Star Trek and The Time Well Spent Continuum

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Nerd Temptation

A friend recently pre-purchased Star Trek Online, the first MMO (for non-gamers, a game played on-line with other people) set in the Star Trek universe.  Like most games of this type, it costs $15/month to play, after purchasing the game itself for $50.  Normally I avoid anything that costs money every month, but I REALLY like Star Trek.  I spent a couple hours combing the website, and the longer I looked at it, the better the deal seemed.  After all… it only cost $15 and I make plenty of money, right?

Here are two things that discouraged this purchase.

  1. I would need $500 in computer upgrades to allow my box to play the game.
  2. They offer a lifetime subscription, something I had never seen for such a game.

A lifetime subscription sounds like a good deal, especially if you plan to play a long time.  It would take 16 months of play to equal the $240 they want for the lifetime subscription.  However, this made me realize how much this game could really cost.  $790 (game + subscription + new computer) seems like a lot for a game (the other catch, you can only buy a lifetime subscription with a pre-order, in other words, you can’t try the game first if you want to lock in this “deal”).  Without the lifetime subscription, it would cost $180/year for as long as I played.  That might be ok if that was my entertainment for the year, but I started thinking about how much I would have to play, and whether I had the time.

Calculate your free time

“Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”  – Psalm 90:12

As I was pondering whether or not to purchase this game I began to wonder… How much free time do I actually have? I blocked out my day in 15-minute increments to get a better idea.

  • Blue: Time at work (assuming no extra overtime.)
  • Red: Time spent sleeping.
  • Green: Time preparing to work, commuting, or elsewhere.  Slight flexibility here… but this is not free time.
  • Orange: The precious free time I have for life.  Most of my free time is on weekends… on a workday I have just 4 hours.

There is even less if I include tasks of daily living (little things like showers, my toothbrush, and that exercise I should be getting).  I would play this game for about 2 hours at a time, consuming my free time, which still might not matter if all entertainment was equal.

Wise free time management

“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.”  – Ephesians 5:18

What does this passage have to do with my dilemma?  It clearly addresses drunkenness but also delivers another subtle and often overlooked truth.  Condemning drunkenness indirectly, Paul is primarily admonishing the Ephesians to avoid what is literally translated as “dissipation,” of which drunkenness is but one, obvious form.

Dissipation: A wasting by misuse; a process in which energy is used or lost without accomplishing useful work; mental distraction; amusement; diversion

God cares how well we steward our time.  We should not waste it producing nothing with bottle in hand, or with long periods spent hypnotized by a flickering light.  I can spend my time and money on an entertaining game that enriches my life very little, or on recreation that refreshes while producing something good (like writing articles for Debt Free Adventure.)

Final Thought

I will not purchase Star Trek Online, but I enjoy computer games so this is not a blanket condemnation of electronic entertainment.  When a game has a monthly fee I feel somewhat obligated to play enough to get my money’s worth.  If there is no monthly fee those feelings of obligation dissipate greatly.  This concept can be attributed to any form of entertainment but today I figured I would focus on my weaknesses.  The main point being to prevent frivolous distractions from crowding out time better spent in self-enrichment.  Spending our time well not only saves us money, it helps ensure we are getting the most out of it.

What do you think?

We only have so much time… perhaps reevaluating our use of free time is in order.  Do you wrestled with time spent on frivolous activities that could be put to better use elsewhere?

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1 Jason @ One Money Design

Robert, great post. I love this because I’m a huge advocate of using time wisely. Now that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for some entertainment because that can certainly be wise too. It’s good to rest the mind and have some fun. But it can be excessive and I think that’s your point. Every minute of everyday can’t be targeted towards productivity, but the bottom line is that we have to find the right balance. To me, the game model you described is on the excessive side. Keep writing great content.

2 Jason @ Redeeming Riches

You probably struck a nerve with a lot of folks here – I’m guilty as charged of wasting time with little things. If you factor in 2 kiddos – free time is less frequent and even more valuable to do some good kingdom work – (although I view time with my kids as ultimate kingdom work…)

Another good reference is a couple verses previous to your Eph. 5:18 – verses 15-16 say, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

3 Lakita

I’ve often thought about this.
If you spend 8 hours working and 8 hours sleeping, then you only have 1/3 of a day left! That time is then divided between family, children, church, entertainment, side projects, etc.

