218: Playing Like It's My Job

Playing Like It's My Job

Videogames can provide some comfort after you've lost your job. But at what point do they become a full-time occupation in themselves? Roger Taylor recounts his time spent with Baseball Mogul while unemployed.

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It never becomes a job, it just eats up the time. I've been unemployed since March (going to college starting next week) and it just fill the space when everyone else is in work and there's nothing to do except watch day-time tv. I've logged about 130 - 140 hours on GTA 4, a similar amount on Fallout 3. Played through Bioshock twice (once on normal once on hard)...lets see Prototype twice, Infamous one and a half, the entire of the Orange Box, Arkham Asylum, Ghostbusters...Wipeout HD and Fury...Mass Effect, Fable 2...and many others...but it never felt like full time job...because it was always fun...(with the possible exception of Fable 2)...and I've never had a job that was fun.

Might my earlier Lemmings infatuation signal a bright future in corporate management?

Funny. When I play that game I don't see myself as a corporate manager. I see myself as an unfeeling jackass who likes to make fuzzy little creatures go POP! en masse. Maybe we're playing different games.

EDIT: Great first article BTW. I can really relate to it as an unemployed dolt myself.

Hmmm, well I'm retired on social security for disabillity so I can empathize to an extent. Unlike the truely unemployed though I have a pathetic trickle of cash coming in, and honestly I'm likely to remain pathetic even if the economy fixes itself.

*THAT* said I think part of the whole phenomena is that despite the fact that various politicians scream and yell about how America fails in international academic competitions, we actually have one of the best informed and educated populations in the world. Things like college degrees and such have become meaningless, they don't guarantee a job but rather the oppertunity to run against all the other people with the same degree for a job. Heck, we have homeless people who graduated college.

I think there is a lot of truth to unemployed people turning to hard core gaming and such, simply because your typical American needs a level of intellectual stimulation and escapism that is beyond the rest of the world. Not to mention the fact that starting with like Seseme Street kids here are indoctinated to the whole idea that they are special and can do anything, and then reality hits and nobody is satisfied with being a cog in the machine. Video games present the illusion of getting what you were promised since the first time you were really able to understand what a character like Big Bird was telling you.

Not entirely relevent, but what I'm saying is that I agree. Though my comments are more along the lines of why this is, rather than simply re-stating the original point.

Unless something fundementally changes in America I suspect things will remain this way.

It's a good comparison; both working and gaming eat up your time in a very similar way, and some games require more dedication than others.

I'm currently unemployed myself though and my day is taken up a fair bit by gaming. I'd rather have a job to help finance the future of my gaming hobby, but gaming is definitely a good way to take you mind off work and the lack of it (better than shopping anyway).

Gaming is more rewarding than real life, but I like to think it can help real life as well. If you use gaming to take your mind off job searching, then the good feeling from the game can help cancel out the negative feelings you may have from fruitless job searching.
In effect the good feeling from the game has become the good feeling in real life.

Gaming is best at creating positive feelings because most other forms of entertainment, while they are still provide escapism, can never be as rewarding as gaming is.

I believe that there was one guy that got a job at Google based on his success as a guild leader in WoW. The amount of time that I put into my guild as an officer is pretty crazy, but I do feel that I have actually improved in terms of personnel micromanagement. I wish I could put that on a job application.

about a year ago when i got kicked out of college i spent 8 months playing wow, it filled the hole in my life quite nicely, now im back in the school system and i thank wow for filling that hole that would have let me to a home for the crazy, WoW dont ruin lives it saves them.

Good article. That actually sounds like a smart way for companies to recruit employees: Appeal to the players of a certain gaming genre! If it was the year 1900, FPS players might qualify as switchboard operators, ha!

That reminds me, I need to get a job...

If you have savings to rely on for a while, it's probably ok to obsess over gaming rather than looking seriously for work. While I was unemployed and limping along on unemployment benefits that scarcely pay for groceries (much less a mortgage), the anxiety of mounting debt was incentive enough to keep me off the XBOX and the computer during work hours. I hope never to be in that spot again.

Advice for any of you falling into the "gaming trap", make a regular schedule. You'll have plenty of time to game once those resumes are out the door (or inbox).

really great article - last time i was seriously unemployed, my poison was zelda on the gamecube.

now i try to fit my mass effect/monkey island around my job. the psp helps, though. with that i can gta any time i have a spare five minutes.

