I’m fifteen. I spend an entire Christmas break off school playing Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. Two glorious weeks of murder, carjacking and ramping dirt bikes into the back of a cargo plane mid-take off, killing everyone aboard with a samurai sword and then parachuting to safety from the plane as it explodes above me.
Those were the days. As a snotty-nosed teenager with time on my hands, I really had nothing better to do. And tell you what, I played the shit out of that game. There wasn’t a corner of Los Santos, San Fierro or Las Venturas I hadn’t left a mountain of corpses in.
Fast forward to last September. I’m ten years older. Grand Theft Auto V arrives in the post.
What no one ever tells you is that time is the first casualty of adulthood. I’m twenty five. I have a job now. I have a holiday allowance.
I have to make time for games now. After I’ve gotten home from work, had dinner and done any other bits and pieces of life admin (no one ever tells you about that, either), I can maybe squeeze in a couple of hours of GTAV before bed.
GTAV’s game world is enormous, a limitless playground filled with a pantheon of wonders to discover. It’s wasted on me. I can’t dedicate the fifty or so hours it would take to satisfactorily explore it.
I have, as the kids say nowadays, shit to do.
Fast forward to March this year. Dark Souls 2 comes out. I don’t normally go for that kind of high-fantasy RPG, but people raved about the first one, so I want to give the sequel a try. I read somewhere that a playthrough of Dark Souls 2 can take anywhere between sixty to eighty hours.
Rewind to a few years ago. I start playing Just Cause 2 and the size of the game world makes me anxious. It takes thirty real world minutes to get across the map in a super-powered rocket plane. There’s no way I’m going to see even half of what this game had to offer.
Fast forward to last Christmas. The Steam Sale is on. I pick up a bunch of games I know I’m not going to have time to play. I justify this to myself by saying I’m supporting the indie gaming scene, even if I’m not actually playing their games.
Rewind to October 2012. Borderlands 2 has its hooks into me. I leave work at 5.30pm on the dot to maximize time spent playing the game. I’ve been doing this pretty much all week, bending the routine of my life to support my constant need to play Borderlands 2.
Fast forward to the other day. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel is announced. I already know I’m going to need to clear the three weeks after the release date of social engagements. I love the Borderlands series, but playing it is like being addicted to crystal meth.
Rewind to four years ago. I’m twenty-one. I use a week-long gap in lectures to get stuck into Mass Effect 2. I don’t think I’ve loved a game so much the whole gaming generation.
For an essay at university I read about the Ouroboros, the serpent depicted eating its own tail, disappearing inside itself.
Fast forward two years. Mass Effect 3 comes out. I come home from work on a Friday night and lock myself in my room to play it. On Monday when my workmates ask me what I got up to over the weekend, I say, “not much.”
Fast forward to now. I’m thinking about playing Mass Effect 2 and 3 again, but I don’t really have the time. There are too many other games I’ve got to clear off my backlog, too few hours to dedicate to playing games.
I need to finish this so I can go and play more XCOM.