With long working weeks and plenty of life admin to take care of on those rare days off, I often feel like I just don’t have enough time to do everything I want to do. I’m sure most working folk feel exactly the same. How exactly do you make the most of your free time? Do you spend it all mulling over what you might do with it, or do you just take the bull by the horns and bust into whatever comes first?
I’m 32, work full time, and enjoy a number of time-consuming hobbies that really don’t leave much room for one another.
I want to carry on writing the novel I am working on (45 chapters in ~220000 words so far). There are literally hundreds of unplayed games from the NES to the PS4 on my shelves, gathering dust as they wait for the one I’m currently playing to be finished (some are still sealed). There is a whole Scotland out there that I want to chart on my terms. I like to read, and spend all of my train journeys with my head in a Kindle. I’ve recently discovered an interest in photography, even if I only have a phone and a basic digital camera to work with. I’m getting married next year and am very excited about planning everything with my wife-to-be. There is often something I’d like to write about on here, too.
Recently I played game on the PS Vita called Steins;Gate, a visual novel that tells the tale of Okabe Rintaro and his friends who manage to invent a time machine. For a man with little time on his hands, this game appealed. Okabe-kun did the kind of things that a wannabe time-traveller should really seek to avoid: he changed the past, frequently. The game sees you (as Okabe), change so much that he pushes himself further and further from his original world line, into a universe where the city he lives in is changed, where one of his friends is now a girl instead a guy, where his best friend’s fate is all but decided, and where he falls in love with a girl who by rights shouldn’t even be alive.
This game was incredible. So incredible that upon recollection the 25hrs I spent playing it seem to be both spread over weeks of play, and simultaneously compacted into mere minutes of joy. Some chapters felt like they took too long (because I wanted to see what happened next), but on the whole the game just didn’t last long enough. It is a rare thing to find a game that you wish would last forever, that you could inhabit forever. Almost as soon as the final credits began to roll I started to miss the characters. I wanted to time travel back myself and start over, meet everyone anew (or at least pretend that I didn’t know them). I wanted to experience Okabe’s change from irritating fool into stalwart hero just one more time, but feel that amazement without the knowledge it would come. That’s impossible now, I’ve played the game. I can never have that same feeling again.
I really can’t think of a time before that a game has had that affect on me. And this game is largely a series of still images that asks you to tap X to proceed through them, and occasionally answer your phone.
This was nearly two months ago. I haven’t played a game since. Poor Geralt of Rivia remains languishing in Skellige after 48hrs of wondrous gameplay, hoping against hope that I’ll take control of him once again and finally rescue Ciri. I thought that I loved The Witcher III, seriously thought that it was one of those games that I wouldn’t be able to put down until the credits rolled. It has been put down.
Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold turned up this week. The Etrian Odyssey series has been one where I’ve rabidly played through each release. All I’ve done is look at the box, then place it on the shelf.
I never thought that a game would have such an effect on me that it would kill gaming for an unknown period of time (I’m assuming it will all come back to me at some point in the near future, I still have preorders waiting!). But what Steins;Gate has done for me is free up a little bit of my time for exploration. Since seeing Okabe travel his last (as far as I know), and watching the platinum trophy chime in, I have contemplated playing a game many a time. However, almost as soon as that urge to play something begins to grow, I find myself putting on my walking boots and heading outside. It’s like I don’t even want to play a game again, even when some subconscious part of me tries to force it on me.
Instead, I’ve managed to explore a great deal of Scotland in the time I would normally have spent lounging about in front of a TV. Most of my travels have been local, but I have uncovered lots of places that had hitherto been hidden by woods or overgrown paths I had never previously thought to venture down.
I found a disused pier at a place called Braefoot after wandering through a wood nearby my house. I was almost trampled by two fleeing deer that saw fit to run in my direction, then sat down on the concrete jetty whilst the lazy River Forth lapped against my feet and sun slipped below the horizon. Then I walked back through the same woods in darkness, with no idea what was watching me that time. In the last few weeks I’ve also managed to make my way to Oban, climbed Schiehallion and Falkland Hill, and wandered around the distinctly creepy (in an 80’s fantasy film way) woods of Cullaloe.
All of this done in what can amount to no more than four days off, because I finished a game so brilliant that it has me purposefully avoiding games for fear that whatever I play next will be nothing more than a pale and shallow imitation of the fun I have come to expect from games. I sit down at my laptop and my untouched library of Steam games beckon. Instead I end up writing more than I had previously, or work on touching up some photographs I’ve taken.
So that is what Steins;Gate did. It may have killed gaming for me (even if only temporarily), but it seems to have unlocked an ability to take hold of every other hobby I enjoy, and get as much out of it as possible. Steins;Gate has released me from the Friday night troubles of deciding what to do with the next day off. It has made me ponder less and do more. I was going to write a proper review for the game but in the end I decided that the effect it has had on my spare time after finishing it was review enough.
I would certainly recommend to anyone that they should play Steins;Gate, but just be very aware of the profound effect that it may have on you. I’ve passed the game over to two other people since finishing it and can confirm that I am not alone in feeling that empty, hollow sensation that comes after it.
If you are the kind of person that always feels like they have far too much that they want to do, then Steins;Gate is the game for you. Ironic that a game about time travel has freed up so much time for me…