Unproductive: PC Gaming

by Kevin on June 19, 2009

This is the third post in a series of enjoying life to the fullest. This week’s posts are covering things that I love to do despite it not making much financial sense. I’ve already told you about my financially unsound purchase of a 1978 BMW 320 and my love of dessert.

Alright, here goes.

I’ll admit it.

I’m a PC gamer. I’ve been gaming since high school. Well, actually well before that, but it got kind of serious in high school and even worse during college (high speed internet!).

I’m not as introverted as I once was, but I’m not Mr. Outgoing either. The guy that goes out to the bars until the wee hours of the morning every weekend? Yea, that’s not me. I am completely content to hang out with my wife and dog, and after they’ve gone to sleep do something on the computer like blogging or PC gaming.

The Positive Side of Being a Gamer

Gaming is an extraordinarily inexpensive hobby for me.  For others it can be a sinkhole for money — constantly upgrading your PC hardware, buying tons of new games, etc.

I keep everything in moderation and try to keep upgrades to every two or three years. I’ve been using the same case for at least 5 years and many of the same basic components are items I originally purchased back in the day (keyboard, mouse, headset). This has helped me keep costs down.

Additionally I’m not the kind of guy to go out and buy three new games per week. That’s way too much money and way too much time required if I actually wanted to play them. Instead I’ll purchase one game every 6 or 12 months and play the heck out of it — the per hour cost of my entertainment is extraordinarily low.

The Negative Side of Being a Gamer

Of course it isn’t all good…

Myths Surround Gamers

For starters there are a lot of societal myths that surround gamers. That most gamers are 13-18 years old, have no life, have bad hygiene, and can’t talk to real human beings.

As with anything in life there’s a spectrum of people that play games and most do not fit this mold. But I’ll have to admit I’m not one to just jump up and tell everyone I know that I’m a PC gamer.

What is most interesting to me is that statistics show that a large chunk of gamers range from ages 20-35, and in some gaming communities are much older. We’re not all prepubescent boys that scream explicitives at you over the in-game microphone.

Not Productive Use of Time

This is the biggest problem for me. The time I spend gaming is not a productive or profitable just like any other relaxing hobby. Technically I should spend my gaming time working on this blog — writing better content, improving the layout, e-mailing with my readers, and generally increasing my revenue.

But I don’t do that. Why? Because I need to relax. Gaming keeps my mind engaged (more so than with a movie), and helps me relax.

Gaming Can Become a Major Problem Easily

Even though it is relaxing gaming can become a major timesink for me. Needing to relax is one thing. Looking at the clock and it’s 2am is a completely different thing.

I need to set up better limits for myself. Sure playing for an hour or two is fine. But taking breaks, forcing myself to write an article before I continue playing, things like that would be really helpful in preventing me from wasting every free moment of time I have.

What Does Gaming Have to Do With Money?

  • Gaming can cost you money. Hardware and new games are expensive. I keep them to a minimum and get maximum utilization of the stuff I have.
  • Gaming can cost you profitable time. Remember that relaxing is good, but needs to be kept in check if I ever plan to really make money blogging.

Nonetheless, I’m a gamer. I love it and I’m not planning on giving it up any time soon.

The purpose of this week is to remind you to remember to live life. Don’t put off everything because you never know when your last moment might be. If that means making some financial sacrifices in the meantime (purchasing a vintage BMW or new gaming hardware), then so be it. Just make sure you aren’t putting yourself in such a financial hole that you will never recover.

Moderation in everything. Enjoy life.

Any other closet gamers out there? Or do you hate gamers? Leave a comment.


Liz June 19, 2009 at 7:41 am

I’m a gamer. Not in the closet at all! I tend to play games that release with modding tools, which can extend the replayability basically forever! I’m still playing Neverwinter Nights and Thief, thanks to the awesome mods out there. I also got into doing voiceovers for mods, mostly for free, but I did get some income from one of themm, which I reinvested in my equipment.

Like you, I have a custom built PC. I lost my power supply last year, but it was only $80 to fix and my computer is still going strong – had it going on five years. As a gamer, I think purchasing anything other than a custom PC is a waste of money. You need to know you have a good quality motherboard, or your computer isn’t worth anything 2 years from now when you need to upgrade!

I must admit that I have the same issue you do where I’ll realize I’ve spent 4 hours gaming – 2 of which (at least) I could have been sleeping. It IS important to set limits. But hey – at least I’m not drinking or gambling, right? LOL. It has gotten better since I had kids because I simply can’t play the day away. The plus side is that I can wait for a game to drop in price from $65 to $25 before I buy it. I wouldn’t have played it more than a few hours in the months it takes for that to happen, anyway!

Glad to find out we finally have a guilty pleasure in common!

