The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep
– Robert Frost
The forlorn bookworm to your left should be recognizable. That iconic mug belongs to Burgess Meredith playing the role of Henry Bemis, an antisocial sop who would rather live in the dominion of the printed word than interact with friends and family. In true Twilight Zone fashion, this fragile little man was driven to ruin through the very thing he prized most: quiet, uninterrupted solitude. His lust for a little slice of quiet and an endless stack of books left him the most lonely man on earth.
It’s not so much that Bemis was a terrible man as much as he was terribly busy. Skidding through the demands of work and home, juggling the twin weights of wife and boss, it’s a wonder anyone has time enough for the simple comforts that make the fabric of life so rewarding. There is hardly time enough in a day to work and comfortably fit in a few fleeting moments of relaxation. And really, what good is life without its occasional indulgences?
Like Bemis, I stand before a gulf of hedonism, a vibrant immediate future that is comprised entirely of glittering self-interest.
It is summer at last.
School is out and I have so many games to play.
It seems unlikely that I could ever want for time to play a game. It was only a year ago that I whined about an excess of gametime, noting that the absence of any meaningful employment or busywork left me desperate to fill the mundane crawl of the days with hour upon hour of gaming. And yet, here I am, hopelessly mourning over the virtual death of my quality game time.
In November of last year, I took on a job at my former High School. The simple catch was that I lived in San Diego, and my alma mater was in Los Angeles. I would wake up at the crack of night on Monday, brave the workday commute, and stay with relatives throughout the week. A handful of gaming podcasts kept me up to speed with current events and helped pass the long, uneventful hours I spent stuck in traffic. On weekends, I would speed down to catch the night shift a small movie theatre in San Diego. I arrived home just in time to do my laundry, catch an hour or two of gaming, pack, then hit a short nap before the process started over.
I kept this fantastically active employment schedule up for over six months. As a result any kind of hobbies or side-interests I had wilted. No time for reading, hardly any time to write, and definitely little to no time for gaming. In the rare chance I had more than an hour or two to sit down and play, I found that my tolerance for excessively difficult or repetitive game design had evaporated. On more than one occasion, I turned my console off and instead went to do something marginally productive – like change the oil in my car, or look over a stack of essays written by 10th graders. I learned that being a gamer with a job required actual planning and balance between the two hideously opposed personae. Oh brave new world!
But with less than a week’s worth of work left, I can almost envision the 6 hour days I’d like to spend on the couch filleting ninjas, roaming the wastelands, and fighting off hordes of zombies. Like Mr. Bemis, I’d like nothing more than to cocoon myself in a wonderfully irresponsible blanket of entertainment. I’d like to forget about the dozen little tasks that I’d like to accomplish before school re-opens in early September. I’d especially like to forget the computer typing class I’m supposed to supervise come August.
I’d like to forget all of that, because I’m mentally clicking through a Queue of 20 games that will slowly trickle through my Xbox in the next few weeks. I used to wonder at the folks who tangled with The Pile of Shame, curious at how they could possibly build up such an immense backlog. How could these folks treat gaming as a chore, rather than a source of fun?
Simple. Just like Mr. Bemis, they had jobs.
Now that I have meager responsibilities of my own, I find myself having to fit games around the demands of my life. The difference between this year and last is stark. Last year, I wondered about the role games played in my life. This year, I’m contemplating how I’ll ever be able to keep up. Perhaps next year I’ll wonder how I can work games into my retirement plan.
For now, I’m content with reclaiming a crumb of time for recreation. While I clamor to be part of the in-crowd that can slice into the newest of releases week after week, offering opinions and tips on the bleeding edge, I think I might take a more relaxed path. An occasional hobby is still a hobby, and there’s no extra fun to be had from marathon sessions.
The summer is long, and the pile can linger. There are no deadlines when it comes to fun.