Where Do You Find the Time to Play AND Make Games?

Like many indie game developers, I have a day job.

It pays the bills, but in exchange it asks me to dedicate a significant portion of my time to it during a given week.

I am married. I like being married to my wife. Since love is spelled T-I-M-E, in order to continue being married to my wife, a portion of my time is also spent just being with my wife.

We have a house. Now, before you buy a house, everyone is excited that you’re looking. They ask about neighborhoods you are considering and let you know about realtor friends they have.

But once you buy a house, suddenly everyone’s tune changes to the sarcastic song of “Oh, have fun doing all the maintenance on it! That’s home-ownership for ya!”

Like, they knew. They knew the entire time, and yet they never said anything until you joined them in their misery! So a portion of my time is spent mowing the lawn, fixing things like dryer vent ducts and minor plumbing issues, and general cleaning.

I like to sleep a full night. Well, I don’t actually. I wish I could use that time for other things, but I know sleep has a bunch of benefits. So aside from the occasional all-nighter in an emergency, a portion of my time is spent being uselessly unconscious.

So between a day job, commuting, married life, home ownership maintenance, eating, and sleeping, I find it difficult enough to schedule enough time to make games on the side. Cut back on idle time spent on Twitter and Facebook, cut out TV watching, cut writing in my blog, and there’s still only so much time left in a day.

And there aren’t even any children in the picture yet.

So how do some of you find time to actually play games?

It amazes me to read that other part-time indie game developers not only have time to play a new release but to also finish it within a week and give their well-conceived thoughts on it.

I once read about an interview with a prominent game designer who was asked what his favorite video games were, and he admitted that he didn’t play games. I remember wondering at the time how it is possible that someone could be in the industry but not play the games made by that industry.

But if you’re busy, and you are trying to make time for what’s important, then the less important stuff gets cut.

When my choice is to make games or play games, even if the temptation is high for play, making gets priority. I can play later. Or I can make time to play, but it will be limited.

For instance, this past Saturday I played board games with a bunch of people. The evening was dedicated to it, and then it was over.

Other times, I have played Mario Kart or Smash Bros with friends, or I’ve found myself with some free time and decided to use it to play a single-player game.

But those times are rare. They’re definitely not daily, and I don’t find myself playing a game for many evenings in a row until I’ve finished it.

That’s because I’ve dedicated those evenings to making games. Or mowing, but assuming the grass is fine, then it’s dedicated to making games.

It’s not that I don’t want to play games. In fact, I do want to play the many games in my collection, including games I still have from the NES. I have this delusion that one day I’ll have time to sit down and properly finish Final Fantasy and all the Wizardry games. I was playing X-COM, but only when it was released on Humble Bundle, but I never did get around to playing Civilization: Beyond Earth. Heck, I bought Civilization 3 at a physical store many years ago, and it has yet to be installed on my computer. Despite my poor game-playing track record, I love playing games, and I would play them more if sleep wasn’t so important.

Playing games is also good for research. How do you make games if you don’t know what is already being done, or what the trends are, or what conventions to follow to avoid reinventing the wheel?

Playing games keeps me informed. When someone talking about game design refers to Super Mario Bros or StarCraft, I’m on the same page. When they say something about flagpole jumping or Kerrigan’s betrayal, I know exactly what they’re talking about.

But when they refer to StarCraft 2 or Fallout 3 or really almost any major game released in the past couple of years, I’m going to have trouble understanding references if they aren’t explained.

It’s kind of embarrassing. Growing up, I was the “kid who knew everything about Nintendo”, but today I would have no street cred.

But I find myself choosing between making games and playing games, and playing games isn’t chosen often in favor of making progress on my own creative projects.

So if you are one of those people who somehow makes time for both, please write a comment below to let me know: how do you do it? Do you find that some areas of your life are out of balance as a result, or do you somehow make it all work? Do you purposefully take a period of time off from your indie game development to play a new game to completion, or do you play games regularly and squeeze in game development in the time left over?

1 comment to Where Do You Find the Time to Play AND Make Games?

  • This is such a tough one. I am in a similar situation, but with a second job and a kid added into the mix. In the last 5 years since I started making games (and as my interest in making them full time has gone up), my ability to play games has gone way, way down. I don’t know how other folks are doing it.

    Last year, I bought 5 or 6 games (mostly steam sale stuff), but I did pick up Bloodborne and Halo. It took me about 7 months to complete Bloodborne, but I managed to squeeze in Halo over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. I am currently in the same situation with Dark Souls 3, pretty much the only game I have purchased this year. Bought it on release, and still miles from finishing. I maybe get in an hour every other week now that summer has started.

    What’s even worse is when people have gifted me games. I have Witcher 3 and Enter the Gungeon taunting me right now. The were gifts from a developer friend, and he’s been sharing all the interesting game design tidbits in both games. I’ve been embarrassingly just saying I haven’t really got to them yet.

    If you figure this one out, let the rest of us know. I don’t know how people are doing it.

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