When I was younger one thing that I used to spend all my time doing was playing video games. From dusk until dawn I would play everything and anything I could get my hands on, but as I’ve got older the thing I cherish most has had to take a back seat. Now I have more responsibilities and quite often I’ll find myself going days without so much as touching a controller.

From chores around the home, to caring after someone who’s ill, I just don’t have as much free time or energy as I used to have to indulge my favourite hobby. For a while my only response to friends asking what I’ve been playing was: “Nothing, I just don’t have the time.”

The whole concept of time to me started to become something I would worry about constantly. Like: “Should I stay up an extra hour at night to finish that level in a game? Or should I go to bed early so I have enough energy to do the ‘home stuff’ first, then take an hour for video games at lunch?”


It was a balancing act that started to skew more towards home life. I was told repeatedly by friends and relatives to “ease up” or “don’t take it all on your shoulders” out of fear that I would burn out. And If I’m honest there were a couple of times when I came dangerously close to it.

I got really bad at managing my free time to the point where I adopted a routine that completely took over and almost removed the concept of me taking a break. My days would consist of spending time around the house cleaning, going to daily hospital visits, making sure we were stocked up on food and people had clean clothes to wear. ‘Free time’ was nowhere on my calendar, there was only the next thing on the list that needed to be done.

There were times though when I would try to break routine and do something just for me. I would take an hour or two in the afternoon to mess around in DOOM or tidy up a settlement or two in Fallout 4, but I was either constantly pausing the game to do something more productive like cleaning, performing carer duties or constantly feeling guilty that I wasn’t helping out. From there it was a slow decline to almost completely cutting myself off from video games as there was nothing I owned that I could just pick up and play in short bursts.


Then I spent my night off playing XCOM on my tablet and something clicked, in my hands I had the perfect answer to my problem. I realised I could still play video games during the day around the house and all I had to do was switch the genre and the platform to something that catered to my busy schedule.

For someone like me that doesn’t really have a lot of spare time, a turn-based game on something portable was the perfect outlet. It allowed me to easily mesh my hectic day with my hobby and not only did I start to enjoy video games again; it was also kind of therapeutic. It lowered my stress levels and chilled me out when I was starting to overthink and worry about things.

With turn-based games I could be spend the long waiting times in a hospital idly playing through a turn, setting snipers for a perfect shot in XCOM or moving forward a few tiles SteamWorld Heist, before tabbing out to answer any questions a nurse might have or texting my dad to update him on what’s going on. Or if I had a few minutes to kill as I waited for the washing machine to finish a cycle I could quickly do a spot of base management before going back to what I was originally doing.


Basically, portable, turn-based games required no additional thought or forward planning, I didn’t have to go off and lock myself away in my room and pay total attention to a specific plot or story arc. Or commit 100% of my energy to constantly be reacting to everything and anything the game throws at you, like in DOOM – acting on the fly, switching weapons to deal with specific threats and generally being totally aware of everything that’s going on all the time.

Turn-based games provided quick little skirmishes that I could take part in to lower my stress levels, provide a breathing space and generally give me that little boost of energy I so needed on some of the harder days. Sure, things like XCOM or SteamWorld Heist do require a bit of strategy and planning, but it’s not so overly demanding that you need to give it your total attention. I could still sit and spend time with an ill parent, asking them about their day, helping them around the home whilst occasionally tapping away on my phone, tablet or 3DS when I had a spare moment.

Plus, being restricted to turns improved my time management skills as on some of the later levels where you have to complete goals within a set number of turns I got better at figuring out which things are more important.

For example, I could run straight to the objective and risk an ambush to finish things quickly or take my time, sweep and clear the area but run the chance of running out of time. Then, after I stopped playing, I would use the same approach around my home.

Do I do this big thing right now and get it out the way or do I do all the smaller things first and run the risk of being too tired for the big thing later on? It was something I never really thought about as I usually just flew from one thing that needed to be done around the house to the next without stopping to think things through.


Also, games like XCOM don’t really need you to be constantly remembering where you are in them, making it’s quite easy for me to just pick up and play for a few minutes after not touching it for a day or two without having to go through that awkward “Where am I again?” recap that I have so often with other games.

Since I started spending more time with them, turn-based video games have become my own little portable sanctuary I can use to get my hit of digital catharsis before going back to my duties. They’ve become my life ring in a sea of stress and overwhelming anxiety, they’re the safety net that I never knew I needed and probably couldn’t do without.

There’s still a ton of things going on in my life right now that will inevitably lead to more crippling anxiety, dread and general stress. But knowing that I can take some time to distract myself with a game, even if it’s just for a few seconds, is comforting to me in a way. These kind of games are my coping mechanism during a really rough period in my life and I’ll undoubtedly lean on them more as time goes on.

About The Author


A self-described child of the 90s, Matt is obsessed with everything nerdy in that era from Transformers to G.I Joe. Found inside a bargain bin of Doctor Who DVD's, he was quickly adopted by the Indie Haven team and tasked with writing humorous articles.

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  • For me personally, when I think about video games, I think: now here is a work of art! I must experience this! I am an art fiend after all. But the sad truth about video games is so little of it is really art. We praise games for being so daring and “artistic” that are really just that: artist-ic. The medium was cute for a long time, when it was small. But now it’s all grown-up–and yet somehow it hasn’t matured one wit. And to make matters worse, the standards have taken a nose-dive in the commercial sector, and amateurs have yet to develop standards, or the tools and resources that can deliver a basic degree of polish.

    So commercial products are unartful because there are no more quality-standards, Nintendo’s seal of approval, or anything like this, and they are way over their heads in their ubermensch pursuit of graphical excellence at the cost of, well everything that remotely matters at all! Amateurs, god bless them, I think are doing the best they can. But they are shortsighted and probably time-strapped, and well, masterpieces of any sort seem like they must be very far away short of a miracle.

    Just a different perspective on why to play games. If it’s a work of art, instead of a time-negotiation with yourself, then how the heck could you not get another work of art under your belt? If it’s a hard sell, maybe there are better things you could be doing, like reading a good book. (He said speaking to everyone-and-no-one in particular.)