I love to play games, but being married now and going to school I find myself falling into the pit of spending too much time gaming. What are some good techniques to limiting my game-play so that I don't have an angry misses and actually get some things done around the house while still enjoying my games? Or are there any software solutions that can limit somehow my game-play?
Be picky about which games you play, when you play, how long you'll play, and what you'll put up with.
When you're limiting the number of hours you play, you want to make those hours the best possible experience.
Don't play a game that is dumb or doesn't make you feel awesome.
Don't play when someone else needs your attention. They won't like it, you won't like it, and you won't enjoy the game as much.
If you're playing a multi-player game and can't find the right folks to play with, quit. If your friends aren't online, or you the people you want to play with are already engaged, or the people you find yourself playing with are assholes, quit.
Don't play instead of sleeping. Being well-rested has a big affect on patience, ability to learn, and motivation. Those will, in turn, affect your relationships, school work, quality of parenting, exercise, food choices, etc.
When my second & third kids were born (twins!) I was so very exhausted I couldn't cope. If I got a chance to sleep, I would get woken up 30 minutes later, which sucked. I played games instead, because being engaged in them made me not notice how tired I felt. But of course, this just made the problem worse. Watch out for that.
Given that I am married and have 2 children with a 3rd on the way, I have found I have limited time to play games as well. Here's what I do to try to balance things:
So my strategy basically consists of playing games while everyone else is asleep. Short of that, you are always choosing to spend time playing games instead of spending time with your spouse. And the key to making this work is to not make up the hours of sleep. If you have to sleep while everyone is awake, then you are still choosing to play a game instead of spend time with your family. As you can imagine, I can only do this infrequently at best.
One strategy I used about 7 years ago before my first child was born was to sit next to my wife while she watched tv and I played on a laptop. It work well enough for games that I could pause, but it wouldn't work for games where you play someone else.
An unplanned approach that worked was for me to setup my gaming computer next to my wife's computer. She was able to play the Sims (this was 9 years ago) while I played Diablo 2. I was able to play quite a bit because she was playing just as much as me at that point and I was able to celebrate some of her Sims' greatest moments like when Drew Carey visited her party or when she became a super villain. And mostly I could just be there to talk to her since that's what she seems to crave most when it all comes down to it.
On some occassions I have expressed a desire to play video games to my wife and she has cut some deals with me where if I do chore or task A then I can play video game B. That doesn't work well in practice.
Another method that works is to get my kids hooked on my games. So my two sons really like editing Starcraft 2 maps right now, so I get to adjust their levels (mostly the conditional rules) and test them. I also scratch my gaming itch by playing games with my kids on the Wii like Lego Batman or Super Smash Bros. These aren't really my kind of game, but it helps curb my desire to play something super violent and completely inappropriate for my kids. It isn't the same as playing what you really, really, really, really want to play, but it helps. We also replay a lot of games from my childhood, and those are surprisingly fun to play with the kids since they are age appropriate and the nostalgia helps increase the enjoyment of the game. And it is really cool to be able to talk to your kids about video games that meant a lot to you when you grew up.
One strategy I do not recommend following is just getting rid of games altogether. I tried that when I was dating my spouse, going to school, and working full time. I took my Starcraft disc and broke it into tiny pieces. I realized pretty quickly that I just shifted my attention to other games that I didn't enjoy very much and that breaking the disc only cost me money and pleasure in the end. I found a better way to balance things was to only play once I had completed my homework, my studying, and spent time with my love.
Good luck. It can be hard balancing things. Just set realistic goals about what you want to achieve and make certain playing games doesn't interfere with achieving your goals. Easier said than done, but what else can you do?
Self control is often a battle for die-hard gamers. If you contain self control, put your controller (or keyboard) somewhere that isn't convenient to get (like the cupboards above the fridge). This way every time you go for it you remember why you put it up there and why its important to you to keep it up there.
If you are disciplined enough to make this work for you go for it. If your not, recruit help. Your lady will probably be happy to help you quit, but make sure it doesn't lead to contention between you two. Have her change your passwords or set parental controls to help you limit your playing time.
