How To Play Long Video Games When You Have No Time

How To Play Long Video Games When You Have No Time

For a lot of gamers with demanding jobs, marriages and/or families, the excitement of reading good reviews for games like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey is tempered by the sinking realisation that they’ll never have time to play them.

How do you make time for a 60+ hour game when you have a busy life?

This article has been updated since its original publication.

I’m lucky that sometimes I get to play games for work, which gifts me a few days to play games I’d never otherwise fit in. But my leisure time is very limited: when I’m not working or standing around in parks with my toddler, time must be split between friends, family, my partner, books, films, TV, games, the gym (lol, who am I kidding?) and anything else I might want to do.

You couldn’t pay me enough to go back to being a student, but one of the few saving graces of being a young adult is that you have a lot of time for your hobbies. Why did I spend so much time binge-watching middling Netflix series? Why!?

One solution is to prioritise games that only require five or ten hours of your time, and there are plenty of those around. But if you’re efficient, you don’t have to miss out entirely on the huge games that everyone else seems to be playing.

Like many working mothers, I have, by necessity, become frighteningly efficient. Here are some tips from the frontlines.

Pick one massive game

When I was a teenager, money was my limiting factor. I could afford one game every couple of months, so it had to be a good one. Now, my limiting factor is time, which I must budget just as carefully as I budgeted my money as a kid so that I could afford a Gamecube on the day it came out.

That means I can’t be getting on with games that don’t respect my time, such as unnecessarily bloaty open-worlds, excessively slow-paced JRPGs or online games that involve too much grinding. Also, bouncing between a giant Assassin’s Creed game and a live game like Destiny is just going to frustrate you because you feel like you are achieving nothing in either.

I recommend making a careful choice and sticking to it.

Take what you can get

One of the biggest mental hurdles for me is accepting that I am never going to have three uninterrupted hours to play a video game.

Those Sundays when I could just sit in my pajamas and play XCOM for the entire day are officially gone, if not forever then for the foreseeable future. Now I look at my PS4 controller and think, what’s the point? I’ll only have to turn it off again in an hour.

Take that hour. It’s what you’ve got now. You could finish a 60-hour game in a couple of months if you can find an hour a day, or spend two months hoping that your partner will go on a trip so you can play it for a whole weekend and get nowhere.

Get a Nintendo Switch

This isn’t just Nintendo fangirlism talking: the Switch lets you use time that would otherwise be dead for playing games, whether it’s 20 minutes on the train, a lunch break, an hour while the baby’s napping or half an hour in bed before going to sleep. I played 80 hours of Breath of the Wild on maternity leave, almost exclusively in 30-minute sessions. (It’s the reason I learned to breastfeed lying down.)

Even if you hate Nintendo, the Switch is now home to pretty much every significant indie of the past several years. I’ve caught up on so many excellent games in the past year and spent 40 hours playing Hollow Knight, and it hasn’t eaten significantly into time that I could have been spending with my family or at work.

If you have kids or live with a partner, play games with them

There is a golden period when kids are between about 3 and 10 when they may actually want to play games with you, or watch you play. (After that they’ll exclusively want to play with their friends, and any game you might take an interest in is automatically boring.) Keeping to kid-friendly games does rather limit your options, of course, but if you can get them into something you want to play anyway, like Ni no Kuni 2, you’re golden.

This can also be an opportunity to reconnect with series like Pokémon that you might have played as a kid but drifted away from as an adult. I know one family with teenagers who all play Destiny together.

If your partner is into games and you can afford it, consider”no matter how sad this might sound”setting up a spare TV and console so you can both play your individual massive games companionably. This is how my partner and I got through all the Dark Souls games.

Bargain with your partner

If there’s a big game that you really want to play coming up, why not valiantly volunteer to stay home once the kids are in bed for a couple of nights that week so your partner can go out with their friends? If you’re extremely organised, take the kids away for a day the month before, then you can reasonably bargain for a day to yourself to play.

