XCOM: Enemy Unknown is about two weeks old as I write this. According to Steam, I have racked up 36 hours of XCOM time since launch. I work full time and I do need to set aside some time for non-gaming responsibilities (or life upkeep, as I like to call it) and reading, so I found it quite remarkable when I discovered this last night.
Back in the halcyon days of our youth, it seemed like we were made of nothing but free time. We played whenever we wanted, and did whatever we wanted, and even after school, the day seemed to stretch on to forever with the promise of delights yet to be experienced. There's a reason why we grumbled about being made to turn off the game to go to bed: we still had the time to play. We were just being told to stop.
As adults, that free time is now a thin sliver in the increasingly colorful and rainbow-like pie chart of Daily Life. We treasure it and measure it in figurative droplets, like water from the only canteen in the middle of the desert. At high noon. In the summer.
There is hope. There's a useful skill called time management. Utilizing it helps us maximize what little time we have for optimal results. The obvious outcome, of course, is that now, we want only the best of everything. We don't have time for the runner-up. We want to see the best movies. We want to buy the best clothes at the best stores. We want to watch only the best TV shows. We want to fiddle and swipe at only the best gadgets. And of course, we want to play the best games. God forbid our Google calendar alerts us that today's game time has expired and we've been spending all that time messing around in a game that only scored 79 on Metacritic.
Being an adult consumer is the most terrifying existence imaginable.
This brings us back to XCOM, which is most certainly Game of the Year material as far as I'm concerned. If it gets a 79 on Metacritic, I wouldn't care because it has already scored a 100. In my heart. It shows in those 36 hours I've been playing it these past two weeks.
The problem is that it's not alone. The latter half of 2012 has brought with it a smorgasborg of really, really good games, and even more great titles are not far behind. Guild Wars 2. Sleeping Dogs. FTL. Dishonored. Mark of the Ninja. Planetside 2. Hotline: Miami. Assassin's Creed III. Plus all those awesome-sounding indie horror games. I haven't played half of these titles yet, and I already feel terrible because I'm missing out on some of the best games of the year.
I can afford to play them, but I really can't. I have only so much time and so much energy to spare. The only solution is to build a time machine, and I didn't buckle down in high school to manage even that.
Being an adult consumer isn't the worst thing to be, after all. Being an adult consumer gamer, on the other hand, is as close to scraping the depths of hell with my toenails as I can get without flatlining. It's just maddening and I want to change.
Until I do, however, I can only continue this daily existence of looking at game reviews, and looking at games on the online stores, and making lists that will never be used, and wishing I had ten extra hours each day to have fun and live a little. I have reached critical mass: too much of a good thing and not enough precious resources to enjoy everything. Curse astrophysics and my frail human body!