01 Jun 2019, 14:46

30 Days Without Video Games

For my 30 day challenge in May I decided to go back to avoiding something rather than adding something. When I spent a month without using my phone at home I thought that was really going to be something hard to give up. Since I found that I could do that fairly easily, I decided to do something more challenging and see if I could go 30 days without playing video games. That’s something that honestly hadn’t even occurred to me to as a challenge until fairly recently. Playing games has been a constant in my life for much longer than smart phones have and it didn’t initially feel like something to consider. One of the goals of these challenges is see the effects of changing things that I wouldn’t otherwise change and so it makes sense to alter a major constant like that. After all, when I stopped using my phone one of the things I noticed was that I played more video games. Now that I’m using my phone less, what things would I find to fill that time if I removed video games as well?


I finished this one without any issues. I didn’t even slip-up by thoughtlessly starting a game on my phone while I was waiting on something. I can’t remember any other recent time that I would have gone that long without playing games before. The only time that I can be reasonably confident that I wouldn’t have is when I spent a summer working at the YMCA Camp of the Rockies during college. Other than that it seems unlikely that I would have ever had any extended time where I didn’t play.


I was surprised by how easy this one was. It made me realize that I think I’m at a point where a lot of the time that I play video games is out of habit rather than a strong interest. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy games but they seem to be the activity I go to by default even when there are other things I would enjoy just as much.


Now that the month is over, I’m fairly pleased with how I feel in a number of ways. I enjoyed reading more and I started learning Rust (which seems like a good source of a future challenge). I also watched more TV, and I feel like no matter what activities I eliminate there will always be a need to spend some time just doing something mindless to relax and that’s ok. If I want to accomplish something more than that, I need to set a goal to do something specific during the 30 days rather than hoping I’ll use newly gained free time to do it.

There’s also a feeling of obligation that comes from owning more games than I’ll ever have time to play. Years of poor impulse control during Steam sales have built up a backlog of games that I feel like I should play since I bought them. In a way, not being able to play any games at all was freeing since I didn’t have to consider this at all.

What’s next?

I’ll definitely be playing video games again soon. There are so many unique and creative things to experience within that form of media that I don’t want to miss. But I think it would be good to be more selective about playing to find those experiences rather than playing because I don’t want to think of something else to do, or because I feel an obligation to finish a game that I bought.

28 Feb 2019, 21:37

30 Day Challenges

Fashionably late as ever, I’m just now getting around to something that I picked up on around the new year amid the annual torrent of resolutions for self improvement. Normally I give most of these things a hard pass but the 30 day challenge seemed like an idea that would be a good fit for me. This isn’t anything new, the talk is from 2011 but I just happened to come across it a few weeks ago.

I love the idea of running lots of short experiments just to see what happens. Unlike a resolution, this doesn’t presuppose that a change will be for the better and gives you a way out for ideas that don’t work out, without feeling like you’re giving up. At the same time, sticking it out for 30 days could help get you through something that seems awful in the first week but starts to improve as you go. I’m also drawn to the aspect of having another thing to record and track. In no particular order, here are some of the things I’m thinking about:

Challenges I’d like to try

  • Read for an hour every day
  • Write for 30 minutes every day
  • Write some code for fun every day
  • Don’t use my phone while I’m at home
  • Read a paper from Papers We Love every day
  • Cut out refined sugar
  • Organize for 30 minutes every day
  • Draw something every day. I’m no artist, but being able to visually represent an abstract or complex idea is a valuable communication skill for software developers and I’d like to get better at that.
  • Finish Godel Escher Bach
  • Stay off of Twitter

I’m planning to start in March and the first thing that I’ll try is to avoid using my phone while I’m at home. (That’ll be a tough one so I’m really jumping straight into the deep end here.)