What never works is rolling along as usual without making any special effort for your partner and then acting baffled when they object to you being essentially absent from their evenings because a new game has come out. If you make an effort in advance, they may be happy to give you some time to play in return.

Let go of guilt

One of the things I realised on maternity leave was that making time to play games was important self-care, not some guilty pleasure.

I’d had a baby, not a personality transplant.

It can sometimes feel like games aren’t important enough to make time for, like you should always be prioritising work or parenting or, I dunno, learning Italian. But you need time for yourself.

So go home at 5pm, or give yourself permission to spent 35 minutes with a game in the mornings rather than checking work email before you head out.

I encounter so many people who say they used to love video games but just don’t have space in their lives for them anymore, or who’ve given up on finding time to play something like Red Dead Redemption 2.

It’s fine if there are other things that give you pleasure that you’ve decided to do instead. But if games are something you really love, don’t feel guilty about making time for them.

This article was originally published on 1/11/18.


  • I used to struggle to find time for gaming (in my married life). As a kid, you get home, do your homework (or at least pretend for 30 minutes) then jump on the NES until dinner. As I grew up timing for games changed, you had to do 30 minutes of homework and pretend to do another 30 so the parents knew you were doing something valuable, then you could have a game here or there and there was never the guilt of playing on the weekends.

    Skip 20 odd years and now I have work commitments, partner commitments, house work commitments etc, so during the day is out (more to do with the guilt factor than anything else) Not only that, but games are now HUGE! 30 minutes of gameplay doesn’t get you far in a lot of games. Thankfully, my wife and I don’t watch a whole lot of TV, so on the nights where nothing is on, she’ll read and I’ll get a good 2 hours of game play.

    Sure those guilt free school and uni days where weekend long play sessions happened are long gone, but there’s always a little time somewhere.

  • This isn’t just Nintendo fangirlism talking: the Switch lets you use time that would otherwise be dead for playing games, whether it’s 20 minutes on the train

    That’s what I was thinking when I bought a Vita, but after trying a few times, I came to the conclusion that gaming on my commute sucks. The bus is always bouncing and jostling which was very frustrating when trying to play a shot in Everybody’s Golf, there was the distraction of having to make sure I don’t lose track of time and miss my stop, and the fact that, while it’s portable, it’s not small enough to just slip in my pocket like a phone.

    In the end, as much as I love it, I only got significant use out of it when travelling for work or holidays when I could sit around and play it in a hotel room. It took me 2 years to get through Persona 4!

    • I thought the same thing when I bought my 3DS, that it would a great device to have on the bus on my way to work.

      But as time went on, it was just easier to stick with the mobile phone and browse reddit or watch some Netflix than it was to pull out the 3DS.

    • I did the same with a Vita and 3ds.

      But I actually play the Switch all the time like I thought I would. It’s just a better device with better games.

      • Nothing wrong with the games on Vita. It’s the actual reality of portable gaming that sucks, whether it’s DS, Vita, phone, tablet, Switch, whatever. The issue isn’t the games or the device, it’s the environment it’s being used in.

  • If your partner is into games and you can afford it, consider—no matter how sad this might sound—setting up a spare TV and console so you can both play your individual massive games companionably.

    Doesn’t sound sad to me, this sounds like relationship perfection! We have 2 gaming rigs, 2 3DS’s, 2 Switches and 2 360s because its really fun to share experiences while playing through the same games rather than taking turns.

    • My girlfriend doesn’t play games but it still works for me. By doubling up on everything I can play on the left TV while she watches stuff on the right TV. It also means when she’s not around I can play games and watch whatever I want.

      • We are in the process of trying to do that. 2 40 inch tv’s side by side so she can watch what she wants and I can play games and we can be in the same room together.

  • My wife has an odd ability to detect when I was going to play a game. I could sit watching tv or my phone and wouldn’t hear from her while she was watching her own shows, but the second I started a game she’d appear.
    Having a Switch alleviates it as I can be by her side while she’s doing her stuff and be there if she wants to do something else, but there were still issues when I wanted to be focused on a game.

