Time Enough

At Last!

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.

Comments

If I could give this a thumbs up like on facebook I would.

Now that's a realistic, unCertis perspective about being a gamer with a job. Kudos man, you pinpointed exactly my current feeling towards games.

Maybe I can show this piece to the small group of guys that frowns upon me every time I stop playing DoW2 multiplayer because I have to get up early and go to work or have to acknowledge the existence of my girlfriend.

KrazyTacoFO wrote:

If I could give this a thumbs up like on facebook I would.

I'm sure there's a way, and I have full confidence that we can crowdsource finding that way.

Can't crowdsource gaming, though. I've been known to delegate grinding, but I haven't lived with my kid brother for years now. Shame, since he accepted my acknowledgment as payment, with the odd can of Mountain Dew as a tip.

Time is always moving either too slow or too fast. That or there isn't enough, or you have way too much on your hands. She is a fickle mistress. Sometimes I think back to my younger days, in high school and the first few years of college. The only thing stopping me from playing a game being a random assignment here or there and the off chance of an actual date. No longer do I get Saturdays devoted to exploring a new world, or destroying dragons in Baulder's Gate 2. That day is now reserved for getting things done that I do not have time for during the week. Sunday, too has suffered a similar fate. It now is there for me to spend much needed quality time with my lovely fiance. So I look for an hour here, 30 minutes there, any time that I can weasel away, and I try and get my fix. I stay up too late on a Tuesday night to beat just one level. I load up Peggel on my lunch break to at least get a controller in my hand. Then out of nowhere, I will get a day I can devote to gaming. A 6 hour run at the RPG I have been pecking at for two weeks. My body becomes one with the sumo sac, I eat leftovers on the fly to minimize non-play time, and I slow down and enjoy my game. I can almost see my self reverting back to the 14 year old kid, with plenty to do, tons of friends to call, and only the siren song of Video Games being answered. It is oh so good to go back to being that kid. Then the door opens to the apartment, my fiance is home, and in a blink of an eye, the kid is gone and I am back. I quickly find the next save point, ask her about her day, and let her decide my next few hours of activities. My inner nerd has been satiated, at least for the time being.

wordsmythe wrote:

...something very witty as usual...

Your avatar has turned green. Is it envy? An intoxication of left over St. Patty's Day Beer? Seasickness? The Mountain Dew you gave your brother? Trioxin exposure? Gravitation towards the spelling of 'smith'?

Enquiring minds must know.

It's a thing about support for the Iran elections - I first saw it on Twitter. They must be using the same file as their avatar here.

momgamer wrote:

It's a thing about support for the Iran elections - I first saw it on Twitter. They must be using the same file as their avatar here.

Different avatar, same idea. Since the convenient "turn your Twitter avatar green to support free elections in Iran" page wasn't working for me, I tinted mine by hand and passed my other avatars through while I was at it.

By the way, every time I see the title of this article, I think about Spaz falling to his knees in front of a red-ringed 360.

"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"

Ah, the last time I was part of that "crowd" was the halcyon days of Dreamcast. Had the time and money to pick up every game that came out and play it, offering my mini reviews and commentary on each.

Of course everything started to change with the birth of my daughter.

Now with two kids .. you really put a premium on leisure time. You have to actively seek it out or it just doesn't happen. Sometimes you step on toes to get it .. the only other alternative is insanity.

The summer is long, and the pile can linger. There are no deadlines when it comes to fun.

I would do well to remember this more.

An occasional hobby is still a hobby, and there’s no extra fun to be had from marathon sessions.

A very hard lesson to take in once you lose most of your time. Once a month if I had a day completely free, I'd turn off my phone and get ready to make up for all that lost time. Instead I couldn't play more than 3 or 4 hours without getting bored, thinking that I'd played enough. It was sad

The summer is long, and the pile can linger. There are no deadlines when it comes to fun.

Maybe that is something that I should consider though. Rather than get worried about how big the Pile of Shame is getting, I should just play the game at hand and enjoy it for what it is worth.