Very enjoyable article!! :) I work for Sports Mogul (the makers of Baseball Mogul). Would it help if Baseball Mogul had a feature that the user could select an interval for a reminder to go do their real work? The could enter the number of minutes/hours and then also a personalized message like: "NEWS FLASH: You're still unemployed! Go do something." We could even put in a shutdown where the game will shut off and not restart until the computer clock has passed a certain amount of time. (Of course, people would get around this by changing their computer's clock...but...) I don't know...I like that people are getting a good distraction from our product, but I'm wondering if we can make it a little more productive. :)

Excellent article to read. Some points I find similar with the habits I have formed myself, being unemployed as I am. Actually, it took me many months to finally realize that is became an debilitating addiction that required help for me to overcome.

Is it wrong that I wish I was unemployed so I could play games for more than an hour at a time?

I can totally relate to this, when i was unemployed I played LOTRO for about 8-9 hours a day,my wife would get home from work and tell me about her day and I would tell her how my dwarf guardian was now level 50. never quite impressed her though I dont know why???

That part about about going to pee and realizing it's been six hours was the best part in a brilliant article. It happened to me more times during the summer than I want to admit.

"Just gotta go kill this last guy...get promoted to Hero, get achievement, then I swear, I'll go to bed."
That's the same night I finished the Arena questline.

Ah, Sid Meier's Pirates!
During our month-long flu-powered winter holiday, I played that game like crazy. It's the kind of game where you're always 5 minutes away (or less) from accomplishing something (sinking a ship, getting married, finding treasure, getting promoted, etc), so you've got plenty of incentive to keep playing. Just last night, I had been playing for about 30 minutes when I went to the bathroom and realized I'd been actually playing for 4 hours.

Enjoyable article!

While reading the article I started to think about how much less games I've been playing since I started working, after college. Not just that I don't have time for it, but that I just don't feel the same urge or pleasure from playing hours upon hours. I've always been an avid gamer, and school was always a breeze so I had so much time to dedicate to gaming, and time/attention consuming games like RPG's (or other in-depth games) have always been my kind of games, and there was nothing I loved more than to just lock myself in a whole weekend to play Mass Effect, or the like.

But now I'm just like "meh" and get bored easily. Maybe it's just temporarily and because of the lack of awesome games the last 12 months (I guess we'll see when ME2, Dragon Age et al comes out later this fall). I just felt that maybe it was connected to how the author states that games rewards you when unemployment doesn't (and now it is the other way around as I love my job). Is this the reason I played so much games thoughout my high school/college years?

Just my random thoughts.

Original article:
It felt more like work than did the job search, because unlike a job search, videogames are actually rewarding.

This is actually the part we should all be scared of.

When playing any game, your objectives are clear. More than that, the reward for reaching that objective is already known before the grind or trip even starts.

WoW has been used for an example a few times already, so I'll just go with that;
When you start a quest the game tells you what the reward is. Even if you have to grind a million identical spiders, you'll do it, only because you KNOW that there will be a reward in the end, and it's a good one too.

At work, or any other real life situation, you're pretty much guessing what results action X will have for situation Y.
You can come in an hour early and work late every single day for half a year, never calling in sick, never complaining. But when your boss comes up to you for a chat, you're never sure whether you're going to receive praise for your effort, or getting scolded for your taxing routine resulting in you looking like a zombie.
You can obviously tell that your girlfriend/wife prefers a diamond ring over a slap in the face, but option A doesn't guarantee that she'll never dislike or leave you.

Games are comforting that way, guaranteed achievement lies ahead, however tedious or repetitive the road to your final goal might be. Real life doesn't show you an XP bar or achievement progress.

Often, I find myself asking myself "what's in it for me, what can I get out of this?" and making profitable deals out of things I do.
Of course this is a good deal for me, it means I secure rewards for effort put into things rather than going home empty-handed at the end of a hard day's work.
It also means that there might be a day when that security is what is needed before any action is even taken.

A job search can prove fruitless, making a pass at someone cute may leave you ashamed, applying for a promotion or a raise might turn your good reputation into "he wants something from us"

So why even bother?

My friends and I call this the "one more turn" phenomenon, precisely because of Civ3. Dedicating yourself to a game to the point of having everything else fall away is often seen as irresponsible, a waste of time, and many other negative sounding things. I, however, want to know why doing something that makes me happy and leaves me fulfilled is such a bad thing.

