This post is about the question I ask myself regularly ("What should I play?"), rather than any actual advice on what's best to play. I struggle with this question every time I get a chance to pick up my controller. Mostly, I struggle, because the opportunities to pick up my controller are so few and far between. I'm a faculty member in a Masters of Counseling program and I work non-traditional hours. In addition to teaching my assigned classes and grading materials I also supervise Internships, and have to respond to student questions for all of these things along with my the needs for students with whom I've been assigned as an academic advisor. On the side I'm also having to keep up with long term requirements that are associated with my earning tenure. So, I've been working on several writing projects along with presentations, and service on committees, etc.
Then, there are the "just being an adult" responsibilities that also cut into my gaming time. I'm married to a wonderful woman, who is also a counselor, and I want to make sure I'm a good husband to her. We have our two dogs, and they're wonderful, but I have to be a good doggy daddy. There's taking time to pay bills, and go grocery shopping, and keep the house clean, and the list goes on. It all adds up so that my free time is usually spent doing another form of work. So much so that when I'm actually free I experience a sort of relaxation guilt. I don't feel like I SHOULD be relaxing because there's probably something else I ought to be doing. #Adulting
I'll add that another complication is that I want to make sure my wife has time to enjoy the relaxation activities she loves too. We try to practice compromises in our relationship, and we also like to spend time with one another. In many instances we find Netflix series that we both like, or genres that we can share with each other. But I'm still a Gamer, and this adds to my subdividing my game time. A fix to this has been the ability to stream my games. I'm primarily an Xbox fanboy, and a lot of times in order to fit my gaming in, I'll stream my Xbox through the Xbox app on my laptop, so that my wife can have the main TV, but I can still play at the same time. I can't always have the volume fully up, and I definitely can't jump into in game chat, but Xbox's game streaming has been a help (I'm writing another article about this specifically for another time).
So all this to get to the point that, when I do convince myself that I don't have anything else to be doing, I feel like whatever I choose to enjoy ought to be something that is absolutely going to be worth it. It's a question of what's going to give me "the most bang for my buck," as it were. What's funny about this is that it results in a sort of "relaxation paralysis" for me. I can never find anything that is in any way going to fully meet my needs. For a while this resulted in me just never playing or watching anything of quality. I would intentionally find something that I didn't want to really indulge in, just to fill the space, rather than to find something to enjoy. I realized I was "saving" the stuff I loved so that I could enjoy it when I finally had the time to really indulge in it. The reality is that I will never find THAT time. I always have a next thing to do.
So I started forcing myself to just play something I would like when I had some time. This works in a general sense. Though I've discovered a new layer to this process. I choose a game and while that game is loading I think of another game I'd also like to play. So I switch games. Then I think of another one I'd be excited to play too. So I switch games again. This actually eats from 10-15 minutes of my "free time" before I actually get to play anything.
I love story based games, and some of my favorite titles are Halo, Gears of War, Assassin's Creed, Destiny, etc. I end up trying to savor these titles, because I really want to be immersed in the story. I end up playing games that have some mindless components like multiplayer, or side quests that I can keep advancing on without having to experience all of the aspects of the game in order to enjoy it. I tend to jump into multiplayer in Halo and Destiny while playing side missions and generally leveling up in titles like Assassin's Creed and Sea of Theives (one of my new favs).
As a result of these balancing decisions I make, I have a huge backlog of games that I would like to play, and never really catch up on (Fallout, I'm looking at you). In the interest of practicing better personal mental health, I've made a pact with myself that I will begin working through that backlog, and that I am just as worthy of having recreational time as anyone else.
We all deserve to give ourselves some of this kindness, though as a counselor I know this is much easier said than done. I always advise my clients that they are deserving and should take opportunities for self care. I'm going to do my best to practice what I preach, and begin seeking more opportunities to log on and indulge in the things I love. I hope you all do the same.
All the best,
- This post written by Dr. Steve Kuniak