Having trouble balancing your time between all the games you want to play?   Here are some tips to help you out.

Introduction

Making time for all the games you want to play while simultaneously balancing out your responsibilities, relationship, and non-gaming entertainment can be a daunting task.  For a while, this was something I too struggled with: how could I possibly work full time, AND keep my spouse happy, AND get through the games I wanted to play in an organized manner?  Things can get a bit rough sometimes, but here are some methods I’ve found to balance everything out.

Gaming with your job

The number one easiest way I’ve found to balance gaming and my job is to get up early in the morning and game before going to work.  I’ve found this not only helps me wake up, but also allows me to make constant, measurable progress in whichever game I happen to be hooked on.  Plus, regardless of how the rest of my day goes, I know that I’ve already spent a portion of it gaming.  Most of my first play-through of Mass Effect was done using this method…I would get up earlier than I had to, and put in a solid 30-45 minutes each morning. 

Depending on the kind of job you have, you may have a free lunch break.  If you do, this is a PERFECT time to break out a portable game system.  (Note: I take no responsibility if this gets you canned!)  A buddy of mine completely played through Chrono Trigger on his DS using this method.  It may not seem like a lot, but gaming on your lunch break for 15-20 minutes every day adds up rather quickly.  This has the added benefit of increasing the number of games you’re playing through simultaneously, as you can designate a “lunch exclusive” title.  This can be adapted to your commute as well, assuming you take public transportation.

Gaming with your spouse

Obviously, the best way to balance gaming time and your spouse is to combine them together.  A little compromise may be necessary to pull this off, but if you both happen to be interested in the same game at the same time, playing together is a wonderful thing.  Not only will it strengthen your friendship and your relationship, but you will also get the joys of playing a video game with another person.  If you can’t agree on what to play, just do what we do: play what you want to play, while your spouse plays what they want to play.  This isn’t something worth getting into an argument over…all that matters is that you’re together and you’re gaming, even if not on the same screen.  Note that for this to be effective, your room has to be set up with it in mind.

Our "play" room is set up to allow us to game independently while still being together.

Some single-player titles can be played together.  For example, when I played through Bioshock, Brittnie watched from start to finish.  It was entertaining for her to watch something that intense, and I was happy to see her having fun even though she didn’t put her hands on the controls at all.  Games that heavily rely on their story tend to be the best for this, although games like Just Cause 2 practically beg for another person to be present and watching.  This method has the added advantage of spending time with a spouse who isn’t into gaming.  If you choose the right game to play, they can be quite entertained! 

Gaming together is all fine and well, but sometimes you want to watch a movie or a TV show.  What do you do then?

Gaming and other entertainment

We go through a LOT of Netflix in our house.  We average between 20-30 hours worth of streaming each month, and we have three different queues (Brittnie’s queue gets three discs at a time, our anime queue gets two discs at a time, and my queue gets one disc at a time.)  Brittnie will occasionally choose to watch something I have no interest in, but generally I want to watch the same movie, tv show, anime, or documentary she does.  One way to do this is to pick appropriate games to play during our Netflix watching.  The Civilization series (especially Civilization Revolution on the DS) is exceptional for things like this: due to its turn-based nature, we can look away from the game whenever we want without having to worry about getting screwed over.  Japanese RPG-style games work well in this context too, as do puzzle games.

The above tips can help compartmentalize different games for specific times, but it’s rare that you only want to play through one game at a time.  What then?

Balancing what game to play and when

I find that with big games (such as Dragon Age, Fallout, etc) it’s important to have short games to help switch things up.  After an epic 8 hour run through Oblivion’s mountains and forests, I kinda want to walk away from it for a night and just play Mirror’s Edge.

Speaking of Mirror’s Edge, I have a relevant story for you.  In January of ’09, we had a particularly epic LAN: everyone had Friday off, and we decided to spend the entire three-day weekend playing Civ IV.  Well, instead of starting a new game, we decided to continue an older game.  By Friday afternoon, we had already reached the point where one of us could be stuck waiting for up to ten minutes for everyone else to finish, just because of how spread out on the map we were and how big everyone’s Civ had gotten.  So, instead of sitting around being bored, I started playing through Mirror’s Edge while I was waiting for the next turn to start.  By the end of the weekend, I had played through the entire game!  Obviously this kind of thing requires the right combination, but when you find that combination, it’s awesome.

That’s an essential factor: the combination.  In situations where you feel the pull from different games, it’s best to match up games that are different, yet still retain similar details.  For example, in the Civ IV/Mirror’s Edge combo mentioned above, both require thinking and strategy…just at different speeds.  Playing through Mirror’s Edge helped me FLY through my Civ IV turns, which would allow me to play more Mirror’s Edge :)

Currently, I’m playing Darksiders, Marvel vs Capcom 3, and a little bit of Civ V.  Darksiders for when I want to play by myself, MvC3 when I want to play with a group, and Civ V if I want to game while watching something.  A game for every time, and a time for every game!

Conclusion

Balancing what games to play and when can be tough, but hopefully these tips have helped you out a bit.  Remember: timing, proper combinations, and spousal integration (giggity) will improve your gaming life significantly.  What are some of the ways you balance your gaming time?