As long as I can tear myself away long enough to actually get done the essential things (like that blasted laundry), what does it matter to them if my minimal free time is spent blowing up aliens rather than going outside?

I was out of work for awhile about 2 years ago. Right out of college I got a job at a mortgage broker (I'm sure you can guess where this is going). Long story short housing market tanked and I didn't make any money. I think it took me about 6 months to find a job in what I went to school for. And another 5 months to find one that actually paid good.

I don't really remember what I played during that period though. I know I had finally managed to finish a game of Morrowind as well as the Tribunal expansion. I played Dynasty Warriors 3 a lot too.

Clemenstation:
Is it wrong that I wish I was unemployed so I could play games for more than an hour at a time?

No I feel the same way now that I have a 360 and a high end PC lol.

dNz:
Enjoyable article!

While reading the article I started to think about how much less games I've been playing since I started working, after college. Not just that I don't have time for it, but that I just don't feel the same urge or pleasure from playing hours upon hours. I've always been an avid gamer, and school was always a breeze so I had so much time to dedicate to gaming, and time/attention consuming games like RPG's (or other in-depth games) have always been my kind of games, and there was nothing I loved more than to just lock myself in a whole weekend to play Mass Effect, or the like.

But now I'm just like "meh" and get bored easily. Maybe it's just temporarily and because of the lack of awesome games the last 12 months (I guess we'll see when ME2, Dragon Age et al comes out later this fall). I just felt that maybe it was connected to how the author states that games rewards you when unemployment doesn't (and now it is the other way around as I love my job). Is this the reason I played so much games thoughout my high school/college years?

Just my random thoughts.

Actually same things happened to me. Every once in awhile I'll grind out a 6 hour gaming session and beat a game but I hardly ever do it as frequently these days.

Is it bad that whenever I don't have a girlfriend, I end up playing Starcraft competitively again?

It's like I have more time and ability to focus.

>.>;

Well seeing as construction is slow in these times, I've found myself on the shitty end of the employment scheme and nothing quite fills the day up like some good old fashioned gaming, the likes of which I used to engage in when I was in high school, sans responsibility. Then again, I wasn't married or had children in high school. Maybe it's not so similar. Either way, no matter how you squish it, unemployment is a great way to catch up on games that you havent played. Just make sure you apply for unemployment insurance so that you can afford them.

The sheer volume of management sims and city builders I've played during stretches of unemployment as I've tried to find my place in the finance industry speaks volumes about the brain's need for consistency and willingness to generate it artificially. With no real-world company spreadsheets to pore over and work with, I found myself poring over and working with artificial company spreadsheets. Too bad I can't put it on a resumé.

To me, this topic smacks of all too much personal truth.

When I was laid off from my detestable Technical Help job in February, a Job that was slowly driving me to madness and depression, I found myself with a great sense of relief. It was over, I didn't have to go back to that terrible place which had prompted the NHS to put me on Propanolol Hydrochloride, a beta-blocker, to reduce my heart rate.

Naturally, with the state I'd gotten myself into, it felt only right that I should have some relief. Relief that felt deserved, despite the fact that as time went on, I found myself in an increasingly parlous financial situation. Whilst I was falling behind on rent, failing to pay the bills and finding myself very short on food, it becomes far easier and tempting to throw on my favoured in-depth game of the day (ranging from Fragile Allegiance, to Eve Online, to Fallout 3,) than it was to search the pitifully useless job market.

Indeed, why spend more than twenty minutes a day on futility when you can feel like you're getting something done now? A battle won in Supreme Commander is a definite and doubtless - if ultimately rather meaningless - accomplishment. A lifetime aspiration met in The Sims 2 gives an almost perverse sense of having made good on a life, even when your own is descending into tatters.

Do I resent computer games for being such a time sink and providing such a false measure of accomplishment, despite the fact that I was not living my life very effectively at all? No. I can't say that I do. Those artificial positive feelings, that sense of engagement, of getting something done, gave me something to hang on to other than depression.

Ultimately I've been able to pull myself out of that quagmire and have managed to return to University - having decided that I will never work in a call-centre again. Without some relief, some focus in my life, there would have been nothing but doubt and upset. For that, I thank Gremlin and Gas Powered Games and all the makers indeed.

Funnily enough, the course I chose this time around is BSc (Hons) Computer Games Design and Production.

 

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