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January 04, 2009

Where the Time Goes

Over the last year, I've tried to keep reasonable records of what I've read, watched, and played, trying to get a feel for how I spend my leisure time. I didn't do it as a specific sort of experiment, nor did I use it to drive what I consumed; I mean, I didn't specifically keep tabs on how many movies I had watched, nor how many books, and didn't decide with what to entertain myself next based on how much I had done. I took stock mid-year, just before I started working in an office again, just out of curiosity, but continued on as I had. Yes, I am completely aware that such categorization and records make me a complete geek. This should not be news to anyone.

Here are the numbers and a little explanation of what each of these meant or entailed. This only includes films, books, or games that I finished this past year, and was regardless of whether I started them this year (though you can safely assume all films were started this year ;)

  • 192 films: More accurately, 192 film or video experiences. I saw 36 movies on the big screen, but also 16 seasons of television (I consider each season a single unit, rather than by DVD disc), and a large handful of Dr Who episodes from the '70s that I watched with the kids. So call it 150 movies, and nearly 50 'other'.
  • 62 books: This is pretty accurate; I 'read' 3 audiobooks (I feel sure this is under by a couple), 9 were non-fiction, and a few of these were graphic novels or comics compilations¹.
  • 8 games. Yeah, let me repeat that: 8 games. This number climbs to 9 if you count Fallout 3 which I played through twice at work. It's probably fair to count it. These are videogames only, not the boardgames I played at the couple of Game Nights I attended this year or the multitude of games I played with my sons, nor any of the time I spent at their baseball games or anything like that.

There are a few ways to interpret this data or to blog about this information. I'll talk about the game-related stuff primarily, since this is mostly a game blog, but there's overlap for sure.

The Resolutionary: I could, of course, look at that list and say, "Hey, I need to resolve here in the New Year to spend more time playing games over the next year." It's fair to say that this just isn't going to happen. I have to say, I've found myself less and less interested in spending my time playing them. I enjoy them socially -- I recently started up World of Warcraft again to be able to play with friends in California once a week. I try to play co-op once a week (and it's more like once a month, if I'm lucky, given the time difference), and I enjoy that when I play. I love sitting down and playing co-op Gears of War or competitive Guitar Hero with a friend. But sitting playing a single-player game hasn't grabbed me all that much lately.

The Accountant: That bit about playing a single-player game not grabbing me isn't entirely true. I played Fallout 3 in its entirety twice through, clocking around 350 hours with the game, though I was being paid for this time. Perhaps a better title to look at would be Ratchet & Clank 3: Up Your Arsenal, which I played probably for nearly 100 hours, since I managed to max out every weapon, get every bit of armor, and find every secret whozit or whatzit. If I look at the hours I spend at each of these activities, they are roughly the same: if you discount audiobooks and consider books to be three or four times as long as movies, and consider movies at about two hours, and games to be an average of about 50 hours or so, this all seems to come out in the wash.

The Biorhythmicist²: I could say that these things go in cycles. I do know that I spent a significant amount of time last year playing games, having finished 5 games in the last 3 months of 2007. And I know that towards the end of 2006 I had a bunch of time to play as well, and did so. This has a little bit of weight, because there are times when I definitely feel the itch to play games. But I haven't spent any significant amount of time on a game since August, which is when I started playing Persona 3: FES.

The Apologist: Hey, maybe I'm just not playing the right games, the games that will really grab me and not let go. This may be true -- I did not yet buy Braid, although I definitely intend to when a PC version is available, or when I buy a 360. [I admit, I am rather dying to play that game, but I'm not going to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars (I don't yet have an HD TV) to play it. I'm sure it's good, and I will play it.] Also, games tend to be less and less about finishing them, and more and more about the experiences of playing them with friends, for example, and certainly if you have a Wii, which doesn't have lots of traditional single-player games. Both of these arguments have some force, for sure. I have spent several hours on Super Smash Bros. Brawl or Mario Kart Wii with the kids, though I haven't been too interested in "finishing" them. I am unable to finish any of the Guitar Hero games on Expert because I tire of playing the same songs over and over in practice mode to be able to beat them and move to the last tier or two of songs.

In the end, all I can really say is that I didn't play a lot of games this year, although there are a few that have caught my eye that I'd like to play in the next year or two. I'm going to keep track of this stuff through the next year as well, and see where we are a year from now.

