Time well wasted


I think about time a lot.

As I’m looking down the barrel of being 40, it’s something that’s harder to ignore. I think about how old my kids are, how fast they’re growing, and how old I’m going to be when my youngest graduates high school (57, for the record). I think about how long I’ve been at my current job (16 years), how long it’s been since World of Warcraft launched and I met my wife (11 years), and how far removed I am from my college days (17 years) and high school years (22 years).

I also think about what time I’ve spent on different projects and pastimes. I wish I had started a low-carb diet back in 2000 instead of four years ago. I feel a little sad that my first big writing project — a 16-year movie review site — has been all but abandoned. And the other night when I was playing FFXIV and working toward another objective, it made me think of how many games I’ve played over the years and how much time and effort I poured into those characters.

My first gaming blog was a small sporadic thing called Time Well Wasted, which was named after my current World of Warcraft guild. The name was trying to cheekily refer to how MMO gaming is both useful (stress relief, enjoyment, friendships, etc.) and an honest “waste” of time. There’s always something we could have spent doing more productive or lucrative, I’m sure. But it wasn’t just time wasted, it was WELL wasted, which kind of made a difference. It was time wasting (spending) with purpose, trying to undercut the ultimate futility of progression (since all online games will end and those accomplishments will be erased) by yanking something good and useful out of that time.

I don’t want to hobble my personal and professional life with an overabundance of gaming. I hope that I always keep up the good fight of balancing that properly and not letting a hobby become a thing that becomes a master. I also desire to play games with purpose and not out of obligation and routine.

I do think that it’s somewhat heartening to realize that I haven’t “outgrown” being a gamer. After all, the average age of a gamer keeps getting bumped up as the first couple of generations of kids who grew up on games (such as myself) head into middle-age and beyond. If I could go back and tell my teen self that, yes, I was still playing games — and pretty wonderful games at that — when I was 39, even with the trappings of adult life, that would have made me feel a lot better about growing up.

14 thoughts on “Time well wasted

  1. With age comes wisdom (most of the time, at least). Never regret, always look forward thinking about what you could do better in the future with the experience acquired in the past. (I’m 48 by the way 😉 ).

  2. I love this piece 🙂 I’ve loved gaming since my first encounter with a very basic computer at the age of 6, and until the last couple of years have pretty much always felt guilty about it because of the waste of time which could be spent on better things. Not that my life is spent entirely in Azeroth or anything, but there’s always a consciousness that people would look askance at gaming as a hobby if they knew I did it. It’s only really recently that I’ve started to come to terms with being a Christian professional who is also, and probably always will be, a gamer – and to realise that that is ok, and this is a perfectly valid hobby as long as it remains a hobby and not a way of life.

    Time well wasted indeed!

  3. Yeah, I look back at the time I spent gaming and ask myself was it wasted? I dunno, it’s not like I’d have used it to cure cancer or something else important! I’d have blown the time on enjoyable but just as frivolous stuff in the end. Seems to me it’s not really as much what you accomplice as much as the memories you end up with.

  4. You’re a year younger now than I was over sixteen years ago, when I decided to buy EverQuest and dip my toe in the scary waters of online gaming. My next big birthday is going to take me to the brink of retirement. Pretty soon I won’t even be able to lay claim to late middle age.

    Am I going to turn around and consider those decades I focused my leisure hours on gaming wasted? Nope. I spent my twenties and thirties focused on music, comics, movies and going out. I don’t have anything much concrete to show for those decades either but I don’t consider it time wasted. I consider it all time lived.

    The trick, it seems to me, is to realize when you aren’t enjoying something any more and stop. That’s how I came to stop watching TV and buy EQ in the first place. If I ever find I’m becoming as bored and disappointed with gaming as I did with watching television then I hope and trust I’ll be as quick to walk away and find some new way to waste my time. Not seeing any sign of it happening yet.

  5. ” I hope that I always keep up the good fight of balancing that properly and not letting a hobby become a thing that becomes a master. ”

    If this is your personal convicition, that’s cool – but generally I try not to subscribe to conventional wisdom when it comes to how we “are supposed to live”. This stuff is always someone else’s idea of what’s supposedly important in life, or how we should act and not act, or what it means to be “grown up”. another completely useless word as far as I am concerned.