Jason June 19, 2009 at 10:13 am

My gaming habit took a serious hit when I got married, but my wife has been really good about letting me find time on a regular basis to relax and play for a bit. I enjoy gaming because it allows me to briefly escape from the current set of priorities and concerns I have in real life, and deal with solving a separate set of challenges for a bit. I also like that, while I find it relaxing, I’m still actively engaged with something, as opposed to passively watching the TV screen.

My 4 year old son has also taken to gaming (huge Mario Kart fan) – playing together with him also gives me the chance to have some nice father and son time.

Cost-wise, I’m lucky that I need a fast, solid machine for my consulting work (Macbook Pro), and I’m able to play my games on there without having to purchase additional hardware. I tend to wait to buy games till the prices have been cut after they have been out a while, or take advantage of Steam weekend specials, which often have popular games at 50% off.

The biggest kicker is the time committment – I have to be disciplined about what time I permit myself to play, otherwise it eats into time more appropriately set aside for family or business.

Gina June 19, 2009 at 11:05 am

My spouse is a gamer, and I admit I fought against it a bit until I realized how much joy it gives him. He plays online games and has built up quite a community of buddies- it is not a crazy solitary hobby. Good for you for keeping the balance in life.

dreamhunk June 19, 2009 at 11:09 am

If you want to save more on gaming. Go for games with mods with mod support or go fore free web base games, MMO`s will last you a real long time.

I recommend guildwars if you really want to be cheap.

Eric June 19, 2009 at 11:36 am

I’ve particularly been enjoying this “unfrugal” series of yours. I read a lot of personal finance blogs and lately have started to get annoyed at some of the content and many of the comments. So many are so critical of others’ purchases and habits, my guess is almost none of them would be willing to admit the things they do that aren’t necessarily recommended by every personal finance “expert” out there.

I am a gamer at heart. My first love is board games, but considering that it’s generally pretty hard for me to convince people to play them with me, PC games for me have been are a great way to enjoy myself and connect with friends/family. I generally only play PC games that allow me to connect with others online. Personally, I have maintained amazing contact with my brothers and best friends through gaming – more than most people I know. In fact, the relationship I have with my brothers (as we are several years apart) is stronger than it ever would otherwise have been.

There are a lot of potential downsides to gaming, and I see many people struggle in school because they are addicted to video games. Most people are rather surprised to learn that I play games (I don’t really go around talking about it and wearing World of Warcraft t-shirts), as I’m in a top MAcc (Master’s of Accountancy) program and will soon be receiving my CPA as I join a multi-national accounting firm.

I noticed that you didn’t mention the positives of online PC games that allow you to stay connected. Are you a fan of the MMORPG (World of Warcraft, etc) or do you find those to be the most “unproductive” type of video game? Do you mostly play single-player games that allow you to just have some fun with no commitment?

Kevin June 22, 2009 at 8:48 pm

@Liz: Glad I’m not alone! 🙂 The beautiful thing to me about PC gaming is yes I upgrade my hardware every 2-3 years, but it isn’t just a gaming PC. I do things like blogging, surfing the internet, listening to music, etc. from this machine as well.

@Jason: Sounds like we both have amazing wives. My wife consistently asks me “Do you need alone time?” aka going to blow people up on the PC time. I played Mario Kart back in the day… watch for those banana peels.

@Gina: Good for you for letting your husband be himself!

@dreamhunk: I stay away from MMOs due to their addictive nature — and for most of them, the cost. $15/month is a bit much when I can pay $40 once and play the game for as long as possible. (Like Team Fortress 2.)

@Eric: Great story about you and your brothers. To answer your question I do stay away from MMOs. As I wrote to dreamhunk I don’t find much joy in the addictive nature of the games, the additional monthly cost, or the grind. I prefer something where I can hop in, play an hour, and walk away. Building up a character’s attributes and looking for gear just isn’t my style — but to each his own.

I really enjoyed Half-Life 2’s single player, but multiplayer is where it is at for me.

Stephanie PTY June 29, 2009 at 11:12 pm

I’m more of a console gamer myself (my desktop background is Baby Peach from Mario Kart Wii!), but I do play more than my fair share of The Sims 2… (strangely, I’m only moderately interested in The Sims 3 – they changed some things that are integral to the way I play). I get it from my mother, who had an Atari and a Commodore 64 and, more recently, was a big Everquest/EQ2 player. She actually “games” very little these days, since I got her into the outdoor sport of geocaching, which is still highly technical and geeky. Me? I do my share of geocaching as well, but my gamer focus is on replaying Zelda: Ocarina of Time and jamming with my band in Rock Band 2. 😀

Kevin June 30, 2009 at 7:40 pm

@Stephanie: I used to jam out to Mario Kart 64. I’ve got a general interest in geocaching, but my laziness overtakes my wanting to get out and try it. 🙂

Sharz January 24, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Me and my hubby are gamers! We love it! We’re in our mid-20s, pre-children…

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