Some people get used to not having as much free time as they did when they were kids. I am not one of those people.
As a working adult with an admittedly compromised social life (thanks, COVID!) and many other time-consuming obligations, finding time for video games and podcasts has become a challenge. I really, deeply love both things; gaming has been a lifelong passion and podcasts have made me laugh every day for 15 years. I must have heard a lot of talk radio when I was a kid, so podcasts changed everything once I discovered the format could be funny and lively instead of dusty and run-down.
And since there is never enough time for both, I have to combine the two. A lot.
yes I permanently game while listening to podcasts. I must have spent 65 hours of Ring of Elden somehow. What might cause sensory overload for some is a default state of life for me and other individuals of sophistication and taste. Although this habit I started as a time-saving measure, it actually became the only how I can enjoy these two leisure activities.
Wait, don’t games have the audio you need to hear?
‘Final Fantasy XIV’ is so cool, y’all.
Credit: Square Enix
An obvious problem with this double-dipping lifestyle comes from the play side of the equation, as it’s a complex art form that combines visual, auditory, and interactive elements into a single work. See the word “hearing” here? Yes, sometimes you have to to listen games to progress or take full advantage of them. But if any video game sound designers are reading this, you might want to pause before moving on to the next part of this sentence, because the truth is: you can play a lot games without sound.
To be clear, I don’t listen to the college football podcast Shutdown Fullcast (which is mostly about jet-ski crashes) while I’m playing story-driven single-player games like Yakuza, at least not the first time. I care a lot about the story and I don’t want to miss that part of a game. Rhythm games like DJ heromultiplayer games emphasizing communication like Rainbow Six: Siegeand frankly anything with rock music like mega man are also exempt. But if a game features an abundance of mundane tasks that don’t require sound to complete, such as farming simulation Stardew Valleyhoo baby, my headphones are on.
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I don’t have the heart to watch my game time in Final Fantasy XIVbut I certainly spent dozens hours doing online work quests while listening to the Giant Bombcast, a podcast about – what else? – video games. (It’s all game, all time for me here.) Without podcasts to keep my brain busy, I may have been too bored with the slow, early phases of FFXIV and missed the incredible story it offers in later expansions.
If I just put on a podcast on my own, I go crazy and need something else to do. For example, in 2014, I wanted to listen to the hosts of the aptly named The Worst Idea of All Time podcast document their experience by watching adults 2 (which, I kid you not, is primarily a K-Mart commercial) once a week for a year. To achieve this admittedly silly goal, I spent several weeks racing strangers online in Mario Kart 8 with headphones and the Apple Podcasts app at your fingertips. (I challenge you to find a better way to run through 52 episodes of Adam Sandler’s analysis. You can’t.)
If I hadn’t combined any of these games with these podcasts, chances are I never would have been able to get through any of them.
There are so many games that fit into this dynamic of my life. Stardew Valley and animal crossing are great podcast companion games for me. I’ve wandered absentmindedly so many times Assassin’s Creed worlds while listening to people talk about football. I planted virtual flowers in animal crossing with hardcore analysis of the NBA Finals in the background. And I accumulated thousands of experience points in Dragon Quest XI to the rhythm of wildly insular jokes on Sex and the City 2.
I feel like I’m exercising my brain to its maximum potential by pairing games with podcasts. It’s like doing squats while juggling, except it doesn’t require any skill.
Only so many hours in the day
“Stardew Valley” is definitely in the podcast companion games hall of fame.
I am not unique in this regard. The term “podcast game” is thrown around regularly in my game group chat. Combining podcasts and games saves time, it’s relaxing, and what’s more, you only hear Skyrim the guards joke about taking arrows to the knee so many times before you’re ready to feed your brain something else.
For me, however, a big reason I keep dubbing art forms is that it feels productive. That’s not to say that podcasts or games are time wasters, but rather that this “double fisting” method is the only way I can deal with both hobbies in a timely manner.
I think most people would agree that adult life could be viewed as a series of boring things that you hate to do that only exist to keep you from doing the things that you love to do. Apartment and job hunting, sitting on hold for hours with your bank (to solve nothing), shopping and waiting at the DMV are just a few examples of the things that take up our precious time. It’s a sick cosmic joke that work, the biggest time thief of them all, is needed to fund a gambling habit in the first place.
So, in a way, combining gaming with podcasts is more of a necessity than a hobby. It’s a compromise, of course, but it’s one of the only ways to subvert the demands of the world around me.
At least that’s how I justify the fact that I spent 300 hours playing Mario Kart 8 when I could have learned a new language or found love, or Something.