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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Keeping Track of Wasting Time

As I was reading mainstream media coverage of B-R, I came across this comment, "Some people need to get a life." I've heard this before. Many years ago, back when what others thought of my hobby still mattered to me, this statement would make me very defensive. However, over the years I've come to see it for what it is: a statement made out of ignorance. Only those who don't understand the entertainment value of gaming make statements like this. I don't hold it against them. They don't know any better. And I certainly don't pay it any mind any more. I have a full and rewarding life; thank you very much. That's all that needs said to people who don't grok gaming.

Fortunately, people make this comment less and less these days. Over the decades I've watched gaming go from something usually associated with the socially inept, to a mainstream activity that even my mother participates in. Now that's a change I never saw coming. Her introduction to gaming came with the rise of Facebook and the advent of social media. When social media became main stream, gaming came right along with it. And why not? What's more fun than playing a game with friends and family even if they can't be there in person?

Now, I personally have never played a Facebook game. And the only mobile game I've played is Angry Birds. I prefer my games have a bit more substance than your typical flash game offering. But there is one thing those games do that did intrigue me. Your achievements, etc., are shared with those with whom you play, and in the case of Facebook just about everyone else on your friends list. The annoyance factor of that aside, it's not a bad idea. Besides giving you something in common with others, which is the foundation of any social group, it's a good way of keeping track of how well you're doing.

For me it also takes on another purpose. It helps me keep track of how much time I'm "wasting" by playing games. I don't really feel like I'm wasting my time. I just say that because I find the concept humorous. Rather than spend four or five hours watching the Superbowl while drinking beer and eating junk the other weekend, I played Kerbal Space Program. Watching sports on television (not to be confused with actual attendance!) makes less sense to me than my playing KSP makes sense to a Seattle Seahawks fan. To each their own. Anyway, this post is moving away from its intended purpose. That purpose is to discuss how I keep track of wasting time. I'm an analytic person who would rather learn an interesting fact than win a bet. So I've always wanted to know how much time I actually spend playing games and which games I spend the most time on.

[caption id="attachment_1626" align="alignleft" width="300"]KSP Time via Steam KSP Time via Steam[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1627" align="alignright" width="286"]Skyrim Steam Achievements Skyrim Steam Achievements[/caption]

One method I've used in the past is Steam by Valve, Inc. I've had a Steam account for over three years. Steam dutifully tracks how long I've played games purchased through Steam. For example, I know precisely how much time I've spent playing Kerbal Space Program. As you can see to the left, since I first purchased KSP I've played 190 hours. That seems like a lot of time to most people. Indeed, it's nearly five 40-hour work weeks of time. What Steam doesn't show very well is the period of time that 190 hours stretched across. If I'd played 190 hours over the course of a year (8760 hours) it wouldn't be all that much. Of course, you my reader know I've only recently started playing KSP. But Steam gives no indication of that. The only metrics given is how long played and when last played.

That's not completely true though. There is one other metric - achievements. Not all games support achievements, but those that do give you another way to gauge your game play. For example, to the right is my achievements page for Skyrim. I've only managed to earn 13 out of 75 possible achievements. Some of them I may never "earn" as they don't fall inline with my play style. For example, I will likely never earn the Taking Care of Business achievement because I have no interest in joining the thieves guild. Others are simply incompatible with a path I've already chosen. I've already joined the Companions for instance, so that precludes others.

But I can't always use Steam. Some of the games I play I didn't purchase through Steam. EVE Online is the notable one on that score. I started playing EVE Online before I had a Steam account. I could find out how long I've played by checking the API for EVE Online. By doing so I find Mabrick was born on March 23, 2008 at 2:09:00 PM. I also know I've played for a total of 179,427 minutes. That's 2990 hours in 2492 sessions over nearly 6 years. That's 1.2 hours a session on average. But I had to query the API web page to get that information and do the math myself. There are programs that'll do the math for you, but it's not at all straight forward. Nor does it give you a period by period breakdown of the time I play. What if I wanted to know if I played more in December than in November? There's no easy way to know through the EVE Online API.

