Modern-day Siren: Xbox 360

Working full-time while studying means sacrificing some of the other things I want to do with my time, and it turns out that delayed gratification doesn’t come easy to me. I can just about cope with only getting to read books I need to rather than want to, I don’t really mind missing tv or only listening to music while doing other things…but living without the Xbox? That’s hard.

In his 2010 ‘This is the Show’ tour the comedian Dara O Briain talked about the things that you don’t get to do once you have kids (stay with me here), and how you don’t miss most of them, but you keep the one that’s really important to you. For him, that’s videogames.  He followed this with a routine about how terrible he is at playing them, but I’d like to take a different tack. Yes, I know that studying for a Masters degree is not the same as having children, but the routine struck a chord with me – I have limited time for leisure pursuits, so I need to choose the one I care the most about. For me, as for Dara, that’s videogames.

So what do you do when your favourite game developer is bringing out the final part of a game trilogy, that you have been waiting months to play, in the middle of your busiest semester yet?

Well, firstly, you recognise your lack of willpower and you plan accordingly: I know that I am going to need to play this game as soon as it comes out and there are two ways that could go – I could play in my evenings and weekends, staying up til 3-4am most nights/mornings, and then go to work exhausted and useless, or I could book a few days off work. I think it’s an obvious choice.

Then there’s the studying – from past experience I’m not going to get anything else done in the 5 days I have off; remembering to eat and drink is about as much distraction as I can manage when I’m in “new game mode”. The game comes out about 2 months before the deadline for my 2 essays (1×6000 and 1×3000 words) and a 3000 word Research Proposal, so I need to get ahead of myself with seminar preparation, essay planning and research to create a buffer for that week off.

Finally, I need to develop my ability to delay gratification. I know that I’ll want to keep playing the game obsessively beyond the time I’ve set aside for it, but I also know that this will have a serious effect on my work. I just need to keep reminding myself that I can play the game as much as I want after I hit that deadline.

Pay now, play later, right?