Where Have All the Hours Gone?

hoursgone1I tend, in many ways, to veer very much towards nostalgia and frequently take refuge in the past, stealing crumbs of happiness to sustain my existence in the now. It’s a habit that often comes with a sadness sugar-crash, however. Especially when I consider time – something I used to have so much of. Games, books, TV. Whatever, whenever. Now I have so little time that when I look back and see what I squandered I could scream. I could have packed in more games, more books, more films, but I didn’t. I also could have got off my arse and gone places, actually socialised, travelled and absorbed more of the world. I didn’t do that either but those are regrets for another time and place – they eat a different hole through me.

When I did use my time to game I played extensively, just not very diversely. I threw my energies into certain games and spent hours, days, weeks, months on them. From the days of the Spectrum, where my energies were spent perfecting Chuckie Egg, battling through Skool Daze, Back 2 Skool, and Jack the Nipper, among many others, I moved upwards through consoles and computers. California Games, Bart Simpson vs. the Space Mutants, Alex Kidd in Miracle World, and more… and then Colonization, The Settlers, Worms, Alien Breed. They chewed through my time like a possessed combine harvester. I adored my Amiga A600 like nothing else, and then my A1200. Most of the same games came with me when I eventually turned traitor and said goodbye to the Amiga to usher in a PC age. And then the shadow of Dungeon Keeper fell over my life and it was never the same. It’s been installed on nearly every system I have ever owned from the day I bought it to the present. And it has probably devoured as much of my time as Colonization and Rollercoaster Tycoon.


I remember the hours ticking by as I would game late into the night – two, three, even four am, until my fingers were frozen and I couldn’t feel my mouse hand anymore because our Dad hated spending money on the heating. I’d game under a blanket on a tiny chair at a tiny desk beneath a tiny cabin-bed in a tiny room, clicking away my life.

Fast forward to now and I have the stress of an adult life. Family, finances, trying to bring in a few quid while juggling everything else, including other writing projects. And suddenly I have a miniscule handful of hours in which to game. Bugger. The day is pretty much written off unless I want a toddler hanging off the controller, so my gaming time is compressed into the evening hours, when I have the least amount of energy because I’m drained by the end of the day. So, maybe I can manage a few hours of gaming before my eyes give up the ghost and shut for the night. Maybe I can’t or don’t want to, or have work to do (or the crippling guilt associated with not doing something that is work related). Maybe I will game but will get interrupted anyway.

hoursgone3Perhaps one of the most frustrating things has become the obstacles to actually gaming. When the stars align and I am alert, interested, and able to game, the last thing I want is any delay or distraction. Screaming kids, phone calls from relatives or bogus shares/IT companies, and updates. Fucking updates. I loathe them. Whenever I most want to watch something or am in a hurry, the Smart Hub on our fucking TV decides to take the next part of the decade to update, and PCs and consoles aren’t much better. I hate to be the Meldrew to say it but it fucking well wasn’t like that in the old days. In the OLD days, we would shove a plastic brick of a game cart into a hardy plastic console (after blowing on the pins, in spite of the wailing advice to the contrary), and wow, actually play a game. Right away! I know, weird. No waiting, no booting up or rebuilding databases, remembering logins, passing security, connecting your account, and other wankery. No endless, terminally frustrating Steam updates.

Now, when I think ‘oh, I actually fancy playing something tonight’, what do I get? Steam updating, followed by approximately 2.5 minutes of game time before the fucking thing crashes. Or I faff about on the PlayStation. Once it’s updated and rebuilt some database that is. If I’m honest though, it isn’t just the crashy, fuck you-ish tech that steals my time, it’s me, too. Or rather, my indecision.

Back in the old days (again, get used to it), there were fewer games and no one could actually afford them anyway unless your mum had a catalogue and fancied paying about a thousand quid for the latest release spread over 56 weeks. So we had far less choice. Now, everyone who is everyone has a TBP pile the size of Europe. Steam libraries chock full of games, GOG accounts, clouds, PSN, MS, and if you still love real-life things (like me), bookcases laden with stuff. New games, old games, and then, in the dark recesses of cupboards, fucking ancient games dating back to the days of the Speccy.


Suddenly my time is killed by choice. Which system? Retro or new? Handheld or normal? PC or console? If the answer is retro or similar, then suddenly time will be snatched by misbehaving tech, missing cables, display and resolution issues, fumbling around the backs of TV sets, and generally having a major-league tantrum as the clash of old and new and the passing of time conspire against you. Then you have time for maybe three minutes of gaming time before you realise that the game is either A – shite, B – unplayable, or C – harder than a diamond-encrusted Chuck Norris. Or all three. So you move on (more choice) or you give up (tears), or you soldier on (crash, fail, or fall asleep).

hoursgone5With newer games you may have OS clashes, mysterious crashes, or even the classic (for me) opening up the case of the game it took you the best part of an hour to pick, only to discover that the disc is missing. Are you fucking kidding me?! If you can wade through all of that, and retain your sanity though updates, downloads, patches and more and actually play a game it’s a miracle. And pray it’s a good one, or you’ll be back to square one. Choosing. Unless you’re too tired and your time has run out. Wakeful babies/toddlers, urgent work, guilt, or just fatigue will pull you away too soon. So will apathy… that wretched demon of dashboard surfing, Steam browsing, or disc hopping as you try and ignite a spark of interest in anything.

I had considered putting a couple of game titles in a hat and then picking one at random. That would be the game I would play that week, come hell or high water. It would cut out the wasted time. Any retro things would be set up or sorted ahead of time, so that it wouldn’t be when I finally park my arse in a chair with a cup of tea and stack of choccy digestives that I discover my Mega Drive is dead and that I can’t play Jungle Strike. Planning. Preparation. Things I hate… order to the natural chaos of mind and life. But, if I’m to weave some sort of net with which to catch some of the slipping fragments of what time I have, then perhaps planning and prep would help shrink some of those gaps.

Giant, time-hogging patches can still suck a dick though.

Last five articles by Lorna



  1. Rook says:

    I tend to waste time trying to decide the next game to play. I’ll spend whatever time playing a game, trying to get the completion and be absorbed in that world. Then when it’s all over I was so comfortable in that game world that I can’t decide what to do or where to explore next. Sometimes I think about it too much and then it’s “screw it” and just go back to GTA to race online – a little over 5500 races done so far on a game I gave maxed on two consoles. How many other games could I have played instead.

  2. Ste Ste says:

    I can relate to this so much. When I do find time to play something and I get everything up and running it’s great but I often find myself in the situation where it’s a while again before I can go back to something. When I do finally get around to playing the same game again I either can’t remember what I was doing or just can’t be arsed anymore.

    When I think about it, this explains a lot why I’m enjoying board games so much more these days. Firstly, there’s less choice, my board game collection is an order of magnitude smaller than my video game collection and physical space will keep this in check, so there’s less time wasted deciding what to play. Secondly a game tends to only take an hour or so to play to a conclusion so I don’t have to worry too much about what time I have. And finally, once you’ve learned the rules of a game that’s pretty much it, there’s nothing else to bother with. There are a couple of games that I own which update the rules periodically but they are exceptions.

    It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though, board gaming presents it’s own challenges too. The main one is finding someone to play with you…

Leave a Comment