One thing I can say is that I'd like to blog more about games in the next year. I didn't blog much over the past year, less because I didn't have things to say than that I fell out of the habit. In the end, maybe that's all that's happened with games this year. Maybe I've just fallen out of the habit? I don't feel like reading and film are habits, but games, games definitely might be. And that may say a lot about my relationship with videogames.

Okay folks, my laundry is out of the dryer and awaiting folding, so I'm going to leave you with this and come back soon with some talk about making golems.

¹The graphic novels were generally compilations of comics, and I counted these as a single item per title. So, for example, I read all 9 of the extant Y: The Last Man collections and counted them as one, and similarly the first six 100 Bullets collections. I think I may have read a few others (Invincible, for one) but didn't record them. I did also read a couple of years of Best American Comics and counted each separately. (back)
²Warning: I entirely made that word up. Do not attempt to float this word by William Safire at a party, as he is likely to laugh directly in your face, perhaps spraying you with a fine gin and tonic. (back)

Posted by Brett Douville at January 4, 2009 10:24 PM


What about _The Snob_? Maybe there just aren't (m)any good games out there? Why internalize the problem?

That said, I'm curious which other games you played, and if there were any more that grabbed your attention, just not enough to actually bother with.

Posted by: Jeffool at January 12, 2009 08:49 AM

I played some good games and I think there were lots of good games. But I do think I have a tendency to play games when I have ample time to spend four or more hours or so at a stretch on them. If my time is more constrained, I tend to fall back on things that I can do in less time at a stretch, even if I have the same amount of leisure time.

So, here's the complete list.

Tomb Raider: Anniversary (Wii) 1/17/08
Resident Evil 4 (GC) 1/23/08
Silent Hill 2 (Xbox) 1/31/08
Temple of Elemental Evil (PC) 3/5/08
Professor Layton & the Curious Village (DS) 4/1/08
R&C 3 / Up Your Arsenal (PS3) 4/28/08
Zack & Wiki (Wii) early June
No More Heroes (Wii) 8/23/08

Of the games I played, the one I liked least was ToEE -- though I played it to conclusion. I also played a fair amount of Dark Cloud 2 and finally posted about the things that were driving me crazy, which was apparently all I needed to do to break the hold it had on me.

Lately I have been thinking of playing through some of the Metal Gear Solids, like Tim Longo did over on his blog (timlongo.com, search for Shadow Moses). It's a series that hasn't really had its hooks into me. And I'm also, for the first time ever, planning on playing a game purely because I'm so enjoying the television show it's licensed from -- Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

You'll note that there aren't any 360 or PS3 games here (aside from Fallout 3) -- I haven't bought into this generation yet except for a Wii. I have probably a half-dozen or so games for last-gen I'd like to finish before I jump into this gen with both feet.

I think I would be playing more games had a Zelda and Metroid come out this year; I finished both the Wii ones at the end of 2007. I played a lot of Super Mario Sunshine and may finish it. I also play a fair amount of games I'll *never* finish, like Guitar Hero on expert (though I guess to be fair I played through all of the original Guitar Hero around the Fourth of July on medium, so maybe I should have counted it).

I would also like to play some downloadables. I'm going to get World of Goo soon. This year I've already finished a game (Rainbow 6: Vegas, which my co-op group has been playing forever, though very occasionally). When I do get a 360 (see Brutal Legend release date), I'll buy Braid the same day, I expect, if I don't buy it for the PC before then. I may get through another DS or GBA game this year, as I have been spending some time on mass transit lately. I will likely finish Ivory Tiles.

So, I guess, I do think it's me. There weren't a lot of titles on platforms I own that grabbed me (I guess this specifically means the Wii), that were new and I wanted to play badly. The titles that are available on the new hardcore consoles weren't interesting enough to make me want to buy one. I'll be playing catch-up at some point, I think, on this gen. I'm interested in Uncharted and the latest Tomb Raider.

Here are a couple of games I started but didn't finish (going entirely on recollection): Super Mario Galaxy (which I may well finish), Persona 3 FES (mentioned above), and Max Payne 2 (Xbox), which I was curious about playing because I had heard the story was good, but the gameplay felt very bland to me. I picked up a lot of what I recall to be quality Xbox titles at a discount (under $5, things like Splinter Cell, Riddick, etc) that I may get around to as well. I got an Xbox 1 very late in the cycle, when Psychonauts came out.

Anyway, that's all from me for now. I'm planning on blogging about golem-making tonight, so head back or keep an eye on that RSS feed... ;)

Posted by: Brett Douville at January 12, 2009 12:19 PM