Wednesday, March 27, 2013

EXP Podcast #217: Finding Game-Life Balance

Image from Flickr user Jamiesrabbits
We get it: you're busy. Professional, familial, and personal obligations have a habit of expanding to the point where video games get crowded out. However, all is not lost: inspired by Tina Amini's post, this week's podcast is a discussion about how to gracefully fit games into hectic schedules. Jorge and I talk share the secrets of how we keep up with every game released (spoiler: we don't) and how to stay connected in a way that makes playing a game a pleasure rather than a burden. The nice thing about podcasts is that you can listen to one and play a game simultaneously, so after you're done multitasking jump into the comments with your feedback!

- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes
- Find the show on Stitcher
- Here's the show's stand-alone feed
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking here. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show notes:

- Runtime: 37 min 13 sec
- "How to Balance Video Games with Real Life," by Tina Amini, via Kotaku
- Music by: Brad Sucks


  1. Mads Darø KristensenApril 1, 2013 at 6:31 AM

    Being a widower with three small children, this is a subject I have struggled a lot with. I love games and I would like to be able to play all the interesting games that come out, but I simply can't. It used to bug me but by now, having been alone with the kids for two years, I have gotten used to the fact that I just don't have the time to play everything.

    That doesn't mean I'm not an avid gamer anymore though :-) Games and gaming means a lot to me, so I have chosen to:

    1) Cut down on other entertainment. I never watch television anymore. The only thing I watch occasionally is the evening news report. Watching films has also gone the way of the dodo for me, and I only follow a single TV-series using iTunes (so that I can watch it when I have the time).

    2) Avoid long games. I would love to play Ni no Kuni, the Mass Effect trilogy and a lot of other games, but I know that I wouldn't be able to finish them, and therefore I just don't play them. I play games for the narrative, so not finishing a game is not an option for me - unless of course the narrative is uninteresting.

    3) Avoid online multiplayer games. These are a timesink - I don't even wanna think about how many hours I have clocked into WoW ;-)

    4) Play games with the kids. My kids are 4, 6, and 9 years old so there are a lot of games that we like to play together. Like me, me kids rarely ever watch television, but they do play a lot of games. I would much rather have them spend a rainy day being creative while playing Minecraft than just sitting passively in front of the TV.

    5) Don't buy games before you are going to play them! Great games that just sit on your shelf are a pain...

    As always thank you for a great show and keep up the good work guys!

    Best regards,


  2. Mads Darø KristensenApril 1, 2013 at 6:33 AM

    Just one more thing: Scott, you need to play Starcraft 2. I am playing Heart of the Swarm right now and I am loving it. To me Starcraft as a single player games is just as good as the multiplayer part.

  3. Great topic this week, guys. Having a small kid and a fiancee, I'm right there with you guys in most of these topics. Here are some strategies I've been using lately:

    * Basically _abuse_ review sites, and check and recheck and rerecheck what games are worth my time. I look for positive reviews from journalists whose taste I trust, and try to buy the consensus picks.

    * Something you didn't bring up in your chat, but is key to me: try to engage my family into videogames, so we can spend time together that way. I've been going through The Walking Dead with my fiancee, for instance, and before that we played To the Moon and Dear Esther. I look for games that I want to play and know she'll enjoy watching me play, and we switch controls as much as we can when she wants to be more engaged. I'm doing a similar thing with my 6-year-old son, and we are currently revisiting Loom because he finds it entrancing. Spelunky is another game that blows his mind for some reason, whenever he catches me playing it.

    * I love that you brought up how keeping up with the development of videogames can be almost as entertaining and rewarding as playing them. I'm currently enjoying thoroughly the Broken Age (former Double Fine Adventure) development documentary, and of course you guys and some other sites provide great podcasts to listen to while driving home after work.

