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Making time for games – my struggle balancing a video game hobby with university life

From the ages of 14 to 17, my life consisted of school, studying, swimming, and games – an unhealthy amount of Call of Duty, competitive Pokémon and Overwatch. I had no responsibilities, and so could spend four hours a night sitting in front of my Xbox ranking up online.

When I got to university, I thought this wouldn’t change. Everyone says students have lots of free time at university, and while that’s true to some degree, you have to be selective in terms of what you devote it to. For some, they devote it to competitive video games. Many of the best eSports players and streamers start in their dorm rooms, often dropping out to pursue gaming careers instead. However, this is a lifestyle choice. For me, trying to balance societies, writing, adulting, and of course, my degree is hard enough already without factoring in time to play the latest in the abundance of games released in the build-up to Christmas.

Children just have more time to play them

When I do have the time to play a new online video game, it is often disheartening to come up against people who have much more time and experience with the game. Take Call of Duty, for example. When I was 15, I took great pride in putting 400 hours (over 16 days in total) into Call of Duty: Ghosts. In this time, I memorised all the maps, the best strategies, and managed to get a pretty high K/D. All of this practice takes time, of which I do not have as much anymore, making it much harder for me to immerse myself in such video games communities as I once did.

I doubt I’m alone in this, and it is probably because of this problem that there is still a consensus that video games are for children when it’s not the case at all – they just have more time to play them.

Even if I had the time, would I want to devote it to hours and hours of video games? Before university, attempting to beat the latest Dark Souls boss would be a social event, in the sense that I would be in a party with my friends, all of whom lived quite a distance away. At university, living so close to all of my friends means there are much easier ways to socialise than gaming, and so if I spent hours in my room playing games, I’d suffer from serious FOMO.

I need, however, need to make it clear that I do love games. I still keep up with all the latest gaming announcements and news – Nintendo Directs always take precedence in my life. It just means I now have to be much more selective with when I play games, and what games to devote my time to.

Am I better off playing games just for fun?

Ian Bogost, in an article for The Atlantic, claims all video games to be chores as they require work for fun. Whilst I vehemently disagree with his premise and criticisms of Untitled Goose Game, it made me wonder what I should prioritise as a student when playing games. Should I invest hours of frustration into a game just for the possibility I may finally enjoy it weeks later? Or am I better off playing games just for fun?

Only playing ‘fun’ video games, however, would do a disservice to games that attempt to evoke certain feelings, or send deeper meanings to players. Swearing off certain genres because of time constraints would inevitably mean that I would miss out on some of the best titles of the year.

Instead, I’d propose that, while at university, the multiplayer game is the best way to maintain your video game hobby, as it can be a perfect way to combine gaming with socialising. The best times to play more serious, single-player experiences are between terms, in the holidays. Over summer, Astral Chain kept me company, and I’m looking forward to completing Death Stranding over Christmas. Compared to university, holidays are much less hectic for me, and so it’s a great time to unwind by completing all those unfinished video games.

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