That’s not a lot of time in the grand scheme of things, so it is important to keep the “time robbers” in check!

4 Mr Credit Card

wise words indeed. By breaking down and analyzing the cost and time involved, you’ve avoided an impulse purchase. Wonder how many hours do folks watch netflix and then complain they do not make enough money!

5 Robert Espe

Funny you should mention Netflix. I’m a huge fan, mainly because it is so cheap. Only $9/ month, don’t need cable, and I could do nothing but that. I know of one person who cancelled for the same reason. He found too many things he wanted to watch, and right at his finger tips. Haven’t cancelled, but I’m trying to cut back. This is one area where a purely money based decision can lead you astray.

6 David H.

Really enjoyed the quote from Ephesians that I wrote it down. Felt the comments about dissipation were pretty strong, granted they were being applied to gaming but practical nonetheless. I know I will be applying this immediately to my own circumstances with a big exam in 3 weeks which I’m not ready for and grad school at night pulling from my time. I’m going to have to sacrifice one to benefit the other.

7 Beckey

OK, I’ll admit, I’m addicted to World of Warcraft (aka: WoW). Now that that’s out of the way, this is the one form of Entertainment that my boyfriend and I still participate in. We do not go out to the movies, we have cut back on eating out, and we visit family every other weekend. We do not have kids, yet, and have a dog and we both work full-time. While Warcraft does not have a lifetime subscription, we both feel that the cost for a 6 month subscription is justifiable because of the above facts. By paying for 6 months at a time, as opposed to monthly, we get $2/month knocked off the subscription fee. Also, we typically each get in at several hour of play time during the week, more on weekends. We have found that, and most wouldn’t think so, that by having this hobby, we are actually saving money because we are not going out doing mindless shopping or other things that would cost us more to do. 2 tickets to the movies = @ $16-20, if we did this twice a month it would surpass the amount we paid for the WoW accounts, not to mention that most people go out to eat either before of after the movies. It all depends on your lifestyle, we are both active with the dog and go on walks, we are going to also start hiking, so that will take some additional weekend time but we have both felt that our WoW time played is adequate to pay the subscription fees. When that time changes, we will reassess the form of entertainment then.

8 Matt Jabs

You’re still playing video games, but you’ve completely reshaped your personal entertainment based on your budget constraints… which is the point I believe Robert is making here.

Way to go Beckey. Sounds similar to what my wife and I did in relation to going to the movie theater – we just don’t do it anymore – we replaced it with Netlix. We would normally go out to a movie an average of 2 times/month which calculated out to around $50/month. Now we pay $9/month to subscribe to Netflix and have only went to the theater once in the last year (for her birthday.) We save at least $41 each month because of it, plus all the time and money associated with renting videos, and driving around to do all this. Thanks Netflix!

9 mozy

Robert, I really enjoyed reading this article. Not only is it insightful, but it also helps me plan out better what i want to accomplish this weekend. It’s true that much nothing is done while drinking except rotting away useful brain cells. I do love a good drink, but moderration must be ovserved. This is reason why I no longer “network” much in crowds that always include “alcohol”. It made me feel that nothing truly was being acomplished and I rather talk business with sober people.

I have to also admit i am a tech junkie and before a big purchase is made, i must be able to justify the amount of time i will spend with it and what will be accomplished and will that be productive???

so, I bought myself a Smart Pulse pen. It’s awesome and i justified the price (169.00) by knowing that this pen not only will keep me involved in writing but also help my penmanship. The most imnportant thing is what this pen will be used for. I’ve kept a journal since being pregnant and plan to keep one for my son till he’s old enough to read it. The pen records what i write in the journal and i’m able to upload it to the website. In case something happens to my journal…. it’s backed up on the pc and on the website. So all my memories of my life and the love i have for my son will forever be cherished. Hope, i didn’t bore you!!

10 Christine

I had to quit playing WOW because it was eating my life. Had to quit cold turkey.

11 Beckey

Haha, It can definitely steal your life. I must say, when I was on medical leave, it helped me stay sane…

12 Kevin@OutOfYourRut

With two kids in the mix, the orange slice of that pie chart is cut down to a sliver ;-)

13 Arthur Sido

I recently gave up my subscription to EVE Online (a similar MMORPG) that I really enjoyed, not as much because of the monthly fee but because of how much time it sucked away.

