Free for All: A week of scheduled playtimes

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Free for All: A week of scheduled playtimes
After a loose week of playing scheduled games, I can say that I have a lot of work to do to perfect my system. Once again, Tim and Jon from the Van Hemlock podcast are my inspiration. They are both dedicated to the art of playing games, to "finishing" games, almost to the point of obsession. It's certainly not for everyone, but they seem to maintain a real balance while skipping around. Perhaps the podcast they host helps them with this balance? I've hosted several podcasts over the years, so maybe putting my weekly gaming thoughts into audio form is necessary to keeping my sanity?

In reality, what I need to do is just stick it out and stay the course. I am not sure of many things in this world, but I am positive that repetition and scheduling are more powerful than almost any plan. Humans are habitual creatures, even with their gaming. Especially with their gaming. Over this last week, I started to settle into the role of a scheduled player and even looked forward to it each night.

Click past the cut and I'll let you know how it went.

Below is the schedule I finally settled on. At first I added in one or two subscription games that I have free accounts for, but I decided to leave them off just in case anyone would like to jump in and join me. Also, I tried to include games that offered some flexibility with grouping. I don't want to ask someone to join me only to shrug and say, "Level up some first."
  • Mondays: Wurm Online, character name Beauturkey
  • Tuesdays: Ryzom, character name Beauhind on the Arispotle server
  • Wednesdays: Alganon, character name Beaugh on the Adrios server
  • Thursdays: Mabinogi, character name Beau on the Mari server
  • Fridays: EverQuest II, character name Beau on the free-to-play server
I'm pretty satisfied with the list. As proof of my mania, even now I am thinking about the games I left off. At some point I had to tell myself to just finalize and get to it. Also, I will leave the weekends for "off time" and will play whatever I want then. The weekends are for checking out all of the other odd games I didn't get to. Of course, I have to make time for the games I have to play for work. I have columns to write and opinions to form, and that takes time, so I only play the games on the list after I am done with work.

The strangest thing is to know ahead of time exactly what I am due to play. Granted, I am used to this assigned time for a certain game thanks to things like press tours and other work-related activities, but this is my "fun" time we are talking about. I haven't really made myself plan out anything "fun" in a long time. I simply open my games folder or look around online and just play whatever comes to mind. This means that over the last year or so I have rarely gotten very far in many games. Sure, I have had tons of fun and have accomplished a lot with communities, but I do miss that sense of truly building a character. The only way to do this is to spend time with the character.

So far it has been a bit rough playing this way, not because of the games or the schedule, but because of a series of tiny events that derailed some of the game time. Over this last weekend, I have had connection slowdowns, thanks in large part to my awful cable company. Luckily, a few calls led me to arrange not only a better connection but a larger bill and more premium channels. (Bonus: The package allows me access to HBO and The Game of Thrones.) The only reliable gaming I could participate in was browser-based gaming, mainly because I am not reliant on precision timing while playing with many of them. Also, I promised to ignore my scheduled games if work games were needing to be looked at, and I hold to that. If it's near bedtime and the listed games went unplayed, so be it.

"I didn't realize how much I had missed those old days of dedicated gaming until I started to participate in them again -- even in this mild form."

I think the plan is working, though. Not only do I look forward to the particular game I am playing that afternoon or evening, but I feel as though I am getting something done. I didn't realize how much I had missed those old days of dedicated gaming until I started to participate in them again -- even in this mild form. I am slowly moving my character forward and hanging out with people I have missed for a while. The Massively Wurm village is growing like crazy, and it's fun to log in to help organize things.

Why is this important? Why is it an accomplishment for me to play like most "normal" players do, even if it is in a limited fashion?

Well, for all of my talk about choices and how important it is for a game to provide as many choices as possible, it is an unspoken truth that the wonderful games we love provide a sense of stability and escape for many of us. It doesn't always have to be a case of escaping from a horrible life or miserable job; sometimes we just like to run around in someone else's world for a while. I have found that over this last year of trying literally scores of games -- mostly at a first-impressions level -- I could use the predictable escape that a favorite character provides. Yes, blogging my way through so many great games is a lot of fun, but I also love to craft a personality in my games, a personality that builds up its own story over time.

Think about the games you play. How many of them would be enjoyable on just one night a week? All of the games I have picked have different activities to participate in that allow for a week-long pause in the action. My time in Wurm Online can be spent organizing plans and laying out buildings. Mabinogi is great for featuring quests that come in steps such that I can log in and finish one at a time. I have yet to graduate my new free-to-play alt from the newbie island in Ryzom, so he still has plenty to do before moving on. EverQuest II is simply chock-full of hobbies and adventure, but my new character is spending his time decorating his new Halas house. While Alganon is the most linear game on the list and probably offers the least of the optional leveling activities, it's a great game for doing a few quests in an area and moving on.

Is this a permanent addition to my gaming life? I think so. I think all of us can agree that having a favorite game or character is inevitable, but having several is downright hard to maintain. I'm happy to report that with a little organizing and the wonderful world of free-to-play games and access, anyone could do what I am doing and have a great time.

Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to!
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