    What was important was to explain why I like to play games and what I get from it. It was important for me to also respect when she wants me to be available. And now I think we have a good balance and mutual understanding for me playing a video game. I make sure to let her know that I’m going to be focused on a game for x amount of time, or play something which requires less focus or do side quests. And if she needs me I make sure to just pause and give my time.

    • Lol I felt this. If I want to get attention from my wife I need only sit on the couch and turn the PS4 on. I swear she hears that beep like a dog does a dog whistle.

      That said, been married for ten years now. Had the ups and downs as any couple does. We are more respectful now of each other. She understands that gaming is who I am. So much so that I’ve been racing sim racing leagues now for two years without any family issue. And yep we have two kids under ten.

    • Newborns are great because they sleep a bunch. I got in a solid session each day on my two weeks of ‘Dad leave’ while mum had a sleep. It was usually a 3-4 hour sleep followed by 1 hour of being awake, half of that feeding.

      I’ve currently got a 1.2 year old and can’t really game too much when they are up so gaming is mostly an evening activity now, or weekends during nap time.

  • You just play when you have time, not worrying about when you’ll finish the games. Simple.
    I think there is a lot FOMO related anxiety with gamers feeling like they need to keep up with folks who sit around all day and do nothing but play games so they can have imaginary bragging rights about finishing every game they buy as quickly as possible.
    This is like treating gaming like a business transaction rather than getting lost in a world and savouring the enjoyment that comes from gaming.
    I feel sorry for those people.

    • For me it’s not about keeping up with other people as just wanting to try all the stuff that I want to try. I want to play RDR2, but I’m only halfway through Persona 5, have Yakuza Kiwami waiting, still haven’t got Spiderman or Divinity Original Sin 2 or Dragon Quest XI etc.

      The plus side is that it makes gaming a very cheap hobby because my backlog is so big that I don’t need to buy anything until it’s half price or less.

    • This is right on. If you stress about not having time to play, you won’t enjoy when you do have time to play (or at least, not as much). Relax. Enjoy life. Play when you can.

    • This is how I feel about games these days too. I just don’t have the time to play many games anymore. I just take my time with each game and I’m particularly picky about what I’ll play. I don’t play anywhere near as many games as I used to back when I was in high school or university, but I tend to enjoy what I play a lot more.

    • But, but my e-peen. How can I have any self worth if I’m unable to mock and belittle others for perceived shortcomings that, in the larger scheme of things, have no real bearing on anything at all?

  • Pick one and stick to it. I played (the admittedly not hugely long) Spider-Man an hour at a time over a few months, and have just started doing the same with RDR2. If I ever finish this, it’ll be on to AC:Odyssey.

    Have to say that the PS4’s suspend feature (whatever it’s called) is a godsend. Just being able to stop wherever I’m up to without worrying about finding a save point is fantastic.

    Having a wife that gives me a couple of minutes to finish the mission I’m on before we begin our nightly binge of whatever show we’re watching also helps…

  • The ‘Let go of guilt’ part is such a crucial comment. My partner and I negotiate time to allow me to play (I wish we could play together), I make sure she has time for her things and most importantly time for us together as well. This is all great advice – I also do the one massive game thing. I finished Spider-Man in time to get RDR2 which should see me into Jan/Feb easily (I’m travelling a lot till the end of the year).

    • Agree with the ‘Let go of the guilt’ but more it’s ‘let go of the caring’. I used to want to play EVERY big game, but with 3 kids, a wife and a 50-60 hour job, it’s just not possible and I came to be OK with not ever playing some franchises.. Sorry Witcher, but we can’t see each other.. Fortnite? We’ll have to be ‘just acquaintances’ cause I can’t commit..

      • Fortnite for me has been good as the games are short and sharp. I can smash a few games out in no time.

  • Agh yes, old father time, thy is one’s friend and foe.