14 Psyche

I guess it all depends on the people, my husband works and we have a daughter together but he finds time to play the beta and loves it so I’m getting him the lifetime account today. But it does help he has the right computer to play on. I know he will play this game for a while since we’ve been playing CoH (city of heroes/villains) for like 5 years. It also depends on what you consider is relaxation time. Were both gamers so we find time to play the game and also play it together and its very fun. As you said it’s peoples opinions are different, since we have friends that are busy but still have time to game. :)

15 Eric

As an avid World of Warcraft gamer, I have to disagree with some of this article. While you focus on the game aspect of it, you seem to be missing the social aspect of it. An MMO is just that – massively multiplayer. I myself live way out in the sticks, so it’s cheaper for me to pay for internet and a WoW subscription to hang with friends on the other side of the world than to have a social life in town. This is taking into consideration the costs of gas, food, and the actual entertainment.

Yes, WoW can suck in your spare time if you aren’t careful. But then, that’s true of ANY hobby one obsesses over. The problem isn’t the time, or the game, it’s the obsession.

16 Robert Espe

Eric,
Good to hear from you. Let me say that I do appreciate the social aspect of MMO’s. I live on the other side of the country from my brother, and playing Guild Wars is one of the few things we can do together. When I was in college I ran a major guild in a game called Bridge Commander, and I made friends from Germany, China, Denmark, England, etc. Back home, I used to enjoy getting together with my more digitally inclined buddies for LAN parties (non-gamer translation: we all bring our computers to one place to play games together, usually with lots of junk food. Honestly, not as sad as you probably think :-) Finally, I also grew up in the “sticks” as it were so I empathize with not having the gas money to go see friends. I’m going to clarify my original point a little, then address your idea.

The main idea of my article was that any non-productive activity (of which STO was only my most recent temptation) is problematic if we no longer have time for better things. Hobbies that produce good things (reading literature, hiking, learning a new language, or to play a musical instrument) are positive even if they use up the last of your free time because when you are done you have something to show for it. Gaming is not in this category, as fun as it is, and so must be limited like many other non-productive hobbies, even if, as I admitted, the non-productive hobby is cheaper.

Let’s apply that idea to relationships. You say that WOW is a cheaper way to socialize than hanging out for real. I notice that like I did, you have made friends from the other side of the world in this game. Before I stopped playing in a guild, I came to realize those were not real friends. They had all the appearance of real friends, but any relationship has to include real contact. I couldn’t go to a gamer buddy on the other side of the world when one of us needed physical help. We would not share in life’s joys together or enjoy the same bonds of fellowship that come with real friendship and real shared activity. Perhaps most poignant of all, odds are that if whatever particular game expires, odds are that our friendship goes with it, considering the odds that we will end up playing different games next.

Now, seeing as you are concerned about the cost of gas and such, I’m thinking you are young and single. If you are there is another important consideration. I’m guessing that someday you’d like to be married to a nice girl, and that is something that fake socialization is also unlikely to provide. This is one area where spending a little more is worth it to get what we really want for our money.

Just be sure that you don’t equate hanging out with having to spend lots of money. Certainly gas is an expense (ride sharing helps), but eating out and other spending are not the only fun things to do. Getting together with friends to play games you already have is free, and renting one movie to watch with a group is cheap. Cookouts cost, but are cheaper than restaurants, and if you already know where some girls are, consider trying to find somewhere that has free/cheap dance lessons. Those are just examples, there are many options out there. The important thing is to build real relationships with real people so that you will have strong friendships that will last a lifetime.

Hope this helps, let us know what you think.

17 FFB

I’ve many an hour back in the day on various systems (Atari, Nintendo, Genesis, Playstation). Looking back it was a lot of fun playing but it was also a LOT of time that was used up that could have been doing other things. Nowadays I’d love to have something like a Wii and play RockBand but I just can’t justify the system cost and the time cost. We also have three kids and I don’t want them seeing me play a game for hours on end; its not a habit I want them to get into.

18 Matt Jabs

Yeah, everything in moderation right??? :-)

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