid the stress of rushing through the morning, but it starts the day right with something enjoyable. Grogginess is much more tolerable when I’m flying through space in No Man’s Sky than it is suffering through my morning routine. It also gives time for the coffee to get in. Additionally, if you have a commute on public transportation, you can continue your gaming session with a portable system like, for example, the Nintendo Switch. Actually, a portable system is just a good tool for squeezing out extra gaming time, anyway.
The thing about this method is that it has intentionality. And that very intentional reservation of gaming time, that conscious idea that you deserve to enjoy a game, is what is freeing. It doesn’t have to be in the morning, if that’s an idea that is contemptible to you. But try setting a time to expressly game without distraction. It also comes with the added bonus of having something to look forward to, which is nice because when gaming time comes around, you might already know exactly what you want to do instead of figuring out what might be appealing. And if your time is limited, you just have to accept it. An hour of dedicated gaming is better than none so, if possible, be mindful in that moment and just immerse yourself. Enjoy it for what it is.
Also, don’t feel guilty for partaking. It’s harmless and some relaxation likely benefits the rest of your life. I recognize free time is a privilege, but if it’s feasible, do what you enjoy. Savor it. In my experience, it’s revitalizing.
To that end, don’t waste your gaming time. There can be a compulsion to beat a game just because you started it. Or because it’s the hottest new thing and you have a fear of missing out. Or because you spent money on it. My philosophy with books, which was hard to enact at first, is that I can quit the book as soon as it becomes a chore. That might seem like a waste of time, but I read what I enjoyed and trudging through the rest of it, assuming it’s been bad for long enough, is what would truly be a poor use of time. The same is true in gaming, I find.
I also recognize that spending money on something creates this feeling of responsibility as though it would be irresponsible not to beat the game. That’s not the case, and people make mistakes. But it’s possible to admit that to yourself and be more careful in the future. Be critical of marketing and only play the games you’re really excited for. Wait until games come down in price, if possible. Use a service like Microsoft’s Game Pass to try games outside your normal routine without the fear of making a bad investment.
The other issue I’ve run into is that I am not able to enjoy the extremely long JRPGs that I used to love so much. For starters, there’s a lot of bloat in them that feels indefensible when I only have an hour or two to play. If the game remains awesome, I will likely stick with it. But that has rarely been the case and, while I’m playing them, other games catch my attention. I’ve developed an affinity for shorter games but around 10 hours seems to be the sweet spot for me. Not only is completion more feasible but the pacing often feels better.
Playing multiplayer games, though, has proven to be the real challenge for me. Sure, I can jump into a lobby and play with complete strangers but that’s not really my thing. If it’s your thing, that’s a great way to spend an hour. But if it’s not, and you want to play with friends, you’re going to have to work at it. Adult friendships are harder to maintain in a lot of cases, and spending time with friends can feel like a pipe dream. But online gaming can facilitate this kind of bonding and quality time to an extent. It just might have to be scheduled quality time. If you can find people to commit to something like a weekly gaming night, rather than hoping for routines to match up so you can meet online randomly, you’ll likely discover that you’re spending more time with your favorite people. Sure, scheduling something sometimes makes some people dread the event because commitment is hard and sure, I am thinking about a specific friend of mine when I say that, but what I have learned, and what they have admitted, is that it can feel worth it in the end. Nowadays, I look forward to game nights, and it has started feeling more like a ritual than an obligation. Hopefully, your experience will be similar. Just be cool if people have to cancel. As this article lays out, life can be chaotic.
I think the main thing is to hold onto hope. Don’t deprive yourself of your hobby if you can help it and try to frame game time as a healthy activity that you deserve rather than time wasted in lieu of productivity. If possible, use it as a tool for bonding with others, especially if they’re close friends or family. Play the games you love and don’t waste times on the ones that lose their appeal. Structure is something that can sound innately un-fun, I admit, but it also can be a tool that leads to fun. Carving out gaming time can even be one of the stable parts of your life when everything else is unpredictable. There’s hope, hopefully.
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