    Gaming in busy adult life for me is ;

    1.Negotiating with my wife a time to game & with kid in bed asleep.
    2. Choosing and mixing up game types like only having one Open world game on the go at once and mixing in shorter experiences (VR works well here).
    3. Letting go of FOMO. RDR2 you have to wain until early 2019!
    4. Max of 2 games in my pile of shame. Play, enjoy them, finish them (or not) and go buy your next experience, most likely at discounted price.

  • Unfortunately, gaming when you have a family means less sleep. But let’s be honest, gaming has always taken away from your sleep patterns.

  • the Switch lets you use time that would otherwise be dead for playing games, whether it’s 20 minutes on the train, a lunch break, an hour while the baby’s napping or half an hour in bed before going to sleepOtherwise be dead? Time not spent looking at a screen of some kind is now time wasted?

    • Obviously. Otherwise why do people walk around staring at their phones constantly?

      It’d be like using a mobile phone like an actual phone instead of using it on speaker like an idiot.

  • From my Playstation stats Destiny and Destiny 2 are my longest played games. Would I recommend them to friends? Probably not for those with young families or short attention spans. Probably not even for myself!

    I thought I would play more with my 13 year old son but apart from some brilliant Rainbow Six Siege sessions with him, his tastes are certainly different than mine. He is more into Overwatch, Fortnight and Minecraft and they don’t do anything for me. He is happier playing those games with his school friends.

    Over the years having less time but more money, I have become more of a casual. I look at the latest Assassins Creed games and think it looks like 100 hours of work. I drop in and out of games now. “Games as a Service” don’t keep me hooked like they used to. I am more likely to play some rounds of Rainbow, Battlefield or COD than delve deeply into the likes of Destiny or RDR2 now.

  • The Switch is a godsend. Complaints of not coming to bed are gone now that I can pop my headphones on and play Astral Chain or Fire Emblem while my wife sleeps. The last big game I finished was Sekiro but that required strict time budgeting for all other areas of life (work/gym/family/writing) and I lost A LOT of sleep. I might even have to start DQ11 again on the switch just thanks to the freedom of it.

  • I’m 37 yr old man with wife and 2 kids. I can only play console during weekends. I was able to play and finish RDR2 by wakingup 4:00am in the morning and playing until the time they wakeup. Usually weekends they wakeup around 6 or 7am. I got to play around 4hrs each weekend. It took me 6months to finish the game. I was able to do it without compromising time with family. You just have to sacrifice your sleeping time during weekends.

  • Have a wife and 21 month old son. Don’t get as much time to game nowadays, especially if there are shows I want to watch. One game I’ve been enjoying lately is Clone Hero. Even playing 30 mins or an hour of that allows me to get through a few songs and I’ve felt like I’ve accomplished something at the end of it. I just hope my son turns out to enjoy gaming as much as his old man 🙂

  • i agree 100% on the switch thing. so much easier to do when its handheld! i have a newborn and nighttime we turn the tv off so no bright lights to distract him while we try to settle him.
    i can fire up the switch when my wife is doing a night feed in the living room.
    also i bought a second hand Wii U (gumtree) which is basically a switch prototype.. i bought wind waker and playing that now exclusively in handheld mode. next up is twilight princess.. maybe a break from zelda and play animal crossing.. who knows!
    i’m planning on avoiding all the big ps4 titles and wait for ps5 when i might get my evenings back and play them next year.

  • There is a flip side of the same coin, having so much spare time for games you don’t end up playing because you don’t know what to play.

    You’ve played everything you want to death.

  • the one good thing about being a lazy fat sack of shit… i can game any time i want and the only price i have to pay for it is being forever alone

  • This is probably why Ive gravitated towards sim racing titles over the last couple years.

    I just don’t have the motivation to finish big story games anymore. It needs to be exceptional for me to even want to try.

    God of War? Yep
    Spider-Man? Yep
    RDR2? Finished maybe 90% of the story
    Death Stranding? Hell no. That shit felt like it was purely designed to waste my life. Trade in.

  • I have a answer for this. Zero hours. You play nothing. You get nothing. Back to work slave!

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