In the GTASC forums we recently returned to a regular refrain, concerns about how much time is spent by the dedicated GamerScore competitors. These come in a couple of different flavors. 1) Concerns about it being unfair because the poster, personally, can't spend as much time gaming as he assumes the top scorers do. These often come with a heaping of scorn. "Of course I can't score that much, I have a job and don't live in my mother's basement." 2) Concerns about the other gamers, since scoring that much must indicate an unhealthy obsession with, and devotion of time to GamerScore . These often come with backhanded elements such as noting a probable lack of sleep.
These discussions are as old as the hobby, and probably as old as hobbies. But after this latest round, I got to wondering about a different angle. In the United Sates, one of the functions of our government is that it collects a lot of statistical data on Americans. It uses this data, and makes it publicly available for others to use, to help ensure it provides the services Americans actually need and want. At least, in theory. Apparently one of the services we need and want is statistical analysis.
The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) surveys time usage by Americans. The results are pretty enlightening, particularly if we're going to have a debate about how we are spending our time. The data can be found here: https://www.bls.gov/tus/
, but rather than just talk about it, I figured I could show it too.
2016 Data from the BLS
U.S. workers have long had a reputation for working some of the longest hours in the world. Japan has us beat, but our "Protestant work ethic" supposedly drives us to work more hours than our European friends. Those are old notions and stereotypes, however. A recent survey
of workers across thirty-seven countries found the United States only in the middle of the pack at 16th place. Mexico and Russia led the way. Ireland beat out the U.S. by a spot, but the U.S. actually worked longer hours than Japan (22nd), Canada (23rd), the UK (26th) or, of course, France (34th). Some stereotypes are still valid, it seems.
Those are hours worked on the job for folks in those countries in the labor force. The excellent thing about the BLS is that it attempts to capture all American data, not just the workers. As a result, you can see from that table that the average hours of "work" per weekday is 4.6, or 3.6 overall to better include our weekend workers. With a little over half of our population in the labor force, this seems pretty spot on. On average, an American over the age of 15 will spend 25.2 hours per week working. But this is largely a bimodal distribution where a significant portion will work something much closer to the standard 40-hour week, and another significant portion will largely not have "work for hire" hours, except perhaps a few here and there. These non-labor force adults are often students, caregivers (e.g. stay-at-home moms), or ill. Their time is spent in other activities rather than "work", and those other activities are captured in this data as well.
The one category of time from that chart that is the most important for what we're talking about here is the "Leisure and sports" category. This is basically the "free time" allotment and Americans enjoy, on average, a little more than five hours a day of free time.* Obviously, how we choose to use our free time is one of the things that really distinguishes people. The folks at this site tend to spend a lot of their free time playing video games. But few of us would spend it all. We have other hobbies as well. There's a TV show we want to watch, a movie to go see, etc. Also included in this is "sport" so our gym rats will also find that their time is split here between gaming potential and their gym fix.
If we do allow that all five hours of free time per day are allotted to video games, that's more than 35 hours a week to game for score, on average. That is a lot of games. I think very few of our gamers do this, though. My conversations with those formidable scorers that I have spoken to have almost universally shown that they are dedicated family members, hard workers at their 40-hour-a-week jobs, but that they do throw nearly every available hour at gaming. But even then, nearly is not all. There is a balance always.
Personally, I find I'm probably gaming 8-21 hours a week. That's a big range, but life is like that. This past week was closer to the 8-hour range as I did a lot of family stuff. Things that might be put in that caregiver category in some senses, but was realistically just me spending my free time being a Dad. That hurt my scoring. I'm down on the number of achievements I earned by a large margin this past GTASC week. I didn't earn a single achievement on either Saturday OR Sunday. I can't remember the last time I went a weekend without scoring. It was probably when I was out of town on a vacation.
There are a lot of good advice books on how to make the best use of your time. Most of them start with the assumption you can actually track where you spend your time. It's a hard thing to do. But comparing to an average easier and a good first step. Knowing how you are actually wasting your time is pretty important. It's amazing how much time gets sucked up by things that are absolute nothings. Scroll Facebook for fifteen minutes? What was the end value? Did you interact with your friends more? In most cases it's just fifteen minutes lost. As for that other gamer who is scoring so much more than you? Maybe he's just not wasting his time. It's always easier to criticize someone else who might be doing something wrong than to take the time to really look at the situation and realize you've got the plank in your own eye. Take the time, track your time and identify how you are spending it. Do it to stop wasting those precious minutes. Which is not to say don't use Facebook if you want to. If you get enough enjoyment out of those 15 minutes on Facebook--fine! Just make sure it's a conscious decision not just a habit or a continuation of a choice you made 15 minutes ago because it's easier to keep going on than to change. Claim your minutes for important and fun pastimes. Don't kill time.