Opinion: Gaming versus family life

Being of advanced age with a wife, an 8 year old son, a full time job and all the associated commitments that are associated with those things, getting any time to game is a challenge.

When you’re a younger man, footloose and care free, it’s easy.

“I fancy a game of Hitman: Absolution” you cry. So you crank on the Xbox and away you go. Having probably had that thought at ten o’clock at night, you find yourself gaming till the wee small hours, only stopping to open the door to the pizza delivery dude or answer the call of nature.

When you’re as old as me, however, it’s very much the opposite.

“I fancy a game of Hitman: Absolution” I cry,  then realise I have a million things to do first. Once I’m done, those wee small hours I mentioned a moment ago, will see me up for work in 20 minutes time.

Pants, as my boy would probably say.

Things have changed, though, and there are more ways to game than ever, thanks, in large part, to a smart phone from a certain vegetable based provider. Aside from mainstream efforts, Angry Birds and Temple Run, there’s a whole range of App Store gaming potential ready to be downloaded and played in a lunch time or on the bus.


However, try as it might, it’s just not the same as console or PC gaming.

So we look to handhelds engineered for the main purpose of gaming as an alternative. When they first released, my lovely wife bought me a PSP for Christmas. ‘Finally’, I thought. Problem solved. However, instead of gaming on the go, I used it more for watching TV and listening to music. Now it’s just a dust gatherer in a locked away drawer.

The iPhone is great, but, again, it’s not the same. Occasionally, during a quiet evening, I’ll launch small birds at irate pigs, but the novelty soon wears off.

With console games, I’ll happily lose myself for long periods of time in the pursuit of that elusive 100%, and even return months later when an opportunity to hold a rumble pad arises. I give you Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, Halo, Dead Space, Uncharted and my own particular favourite, Assassin’s Creed.

And that’s the best part of having little time to play. When there is a chance, it’s grabbed with both hands. The game play is relished. Defeat is greeted with real sadness and frustration and success with a celebratory dance in front of the TV screen. It’s short fleeting game play, but all the more rewarding for it. And the games last a whole lot longer.

So what chance do I have with the wealth of continuous content being offered by developers? If I can’t find the time to finish a game hot off the shop shelves, when am I going to find the time to play any of the optional extras I’m keen on checking out?

We’re both blessed and cursed by the wealth of content available to us. There seems to be a major new game releasing every other week, and in-between those periods of time, tons of extras that expand your favourite games, taking them even further. Its become a bit overwhelming to say the least.

When will I get the chance to catch-up? Will I ever catch-up?

My brother-in-law is also a gamer. Like me, he works and has a son. Unlike me, however, he likes to plug in, turn on, disc in and crack on, taking a game to its inevitable conclusion as quickly as possible. Achievements are gained, but not all of them. Online multiplayer gaming might be sacrificed in order to complete the game and trade it in for the next one, thereby getting a better deal for it. I understand all those things, but I don’t share the sentiments.

If I like a game enough to want to buy it, then I want to keep it, see all it has to offer, play the additional content, then play it all over again. I can’t stand having a game that I haven’t taken to 100%, achieving every little conceivable detail along the way.

I blame LEGO Indiana Jones for this; I wasn’t stopping until it persistently rained studs from the sky. By then, I knew I’d be the same with other games as well.

My son likes to play occasionally. This affords me the opportunity to dabble in two player games with him, like Skylanders or Sonic & Sega All Stars. While these games are, fun, he’s 8, so not really into problem solving games and not old enough for most of the games I mentioned earlier. Mostly we play LEGO games together, and while these have elements of problem solving in them, they are clearly less violent games and have a good mix of humour.

I’d like to have more time to game, but not at the expense of watching my son grow up. If he wants to game a little from time to time, that’s fine, i’ll play, but he’s not old enough to ‘live’ on a console yet. That still leaves time for us to play on bikes and scooters, and chuck a ball around down the park. I like it that way.

Occassionally, though, you feel the need to drop from a tall building in your Creed hoodie and wipe out a Templar or two. Sadly, that doesn’t happen quite as often as you’d like it to.

Still, who knows what opportunities next-gen will bring us?

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