How To Manage Your Time And Gaming Wisely

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV)

Japanese Role-playing Games (JRPGs), such as Dragon Quest and Xenoblade Chronicles, have been one of my main gaming genres. I’ve been playing JRPGs for almost two decades now – cutting my teeth on shorter games like Super Mario RPG and savoring longer games like Persona 5. When I was younger, it wasn’t uncommon that I would play a game for two-to-three hours on weekdays, and four-to-five hours on weekends. However, now that I’m older and have more responsibilities and priorities, I have to be more deliberate with my time. On average, I now only have an hour to play on weekdays, and about two on weekends, with likely less time as I get older. It’s not a problem, but since gaming is one of my core hobbies, it does require thought in how I can fit it in with my other responsibilities and activities.

With that in mind, I wrote the following guidelines that help me with how I approach games, especially time-hungry JRPGs. Consider them for your benefit as well, so you can enjoy your hobby responsibly:

Remember that gaming is a recreational activity. Unless your job has to do with making or writing about games, gaming is a hobby at best. Therefore, you do not owe your livelihood – and thus your time – to games. Therefore, play when it is convenient for you, and after you finish your work or get to a good breaking point. Gaming should be a means of relaxation and readjustment, not an end to order your life around. I often play games during my commutes on buses, trains, or planes, or about 30 to 60 minutes after work to switch my mind from rigorous thinking to creative thinking.

Diversify your recreational activities. This relates to the previous point. As fun as gaming can be, especially JRPGs, do other things with your recreational time. Especially if you’re on the younger end, make the most of your years by doing different things. This serves to keep yourself mentally flexible, as well as to keep yourself from burning out on JRPGs. For example, if you like stories, read books too. After several years of playing fantasy-based JRPGs, I started reading The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They are fantastic reads — not only because Tolkien is a great writer, but also because Tolkien’s world largely inspired Dungeons and Dragons, which largely inspired Wizardry and Ultima, which largely inspired Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, which many JRPGs find their heritage. Therefore, I’m not only reading the story, but seeing how creative history connects to today. Additionally, if you like the experiences you find in the stories, consider similar real-life experiences to complement those:

  • Do you like level grinding? Try grinding yourself with exercise and dieting.
  • Do you like exploring? Try taking more hikes.
  • Do you like forming relationships with fictional characters? Hang out or otherwise interact with more people in your church, neighborhood, and other social groups.

If you look at the history of your favorite games, many were inspired by real-life experiences. The Legend of Zelda, for instance, was inspired by Shigeru Miyamoto’s experience with cave spelunking. Similarly, Satoshi Tajiri’s Pokemon was inspired by his younger years of bug collecting. Use games to inspire action outside of the screen, so you can appreciate your hobby with fresh eyes, as well as the rest of God’s creation.

Beware of the sunk cost fallacy. From Wikipedia: “a sunk cost…is a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered.” The sunk cost fallacy is basically thinking that you have to use something or go somewhere because you already paid for it – with money or time, for example. As it applies here, avoid forcing yourself to play JRPGs just because you bought the game or you invested X hours into it. If you find that you don’t like the game, then be at peace. By buying the game, you already completed the transaction with the publisher. From a business-perspective, the publisher already made their money from you on the day you purchased the game. You finishing the game is irrelevant to them in most cases.

Do your research. This may be a more controversial opinion, but be sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before you play. JRPGs especially have an average runtime from as little as 20 hours – such as an SNES-era game like Final Fantasy IV – to as high as 120 hours for a modern story-based game, such as Persona 5 / Royal. For the sake of your time, be sure to look into if:

  • You can afford the time to play the game. A 120-hour game is the equivalent of three 40-hour work weeks, or 15 days of all-day play. Look at sites like “How Long To Beat” to set expectations.
  • You actually might like the story. Read at least the premise of the story you’re getting yourself into. This is no different from reading the back of a book to get a high-level understanding about the publisher’s reason you should play the game. You don’t have to love every premise, but you should understand what you’re getting yourself into.
  • You might like the game play. JRPGs are not just the story – they aren’t visual novels – they are also about the game play. Make sure that you actually find the game interesting to play. If you dislike strategy games, don’t force yourself to play Fire Emblem. If you’re interested in the story, go read a summary, watch a Let’s Play or game movie, or watch a friend play.

Do your best not to play games on hype and marketing alone. Use your discernment and make sure that what you play is really what you want to play.

Don’t be afraid to spoil the game a bit. This may be another controversial opinion with the previous point. If you find that a game might be dragging or you’re not clicking with it, don’t be afraid to look more into it. Read guides, read summaries, watch videos, or whatever. I can tell you that I disliked some JRPGs because I simply didn’t understand them, but then grew to like them a lot once someone explained the mechanics to me, or I learned of a late-game twist that invigorated my interest in the plot. Some games have interesting stories or game play, but don’t tell their stories well (Final Fantasy 7) or explain their mechanics well (Xenoblade 2). I would argue that if the story is totally ruined by learning about a single point in a vacuum, then it’s likely not a very good story. Remember the first point about gaming being recreational – how you want to use your time is up to you. If looking something up makes the experience more enjoyable and productive, then do it in peace.

In summary:

  • Remember that gaming is a recreational activity.
  • Diversify your recreational activities.
  • Beware of the sunk cost fallacy.
  • Do your research.
  • Don’t be afraid to spoil the game a bit.

Play responsibly and to the glory God.

…So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12 (ESV)

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