A geeky guest post about putting in the hours.
For some reason I thought that it would be a good idea to go through and tot up the number of hours that I have spent playing games on Steam. I stopped counting once I had passed a thousand, and considered how much time I have actually spent on games that don’t have counters to helpfully keep track of how intensely you have been wasting your life. I have spent forty hours playing fucking Bejewelled. I don’t remember any of those hours. They are gone now and all I can do is wonder where all the rest of my time went.
I play a lot of XBox too. So that’s at least another thousand hours over the last ten years, if not more. I had access to a PS3 for a year when I was living with my partner, so that’s another couple of hundred gone. I’ve downloaded countless indie/retro games by guys who just like making games in their free time. I’ve sunk fucking years into World of Warcraft in the time I was subscribed to it. Oh god. I have like six Pokemon games, two of which have at least two hundred hours played each, and the rest have something close to that much between them. Tetris. Oh fuck, Tetris.
Minecraft…that’s at least four or five months solid. Terraria; maybe a hundred hours. There were a couple of years where all I did was play Mario Kart. I was the best at DK Mountain, so I don’t feel like that was a waste. I spent dozens of hours on GTA III just racing around and climbing up buildings to snipe people. All the Mario and Zelda I’ve played. All the coins and rupees and bananas I’ve collected, all the bullets that have been spent and the tires that have been worn down to nothing at all. Need for Speed Underground II. I fucking loved that game. There’s not been a racing game that I have ever found that I enjoyed as much. Tekken 3. I spent hours unlocking everything on that but I’ve never enjoyed any of the others in the series. Oblivion and Morrowind have taken up more of my life than Skyrim has done so far and I can’t really say why, but I know that I enjoyed the time I spent there.
I remember when I was little and my dad showed me a game called Chuckie Egg. It was his favourite. He had one of those old Spectrum computers with the little rubber buttons and the separate tape deck. Then he showed me other games like Fantasy World Dizzy and Manic Miner, and before long I was taking my pocket money down to Microtron on a Saturday afternoon to see what games I could get for two pounds. I think me and my brother played through everything Codemasters released at that time; even the terrible crap like Panic Dizzy.
I saw that Duke Nukem 3D was on sale on Steam yesterday and because I had enough money, I bought it. It was partly for the nostalgia and partly because I still remember how to use the level editor and I was excited about being able to get back into making levels for it again. Mostly though I was just looking forward to replaying one of the last games that me and my brother and my dad all loved. We helped each other out, passed on our knowledge of secret areas and none of us were the best. We were all equally good at different bits, so it felt as though we were all playing together.
I have spent more hours looking at the stars in my life than I have playing games, but I do not count any of the hours spent looking up into space as wasted hours. I have spent days and days writing things out onto laptops or into notebooks so that I can adjust it and rewrite it later as something interesting or useful. I have spent hours making songs in Acid Express and putting together collages and doodling little avatars for people I know on message boards and watching the same films and listening to the same songs over and over again. None of this feels like wasted time.
There’s a weird idea among people that aren’t gamers that time spent in a game is not real time. That somehow anything you learn from that game or that experience or that storyline cannot translate across into the real world whatsoever. That feels the same as saying that time spent looking at a painting or watching a film or reading a book is not real time; that the characters and ideas are not applicable except within the boundaries of that experience. Perhaps this guilt that creeps into my head that I am wasting my life by enjoying time spent with a controller in my hands, or with my fingers clawed across the A,W,S and D keys shouldn’t exist. As long as these experiences are part of a wider range of life experiences and not the only things that happen, then what’s the harm?
Also, Don’t Starve is pretty damn good. Upwards thumbs all around.
Also, for those of you who have never experienced the joy, here is a playable version of Chuckie Egg.
Anton Krasauskas has just spent an hour playing Manic Miner instead of writing this article. You can find him and his gaming style procrastinations @ajkrasauskas.