Finally, find a substitute. Like all addictions, its easier to give up when you have something to use as a crutch. Try something new, listen to music and try cooking a meal (out of a cookbook), lift weights/exercise (it's like leveling up only more awesome), pick up a good book to satisfy your lust for storyline, or start a new TV series with the lady!
You could create rules together with your wive. That way youre both involved in the Process. Think of rewards like doing something cool together, if you keep obaing to the rules for a while. And have a little off-time, like a day per Week to spend several hours just gaming, because giving it up completely would just make it worse. ;)
I feel your pain, literally. What I did was get my wife and daughter into some games so we can play together. Thus far, this is a somewhat acceptable solution. My wife loves to play Goldeneye and any Mario game. My wife and daughter love to play Little Big Planet, Fat Princess, and almost any Nintendo exclusive.
Where it fails is that it is hard to get them into RPGs like The Witcher and FPS games like Bad Company 2. So I have to watch myself because I still want to come home and run straight to the PC for some gaming.
In the end we kind of have a compromise. They know I love games so once in a while if I run off all night and play it's alright. The other times I'll hang with them, doing whatever and sometimes this includes playing the games that I mentioned above...which is a good thing - better than watching Nickelodeon by 100 fold.
Being a die-hard gamer I can't peel myself from the screen once I get into a game, especially rpgs for that 'just one more level' nagging I get while playing it.
My advice is to play games that can easily be picked up and put down, without ever making you feel like you need just a little more. One way to ensure that you never want more is to play a game that is fun but not until you go through a little bit of frustration.
The kind of game I'm talking about is one like Super Meat Boy. First, it has the advantage that there is no continuity from level to level. Each level is also short, with even 100 attempts amounting to only 10 minutes of gameplay. This means you can put it down and pick it back up with no major time loss or need to get back into the swing of things.
But what's most important to it not being a time sink is how incredibly frustrating and difficult it can be. This sounds like a turn off, but once you beat that level you have died over 100 times you can't keep yourself from standing up and cheering. And after that the memory of how difficult it was convinces you to savor the moment and leave the next level for another time.
I haven't played Super Meat Boy for more than 30 minutes at a time, but other games I have I still sink well over 2 hours into (for God's sake don't try Minecraft). If you can find a game like Super Meat Boy and convince yourself to only play that, hopefully you can satisfy your gaming side in a short period each day.
Use game mods or third party-software to alert you of how much time you've been playing, or will tell you the actual time in-game.
For example, in Skyrim, I use Auto-save and time. It alerts me if I've been playing every set amount of real-world time (10 minutes, by default). This makes it much easier, for example, if you want to play for 30 minutes only. Once you get the alert three times, it's time to save and exit the game.
Another mod I use is Time on loading screen, it tells me what the real-world time is on loading screens so I can notice it and stop the game (when I have work to do, or if it's getting late, for example).
You can also use software like Workrave:
Monitor color temperature-changing software like F.lux is also good in helping you realize what the real-world time is:
A non-software solution I do is to do other things, if I get the urge to play a game. Working out or exercising is a good and healthy alternative if you get the urge to play a game. You can also imagine yourself leveling up, RPG-style every time you work out, so it's just like you're playing a game. =)
Play with friends (that have lives)
I regularly play with a group of several real life friends who have kids, and regular jobs. Most nights the group breaks up at around the same, reasonable hour. In this way I make the most of the time I have, and a there is a natural reminder of when it is time to be done.
Game on a console instead of a PC
This may just be my personal bias, but I find more "bite size" games for consoles, especially XBox 360 arcade. I also find it easier to walk away once the console is off, whereas when I finish a PC game I often move on to internet surfing, checking email, etc.
Also, if you've got serious self control problems you can use console "family timer" type features like this one for XBox 360.
Get a motion controller/gadget
There is a growing list, but this would include the PlayStation Move, XBox 360 Kinect, and the Wii (especially with Wii Motion Plus or Wii Fit). I would pair this recommendation with getting games that are specifically geared towards motion (dance, fitness, sports), versus "motion enabled" games (Mass Effect 3 for example). Several main benefits I see to this approach:
Just learn to program with C/C++/Python and do make some games: you'll play less.