It’s not a particularly fragile balance as far as I can tell. I’ve been splitting my time three ways for quite a while now and it’s always the desire for something else that pulls me away from one game over the other. WAR, EVE, and APB are so massively different it’s easy to bounce around between them, the only thing that really ties me to one or another for any amount of time is when I have friends playing, and actually needing me for something. In WAR I have a tank and healer warder for the end game dungeons and ready to rock whenever. In APB my crim is in a small clan and I get the prestigious responsibility of driving their asses around in my custom Seiyo Espacio (which I really need some screenies of). EVE, well… is EVE. I don’t have anyone on my contact list, and most of the time I’m just running missions with naught but my drones to keep me company. They’re all different flavors, but it’s all about how you manage things.
One of the tools I use to track my gaming is Raptr.com and the associated app that comes with it. It tracks everything I’ve thrown at it so far, including those pesky Facebook “games” (you can block them in the settings). It also ties into a bunch of your gaming network accounts like Steam, Xfire, Xbox/Windows Live, PSN, and can track individual WoW toons if you really want. On top of those you can add in all the major IM accounts as well, except for Skype. It’s not a deciding factor by any means as to what I’ll play on a nightly basis but it is pretty cool to see where I’ve been over time, and how many hours I’ve put into each game. Another aspect of it I like is reporting straight to Twitter when I start playing something. Just in case anyone feels like joining me.
Tracking is not intrinsically important to playing multiple games at a time. It’s something you look at to judge where your tastes really lie. Over the past handful of months WAR has taken the top spot pretty easily at about 70% of my gaming time with EVE eating 25%, and the rest getting into the 5% range. Since APB came out I’m seeing a lot less WAR time, and more EVE time as well. I’d say each are around 30% now with 10% to other games. The cool part is that by adding a new game to my rotation, I’ve found some more interest in one that I’ve been less active in, at least that’s what the numbers are telling me. The downside is simply that the numbers aren’t perfect. Sometimes I’ll not have Raptr running when I start-up a game and as such it will omit that play session. Case in point, I know I have 60-ish hours logged in APB but Raptr shows a paltry 27 or so. Some of that is due to it not tracking during the first week it was released.
So what is it about multi-gaming that keeps me so spread out? I think part of it is the different flavors. You play one long enough and you start to crave something else. These days I couldn’t put 70% of my game time into WAR, I just get tired of some aspects of it that remind me EVE is better, or APB is better. It’s a circular thing. When I get tired of all three I’ll drop everything and run some Borderlands, TF2, BFBC2, Overlord, Deadspace, or whatever else is in my collection of Steam purchased games.
Oh Steam, how you’ve been a factor in all of this. The Summer Sale stocked me so full of et cetera games it’s a little silly. I probably spent a full week afterwards playing anything but my normal games just getting through some of them. I don’t think I’ve beaten any of them except Force Unleashed (testament to its greatness perhaps?). Getting close however. I was stuck on Overlord for a while, definitely stuck in Mirrors Edge and the rest are just in different stages of the game that I need to pick up and run through. I even snagged up SupCom2, even though I’m anything but an RTS gamer. I just like to pit my self against 7 opponents, mass up an army, and run them over. Kinda like China is doing I think. =o
Balance isn’t just in what you play however, it’s also a part of how you live your life. My game time starts the minute I get home 3 days out of the week and extends deep into the night. One night is reserved for RL friends going to the bar or concerts, and one day is reserved for the significant other. My weekends are booked with my three-year old daughter, although I manage to get a few hours in once she goes to bed. I figure in total I might pump out close to 40 hours of computer gaming a week. A full ten hours of that are probably variable enough that I would skip them altogether, and every single one of them are worth missing at any given point in time provided there’s something else significant going on.
I guess the last part is why I play video games at all. I take a look around at the people in my life and the recreational activities they have to justify my answer for this. Gaming is recreation or entertainment, probably both wrapped into one. Some people around me have busy schedules of softball games, bowling, and drinking 5 nights a week. Others that I know are more content to sit down in front of their TV and be fed passive entertainment. Some like to tinker with junk in their garage for all of their entertainment needs. It’s just different ways of passing the time, working your mind, and enjoying life. I feel like gaming is one of the most intellectually stimulating things that I can do on the super cheap. 15$ per month for an MMO? SOLD. Steam goes crazy and slashes prices 90%? TRIPLE SOLD. I save a lot of money doing this by not going to the bar every other night, doing some recreational drugs, or playing on a beer league sports team. Even if the games aren’t great all the time, they work for me.