I am now 36 years old, well, 37 in a few month’s time so very unlike the younger version of me, my time is more limited. The days of being able to spend hours upon hours on one game are almost completely behind me. I’m married, I have a full-time career and the prospect of having a family as well is getting closer every day, so the gaming time I do have is a lot more precious. As such I’ve noticed that the games I choose to play have changed compared to those that I would have played years ago.
If we look at my gaming life fifteen years ago, a time when most of my weekend was free for gaming and each weekday had at least 4-5 hours spare. (btw: I always did. I was big Geek-nerd of the highest caliber before it was even cool to be. ) In short, I had a whole load of time to play video games.
I loved large sprawling RPG’s like the Final Fantasy series (FFVII, FFVIII, FFIX and FFX). I liked games that I could keep playing, until I had unlocked every secret weapon and defeated every hidden boss. Hell, I remember having the time to raise a golden Chocobo in Final Fantasy VII. All so I could get my hands on the Knights of the Round Materia. That took hours, from what I remember.
I never bothered with any First Person Shooters back then unless they had a strong RPG element. I never saw the point and wondered how anyone could play them for hours on end. It wasn’t only RPG’s though. I played the hell out of city building games like SimCity because I had hours upon hours to ensure the infrastructure of my city was perfect. Time was less important to me because I had no restrictions upon it.
Now, let’s zip forward to today. Now my gaming habits are the opposite of that. If I get some time to game, I want a game that breaks up into small gaming nuggets. Something I can do in the game, that gives me a sense of enjoyment but won’t take hours for it to feel like I’ve done something.
Overwatch for example, is now my go-to game. I know that a match takes around 5-10 minutes. Each round also has an obvious conclusion. There’s no ambiguity about what you’ve achieved, you’ve won, lost or you’ve drawn. This isn’t specific to Overwatch; many games have this easy accessible quick content.
Now if we take a brief look at Fallout 4 with the same criteria. This was a big game and I loved it, I still do, but the chunks of gaming time were not so easily defined. I’d log in, halfway explore a hospital, school or other such building and then my time would run out. Occasionally, I logged in with just enough time to fiddle around with a settlement or go out on a junk-hunt. But on these short sessions, I logged off feeling like it almost wasn’t worth logging on in the first place.
Gamers with smaller amounts of time to play games aren’t immersed as quickly into a game as those who can devote a lot of time to it. I found my enthusiasm with Mass Effect Andromeda is nowhere near as high as it was for Mass Effect 2 and 3. It’s unfair of me to say it’s a poorer game, because I can’t put the same level of time in to it.
For example, I’m now at Aya and I know that the next time I log in I’ll have just enough time to run around Aya talk to people, and hand in quests. That thought alone, is discouraging me to log in until I have more time to do more than just talk to people.
Even more profound is how the lack of time affects my gaming choices within games themselves. Many games these days have choices within the game that push your game into radically different directions, depending on the choice you make. I used to make a mental note of the decisions I made, so that I could make the opposite choice next time. Now, I’m not even certain there will be another play through, so I consider each decision for much longer. It’s now a matter of ‘which one?’ rather than ‘which one first?’
With all the above being said, I am not trying to say that games do not cater for those of us with restricted time, simply because that isn’t true. Games are far more accessible to people than they ever have been. Although a game may not cater for everyone’s level of time, there will be plenty of games that do.
None of the above occurred to me when I was younger. Why would It? I bought a game, and then played the hell out of it until I’d done as much or as little as I wanted to. I miss the sheer amount of hours I could pump into games; however it’s still comforting to know that even with restricted time, there will always be time for video gaming. Although you will find that your tastes in video gaming change as your life does.