The Intentional Gamer

It seems to me that though I’ve been mentioned on the podcast and even in a video or two, I haven’t been properly introduced.  I’ll take this opportunity to do just that.  This post is going to be more of an introduction to my lifestyle, rather than about any one particular game.  I hope you enjoy it, even with the shoehorned bits intended to expose my interests.

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Me and my boy Justin (and my blurrier friend Kurt)

I’ve been playing video games ever since I can remember.  My older brother had a Nintendo 64, and I played it non-stop while he was at school.  My parents, wanting the best for me, only ever got me Nintendo consoles after my brother borrowed a friend’s PS2 and GTA3.  Nintendo didn’t carry such violent titles, so that’s what I got, and in retrospect, I’m happy with that.  I guess the worst part about that, and it really isn’t so bad, is that I’m pretty lousy at first-person shooters, or any shooters really.

High school wasn’t too difficult for me, so I still had plenty of time for games.  I’d only had one girlfriend by the time I graduated, so I was free to spend most of my time as I saw fit.  I spent lots of nights at Justin’s house playing games and watching him play games (after all, Twitch wasn’t a thing yet.)

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Photographic evidence

I met a girl named Emily during my first semester of college.  We started dating, but lived about an hour away from each other, so I still had plenty of time to myself for the Minecraft beta, Eve Online, and League of Legends.

Emily and I are married now, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that time is more precious than I had previously thought.  I still enjoy playing video games, but free time just isn’t as abundant anymore.  I’m pulled in several directions.  After work and sleep, I’ve only got about 8 hours left in the day.  Cut out one of those for daily hygiene and travel, another for food consumption, and you’ve got to start spending time more intentionally.

I like video games, but I also like spending time with my wife, reading books, going to parks, going out with friends, painting miniatures, yada yada yada.  The point is, the more interests you have, the sparser your free time will seem.  That’s when you have to start prioritizing not just time, but money.  That can lead to hard questions.  Do I buy game X for $60 or take my wife on 2 $30 dates?  I care about my wife more, but those dates will be 6 hours a piece maximum, and game X has 20+ hours of gameplay.  But I still haven’t beaten game Y, so do I really need game X right now?  I won’t assume everyone has these kinds of internal dialogues, but I do.  That’s why I advocate for actually taking the time to prioritize different aspects of your life.

I still get to enjoy my single player games like Fire Emblem, Star Fox, Windwaker HD, The Long Dark,  Transistor, and other games I won’t take the time to plug, but I’ve made it a focus of mine to introduce Emily to the gaming part of my life with multiplayer games.  At times it’s a balancing act.  If I let myself focus only on what makes me happy, I’m liable to push too hard and make her resent games.  I’ve done it before.  It needs to be something that we can just play every now and then, can both enjoy, are both interested in, and is easy enough to pick up.

We’ve got a D&D campaign that meets up every couple of weeks that Emily is already a part of, and she loves it.  She’s familiar with the setting, the general mechanics, and the general feel of the game.  Plus we both read about the Forgotten Realms, making it seem like a good place to start.  So I got us both copies of Sword Coast Legends and we’ve enjoyed playing it once or twice a week together.

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A picture of my cat named Drizzt, a Forgotten Realms reference.  Also, keeps you engaged.

It’s been interesting to guide her through things that I did so many years ago.  Making a username/game tag, teaching her how the number keys are mapped to her abilities, and the things along those lines that I take for granted.  It is now more apparent to me how entering the gaming community can be intimidating.  You can’t set the expectation that someone new to games can just pick everything up at once.

I’ve really enjoyed playing with her.  It gives us another thing to laugh and talk about.  We play games like Hammerwatch and Mario Party with our friends and have a good time.  I’ve always been a fan of couch multiplayer and co-op games anyway, so I’m happy as can be when I can get people to play with me.  In the future, there’s a potential for those sessions to end up on the internet.  No promises though.

I guess the net result and real take away here is that I enjoy and value my game time more than I ever have before.  Even with the lens of nostalgia, which allows me to look back on my youth when I was free of responsibility and life was simpler, I still enjoy the time I spend gaming with my wife and my friends more than I did then.  I don’t say that to cheapen those memories.  I’ll cherish the late night memories of Mario Kart and Melee all the way into senility.  I think I’ve just learned to savor the moment better, much like how I now savor the flavor of finely roasted coffee.  I love my wife and my friends, and am thankful I have someone to share my interests with.  It’s critical to have people that are willing to invest their time in something you care about.  So if you see one of those shirts with the bride and groom that says game over, just know that it doesn’t have to be that way.