    * Another thing that I recommend is joining the "Let's Play" craze on YouTube. I have vicariously enjoyed many games that represent time investments beyond my reach lately, simply by watching people play them on my second monitor while I work on repetitive tasks that don't require my full attention (anyone that has used Matlab or Excel frequently knows what I'm talking about). It's not the same, but it's close enough for me, for some games.

    * Last but not least, I would like to share my two cents on the "easy difficulty" issue. Until last month I had never played a game on "easy". I considered that after two and a half decades of playing video games, "easy" would be basically demeaning. Witcher 2 is the game that is slowly changing my mind. I do not have the time to master what the developers or that game consider "easy", even though I have a feeling that 10 years ago I would've welcomed the challenge. I started a new game on easy a few days ago, and so far I'm not regretting my decision. FTL almost cracked me, too, but I persevered.

    I think it's time to accept that sometimes "easy" might be what us old fogies need.

    Keep up the good work, guys. Thanks again for podcasting and sharing.

  4. Wow, thanks so much for sharing, Mads! Raising three kids, playing games, listening to podcasts, and commenting on dumb game websites? Are you sure you haven't secretly cloned yourself? :)

    Great list of techniques by the way. It seems like your kids are all getting to the age where you can really have some fun sharing video games with them. There must be some sweet spot in terms of motor skill development and abstract thought that makes games like Minecraft and Portal possible. My dad only ever appreciated video games from afar, so it really warms my heart to think of the four of you building some crazy block castle!

  5. Don't tempt me into making my backlog even longer!

  6. Thank you for listening! Great list, by the way. I know I've mentioned this before, but I actually watched the Giant Bomb guys play through all of Persona 4, so I definitely feel you on the Let's Play angle.

    Also, your fiancee and kid clearly have great taste in games. :)

  7. I think I need to play more games w/ my partner as you do. I'm always concerned I'll ruin the experience w/ micromanagement.

  8. Coming back from almost two hours of League of Legends, I completely agree with point #3.

  9. This struck home for me. I am a recent father who has had to curtail his video games to make way for his family. Like Scott and some of the other commenters, I've done this by making video games my default entertainment. I'd love to get into walking dead or game of thrones, but I'd rather spend my time getting through Dragon Age or walking dead the video game.

    I also set strict time limits. For now, I play after my daughter and wife have gone to bed, until it is my bedtime. I stick to that schedule and try to choose games that can be done in discreet chunks versus games that encourage the "one more round" syndrome. The last thing my family needs is for me to be exhausted because i was up until 1am playing a video game. I also choose games that allow me to save almost anywhere, so that I am not up an extra half hour trying to find a save spot. Dragon Age fits this bill. I've given up on Borderlands 2 for now, because I could easily sink 90 minutes into a single mission.

    It's a matter of managing time, expectations, and understanding where games fit into my life. The best way I can spend my time is by being with my family. In the off chance that I have some hours where they are asleep or out of the house, and I don't have any chores I can be doing, I play games. Sometimes this means having my kid asleep in a baby bjorn while I play my PS3 . Sometimes it means rocking my kid to sleep while playing my DS. Sometimes it means that I have to wait a few days to game because life and schedules interfere. I only get three hours in a week vs. three hours a day that I sometimes averaged in my bachelor days, but I'm still enjoying that time.

    I also always, always play on easy. I have enough challenge with life - the last thing i need to do is constantly restart a level because I'm dying. That's a personal choice. Some gamers love that challenge, I don't. I want the experience of exploring a world, not to test my reflexes or get a sense of accomplishment out of beating a game on insane mode.If I was a better gamer, I might change my tune, but I love casual mode.

    I'm also hoping that I can get my wife and or daughter more into games. This hasn't been so successful so far, but i have dreams of doing two-player co-op play with my daughter when she gets older!

  10. You bring up a really good point about the "1 more round" phenomenon. It's one of the reasons narrative-driven games are so attractive, since you know there is a definite end point.

    I hope you're successful in converting the rest of your family. That way, game time=family time!