It’s a strange time in the world. A global pandemic, fighting for equality and calling out awful behaviour in various industries is changing how we all interact, work, live and entertain ourselves. Our ever-changing decisions and patterns will impact the games we play and when we can play them. Now is a good time to reflect on our own habits. My gaming habits have certainly changed.
Due to lockdown, my time isn’t the same anymore. Whilst I work from home and have done for a number of years my wife and daughter were suddenly permanent fixtures during the day. The moments I had to game, before starting work early in the morning or on a lunch break, were gone. There are now interruptions whilst working and I finish at different times each day to do more shared childcare. My work habits changing, starting work as early as possible, working through lunch and sacrificing a few evenings, have impacted my gaming and relaxation time.
My main gaming slots are gone. In their place are snatched moments. 20 minutes whilst my daughter goes to bed. An hour if my wife has to work in the evening. The longest session I’ve had for a while was on the morning of Father’s Day. I got a full four hours in on The Last of Us Part II while my wife entertained our daughter; something I’m very thankful to her for. Lockdown has probably cut my gaming time in half, if not a little more. Longer experiences like The Last of Us Part II and Disco Elysium have taken me weeks to play. TLoU2 took me 3 weeks to complete; a game of that size would have taken about a week or two last year. Disco Elysium meanwhile still sits unfinished.
The pressures on my time have lessened somewhat as my daughter is back at school for two days and my wife has returned to teaching three days a week. My days are still filled with working as much as possible whilst it’s quiet. I take the occasional gaming lunch break but these are often interrupted; sometimes by a work call or stopping myself, knowing I don’t want to get deep into it for too long. My time may return again come September or October when school will be full time for both of them once again. It may not.
Another change has been the use of headphones. I am using them more and more when I game. I have a permanent set hooked up to the pc, due to podcasting and my office being next door to my daughter’s bedroom. For the ps4 I’m using the packaged in single earbud. It’s reasonable but when my wife is working and watching something loud I can hear that as much as the game which isn’t ideal. I should invest in a new pair but, with the PS5 around the corner and the range of accessories including headphones, I may wait. Save up that cash for the console and a slew of accessories with headphones taking precedence. Also buying now would take away a game purchase as I’ve got a limited budget for my hobby. Quality audio experience now or miss out on a game? I’ll be buying the games for the time being.
A big change, and a much more important one, has been in my decisions on which games to purchase and play. With a changing culture, people who have often been overlooked because they’re not part of the majority are being highlighted. Games illustrating characters and stories which have been historically underrepresented are getting more love and time in the conversation. There are others who we can now call out and take a more critical view of the products they produce. People who have abused positions of power or harassed others are rightly being identified and removed from development on some games. There’s a long way to go on this but we can all be part of the progress being made. We can determine who to support and the kinds of companies we want to give our money and time too.
There aren’t many people who can play every game, so those of us who only get to choose a couple of games a month can be super selective. We can’t be perfect for all the games we choose. We can’t know all the stories about the development and the people behind the games. What we can do is try. We can choose a game on the shared knowledge of the industry and the stories those brave enough to tell bring forward. There are games I’ve actively avoided, even if I’ve enjoyed previous games, now that these stories are being brought to light. Until cultures change we should be questioning and finding out more information before we make a purchase.
Crunch is another big issue which is getting more exposure and hopefully that exposure is forcing a change in how companies work. Choosing those companies making this change is at the forefront of my mind, but I’m not always going to get this right. I’ll learn and be more informed when picking the next game to buy.
I fear a little for my enjoyment of upcoming games. Ghost of Tsushima and Cyberpunk 2077 sound like long, open-world games. My snatched gaming time means I’ll do one or two quests at a time or uncover a little of the story or the world. I’m not going to experience these games at their best, enjoying extended time with them to fully invest myself. With Ghost of Tsushima having an officially blessed Kurosawa mode this is a game I’ll want to play twice. Cyberpunk 2077 has also come under scrutiny for its crunch culture. I hope it’s latest, and possibly the last delay will ease the need for that crunch; that those working under it for months are able to finish what they need under less pressure.
Developer and publishers’ workflows, timing and habits will also have changed during this time. It’s important we keep having conversations to ensure that it’s a change for the better. My mind is still weighing up supporting a company who encourages crunch culture against not supporting a whole group of people who have made a game. It’s a difficult balance as a consumer to make. Again, I’ll keep learning and keep talking about it to force a culture change; adding my voice alongside many others.
Questioning my decisions whether or not to play some games will always happen now especially with the reduced playtime I have. I hope this is a practice many will think about and more positive change in the gaming industry will come from it.