Valve and CCP are certainly not the only companies to provide this sort of social service for tracking game play. Courtesy of some of the other games I play, I have an Xbox Live account, an Origin's account, a Battle.net account, a U-play account... the list goes on. It's absolutely ridiculous. Every flipping game company now seems to require you have an online account with them replete with meta-data scrapping and borderline privacy invasion. It's bad enough I have to keep a close watch on Facebook, Google and Microsoft for the old terms of use switcheroo, but now I have to also manage every game company as well? It's enough to discourage anyone.

But through all that, I still want to know how much time I'm spending on game play. And I decided long ago that I can't beat every marketing officer on the planet to keep their greedy hands off my personal information. They'll get it one way or another and it only takes one slip up on my part for it all to be "out there" forever. They have far more resources, and it seems patience, than I have. Now I simply try and manage what they know about me. I'd rather them have the public profile I choose than the one they choose. You know what I mean?

It's another part of the reason why I moved the blog to it's own domain and began to lower some of the walls I'd constructed between my various online selves. Now my Facebook friends get to see my blog posts. My fellow photography enthusiasts know that extends to computer games as well. I mean, the rule of thirds works whether you're looking through a view finder or at a monitor. It is who I am after all. And it was time I identified a game tracking service that might be able to pull in the data I want to see; all in one place, answering the questions I have, regardless of who finds out how much time I spend playing. A service that would inform me across all the games I play, not just the ones they advocate.

That led me to Raptr. Raptr can pull all my Steam information directly from my account. It also has direct access to my Xbox Live account. And with their desktop client, it'll track any time I spend in any of the games I play not covered by those two accounts. And Raptr will present me with the details of my game play on demand. Raptr is what I've been looking for. It isn't perfect. But it has a plethora of reporting options. And for those motivated by achievements, it has it's own achievement system revolving around total time played. To date, Raptr ranks me as elite in three games: Kerbal Space Program, Civilization V and Portal. Did I mention it isn't perfect? The rankings don't have anything to do with actual ability. It's just an indication of time dedicated to the game. And it doesn't really come close to accurately reflecting how much time I've really spent playing EVE Online, only the time I've spent playing while the desktop agent ran. That's been since I created my Raptr account on November 2, 2013.

Here's a screen crop of my Game Collection page so you can see what Raptr offers. There are lots of ways to represent your data according to criteria you select. It has communities to join, shows how you stack up against other players, and lets you connect with people who have common gaming interests with you.  You can also link your Raptr account to your Facebook, Twitter and Twitch account. I've not done that yet, but I'll probably at least give the Twitch linkage a try. Perhaps it'll let me stream at my full resolution. The EVE Online client was so disappointing in that regard. But this post is long enough; I'll have to discuss Raptr streaming capability another day - like when it comes out of beta. LOL Until then, fly careful.

[caption id="attachment_1629" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Raptr Statistics February 9, 2014 Raptr Statistics February 9, 2014[/caption]

2 comments:

  1. I don't want to see how many hours I spend on gaming... and I certainly don't want my wife to know either. I can already see her looking at my to do list and back at all this "free" time I must have.

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  2. I like Raptr for the most part. It isn't perfect, but if you and some friends use it, it can be interesting. And I just like numbers and stats in general. But I wish I had started using it earlier. While I have been with it since late 2010, that still puts it many years behind in play time tracked. They did hook up an interface that let you import your X-Fire time... since the guys who made X-Fire also made Raptr, I guess this wasn't too tough... so I was able to pull in hours from back when I used that. That was mostly Battlefield 1942, from back when I played the Desert Combat mod. But there are any number of things I wish I had started earlier, including blogging and EVE. Such is life.

    @evehermit - Heh, you will note that I converted my 2013 summary from absolute hour values into percentages, based on the total hours tracked, for my blog post on the subject. I like to know the numbers... but I am not sure my wife would be very happy reading the yearly total.

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