It's been a long day and an even longer week. Nine grueling hours under life-sapping florescent lights, listening to dumb customers figuring out which mouse button to click by process of elimination, and dumber coworkers prattling on about current events and reality TV. An hour spent on a crowded bus moving down the congested highway at speeds that make snails look impatient, sitting next to a large woman in purple spandex whose cell phone conversation is so important that everyone on the bus must hear her side of the story. Five minutes spent searching for the keys, thirty seconds fumbling with the lock, and you're on the couch with my feet on the coffee table and your purpose clear: it's time to play a game.
But even as you stare at the stack of unopened and unplayed games by the television, you have no idea what to play.
Every gamer with a job knows the song: you finally find a free moment to yourself, some precious time to spend on your hobby, and you're overwhelmed by the options. Being a grownup means you can finally afford to spend money on all those shiny games your friends are playing, possibly some rare gem that escaped your notice the first time around. The rent's paid, after all, and there are groceries (read: beer) in the fridge. So you follow your instincts – consume, be fruitful, multiply – and come home with the Dead Risings and the Psychonauts, shiny in their unmolested shrink-wrap. "Why not preorder Defcon?" you ask yourself. "It's only $10 and it's sure to be fun." Slowly but surely, you find yourself building a tower of time-consuming possibilities, a stack of games you know you'd enjoy if you could only find the opportunity to experience them.
One day, that moment comes. Obligations be damned, you're going to sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labor. There are no family commitments; the wife is with her friends, the kids are in bed. Opportunity is knocking, and it's time for you to answer.
The question becomes, what do you play? There are factors to consider, after all. If you want to stay up-to-date, you have to pick a newer title. Sorry, Beyond Good & Evil, but you'll have to wait until retro comes back in style. Want to justify that $400 Xbox 360 purchase? Guess you won't be playing Sly Cooper, or Mario Kart. Mulitplayer games are a bad choice; you can't risk wasting your free time on a Dire Maul run that never gets off the ground. You think you're whittling The Stack down until you find a suitable choice, but The Stack doesn't get smaller. It just changes shape.
Eventually you decide to just put something in and play, hoping that the game will sweep you up in the experience. Fifteen minutes spent wandering the countryside in Oblivion convinces you that you want something more action-packed. Twenty minutes defending the flag in Unreal Tournament makes you yearn for a compelling story. Five minutes here, ten minutes there, you're sorting through the pile at a frantic pace, hoping to find something that will salvage the evening, a game that makes your decision for you. A game that demands to be played. But everything you start falls short of your hopes, and as quickly as it comes, your golden opportunity goes away. It's late, you have to get up early to brave the traffic and make it to the office, and your free time is up.
As you lay in bed, staring at the ceiling while waiting for sleep to come, you reflect on the situation. Is it possible that adulthood has robbed you of the ability to spend quality time with your games? Can it be that you have too many titles to choose from, that variety is not the spice of life after all? You think ahead to the next time, when the curtains of responsibility part for that brief moment and you can allow yourself to escape from the world. You make a promise to yourself that you won't buy anything else until you reach the bottom of the pile, but you know you're kidding yourself. Something new will come along, and you'll think of all the possibilities it will bring. You'll bring your shiny new toy home and add it to the others, and The Stack will continue to grow.