Five Full Days & Nights of My Life, Gone

I remember a few years ago seeing in a Best Buy circular, an ad for five robust DVD box sets, each with a full season of Fox’s “24”, starring Keifer Sutherland. That was a show my wife and I watched weekly at that point.

There all five seasons were, in product “hero shots,” lined up across the page. It immediately occured to me that five seasons of 24, one-hour episodes meant that I had spent five full days of my life watching this show–days AND nights actually. I immediately promised myself I wouldn’t watch that show any longer, and since it was between TV seasons, it was easy to go cold turkey, and I kept my promise and never watched another episode. (The plots were beginning to “jump the shark” anyway.) So I watched a lot less TV.

But it was about that time that my awesome mother-in-law had given me a Nintendo DS Lite with the game “Brain Age”, to keep my brain sharp as I exhausted every level of Sudoku and other brain teasers. I will say it actually did seem to sharpen my mind, so it was a legitimate vice to engage as an adult. This little device was hot with kids’ but there were stories in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times that soccer moms and business people were buying and using these, and I’m in one of those demographics. (Actually, I think Nintendo’s Jedi mind trick is that those three demographics pretty much cover all human beings, at least those in the developed world with at least some amount of discretionary income.)

Well, it didn’t take me long on biz trips and occasional sleepness nights to accomplish all the Brain Tease levels and eventually I picked up a copy of EA’s Tiger Woods PGA Golf for the DS, which I played purely for amusement. I suppose maybe one could make the argument that it was improving hand-eye coordination or saved me time because it was quicker than real golf, but after that I bought Naamco’s greatest hits which had Galaga and Ms. Pac Man–not exactly educational. Now, remember, these were for me, not my kids, because my wife and I kept the kids out of video games so their brains wouldn’t rot and so they wouldn’t waste time they could be using to read or ride bikes. Yes, I was feeling a bit like a hypocrite.

Well, eventually, I discovered in the settings of the DS Lite, a data bank that could tell you how many hours you’d played the games, and I will tell you, it was more than the five days I had lost to the show “24.”

So, eventually I ditched the DS Lite because it sucked up time, but it wasn’t a year or two later that the iPhone and Apple app store launched and again I find myself with Galaga and Ms. Pac Man. And Angry Birds and Words with Friends. And every episode of Fox’s “24” and almost every episode of every other show ever on TV. And every movie. And so on…

Trouble is, my kids know I have these games on my phone and they see me wasting time on them. I find that it’s a challenge to model moderation and balance in helping my kids learn discernment and self discipline. Which I’m still learning in my forties.

Do you struggle with wasting time on amusement? Is this something that’s wrecking culture? Or is it creating culture?

PS. Some day I’ll tell you my Madden Nintendo DS story…



  1. I absolutely can relate. On 11.11.11 the major video game Skyrim, an immersive, action fantasy adventure that has you slaying dragons and crafting potions a weapons, released. I relegated my game time to evenings and weekends. Within the first 60 days of that game’s release I had logged nearly 150 hours of gameplay. That’s almost a full week. More than one tenth of a two month timespan spent in front of the TV.

  2. I heard that.
    I finally kicked MMO’s. I will not say what my “/played” total was in World of Warcraft as it’s a truly large and embarrassing figure. I feel a bit better about it due to the social nature of it vs. playing a solo game. I do have friends I made in game that I’m still in touch with years later.

    Recently my wife and I have both agreed to not use our PC’s for any entertainment when our son is awake, (and entertainment includes Facebook which can be a monumental time sink). It’s been a good move.

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