Whilst quoting Frost's Stopping by woods on a snowy evening sounds somewhat appropriate to the article. This subject matter is much lighter and more trivial than the themes in the poem. If Frost was not so comfortable in death, he would be stirring in his grave.

Other than my poetry snobbery, a well written article.

I should probably state that a large part of the attitude here is due to GameFly's cocked-up Queue availability system. It's like hitting a randomize button on a videogame jukebox.

wordsmythe wrote:

By the way, every time I see the title of this article, I think about Spaz falling to his knees in front of a red-ringed 360.

But...but... there was finally time. There. Was. TIME. *weep*

JamieWil wrote:

Whilst quoting Frost's Stopping by woods on a snowy evening sounds somewhat appropriate to the article. This subject matter is much lighter and more trivial than the themes in the poem. If Frost was not so comfortable in death, he would be stirring in his grave.

The Pile? A daunting source of shame.
But I have papers left to maim,
And jobs to do before I game,
And jobs to do before I game.

Anyway, I read it as being torn between personal self-interests (stopping to observe nature) vs. obligations, responsibilities and just plain good sense (promises to keep, and stopping in the middle of nowhere on a cold, dark night).

Like most others who have commented, I can really identify with the sentiment of this piece. Sadly, most weeks I probably spend more time listening to games podcasts than actually gaming. It strikes me as a somewhat bizarre set of circumstances but as is often the case with hobbies, it is easier to do the 'peripheral activities' than the hobby itself. Anyone else find themselves in a similar situation?

Spaz wrote:

Anyway, I read it as being torn between personal self-interests (stopping to observe nature) vs. obligations, responsibilities and just plain good sense (promises to keep, and stopping in the middle of nowhere on a cold, dark night).

I don't really want to be a smug English grad but, in stopping by woods on a snowy evening, the woods are clearly representative of Frost's temptation towards suicide, as he had a family history of mental illness, and 3/4 of his immediate family died before he did, including parents, children and his wife. I kinda view this poem as Frost looking to landscapes as a representation of his personal turmoil. And, the repetition of the words darkness and sleep kinda emphasise this. And, whilst death is inviting towards him, he has to look after his remaining children "Promises to keep"

Buuuut, that was just my interpretation, and I fully respect yours as well. And, your final stanza.

The Pile? A daunting source of shame.
But I have papers left to maim,
And jobs to do before I game,
And jobs to do before I game.

Was totally freaking awesome.

Yoreel: I know exactly how you feel, even though this may sound a lil stupid, as I'm only 17.
I sometimes really wish I could go back to being a 14 year old without worries packing at the back of his head, playing video games as much as I like, nowadays all I get to do is spend some time playing in breaks from studying to some finals, but thank god, as of tomorrow i'm a free man and I'll be able to do whatever I like with my 2 months of freedom (3 weeks out of them devoted to work but whatever), and maybe, just maybe, be able to go back to being that 14 year old nerd again...

JamieWil wrote:
Spaz wrote:

Anyway, I read it as being torn between personal self-interests (stopping to observe nature) vs. obligations, responsibilities and just plain good sense (promises to keep, and stopping in the middle of nowhere on a cold, dark night).

I don't really want to be a smug English grad but, in stopping by woods on a snowy evening, the woods are clearly representative of Frost's temptation towards suicide, as he had a family history of mental illness, and 3/4 of his immediate family died before he did, including parents, children and his wife. I kinda view this poem as Frost looking to landscapes as a representation of his personal turmoil. And, the repetition of the words darkness and sleep kinda emphasise this. And, whilst death is inviting towards him, he has to look after his remaining children "Promises to keep"

Aren't woods often symbolic of the subconscious?

Regardless, we're losing sight of what's important, which is that he didn't go with Birches.

By the way, every time I see the title of this article, I think about Spaz falling to his knees in front of a red-ringed 360.

"Goodnight, sweet prince."

pignoli wrote:

Anyone else find themselves in a similar situation?

It probably applies to members of most gaming boards, this one included.