    There is only subjective truth and subjective meaning. If someone is perfectly happy playing games and living in online communities while living a complete, self-sufficient and healthy life overall, I don’t see why that person needs to be ‘more productive’ or balancing anything according to someone else’s subjective standard. We are not carbon copies; life is too short to play to someone else’s fiddle. Personal happiness is the only value that matters in the end – everything else is a waste to me.

  6. I think a lot about things like this, too. Even when I’m playing MMOs, I’m trying to bring some kind of purpose to it. Maybe just make life a little better for someone else, or cheer someone in my FC up.

    Sometimes little things reach out to someone else and become more important than we realize. It can happen in games, it can happen anywhere you’re connected with other people. I guess that’s why I treat social connections in MMOs a bit more seriously than I should.

  7. Time Well Wasted is a really great name for my life on the Internet. I go by Quixotic in games when I can (often taken these days), because that’s my attitude toward all of it. I know it’s impractical, and likely unimportant, but dammit, let’s have some fun.

  8. @Syl: I understand your philosophy. But I very much agree with Syp. Gaming, like any hobby, has to be balanced against the rest of your life. Both good and evil can come out of gaming, like out of about any other hobby.

    I have seen relationships formed out of online games. Not only for friends, where I was at their weddings, but two of my girlfriends I found in online games… and while the first relationship only lasted a few years, the second one I am still together with, we have a flat together and I very much expect this to last for a few more decades. (Yes, I am over 40, I don’t need changing relationships any more. *g* )

    But I also saw existances ruined. I had to watch several co-students crash and burn on gaming addiction. I found my rules during that time, I limited my playtime when the exam period approached and studied instead, I got my diploma. But several good friends did not, some of them dropping out without qualification and having to survive on odd jobs, with one of them committing suicide in the mess of too much gaming, ruining not only his accademical career but also his relationship.

    Most of us gamers deny it, but just like books, TV or any other media, games can be used as a drug and can have as terrible consequences to your life. I fully support Syp in what he wrote, that he’s glad that he managed to balance gaming vs. the rest of his life and hopes that he will be able to do so in the future. I hope the very same is true for me, that I can continue enjoying games for the rest of my life, without ever succumbing to their addictive component.

  9. @Sylow

    I am afraid you’ve managed to miss my finer meaning. I already said: “Personal happiness is the only value that matters in the end – everything else is a waste to me.” You’re obviously talking of situations where that stopped being the case. These examples exist and they are also entirely individual. For some people it works playing games every day or every week, others cannot do it. There is no “universal balance”. If it works for you, it works for you.
    There will always be someone who thinks you’re a freak for even playing games a lot, let alone blog about them, podcast and whatnot. 😉

    For me, I’d be more than happy to let my “hobby” become my master lol, the only reason I can’t do it is because I also need to earn a living. 😀

  10. Heh well obviously you and I ascribe to very different worldviews Syl; I believe in objective truth and a life that should be lived beyond the mere pursuit of personal happiness. I do find your “if” sentence interesting, because you lay out a balanced life (by whose standards?) and don’t deal with the flip side. What if that life is not going well because there’s too much stress and too little play? Or too much escapism that’s causing issues in a person’s home or professional life? Does corrective action need to be taken then?

  11. @Syp
    “by whose standards?”

    By one’s own standards. That’s the entire point of my post. Happiness comes from within, no one else can tell you what a good or balanced life is but you. You’re also the one who has to live with all the consequences, after all. I see no reason why someone shouldn’t live their hobby if they can afford it and want to do it. That’s their choice? Again, if they are happy with what they do, they may be richer than many others. And different world views aside Syp, I think you can agree that there’s no bringing others happiness without inner happiness first. 😉 They are not mutually exclusive.

  12. Im right there with you… Turned 40 last tuesday and ive been gaming from when i was 7 or 8. Now my kids of 12, 8 and 5 years old get into gaming and im thinking about all the things they will go through till they are my age. I wonder if they will still be gamers when they turn 40… An achievement i have accomplished! 😜

  13. For me true wast of time is anything that:
    (a) doesn’t make you happy or
    (b) isn’t the means by which you achieve happyness.

    I.e. work is never a waste if you enjoy what you do, but even if you don’t it can’t be a waste if it’s the medium by which you can provide for your loved ones (which I assume leads to you being happy in the end). On the other hand, working at a shitty job for no reason other than habit or greed (much more common than one would think) is for me the definition of misery.

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