some thoughts on life at the midway point of persona 5

I am 66 hours into Persona 5. I’ve been playing it basically non-stop since I started. This is the first time in several years that I have played a game almost every single day for this length of time.

I’ve lost my evenings to Persona 5. While I used to read and catch up on YouTube and life, I am now spending 4 hours every evening with this game. Considering that I’m also still skateboarding several times a week, I have lost all sense of what I used to do before…

It’s an interesting game to lose my life to, considering that it’s basically a life simulator. I’ve seen my life decaying around me because of my addiction to this game while seeing Akira’s life build up.

He moved to this city with no one. He met Ryuji — who is my favorite character — on the second day. Akira’s dating Ann now, even though I’m personally in love with Makoto. He’s made a little family with Futaba and Sojiro. He went from having no skills to being charming, proficient, knowledgable, and gutsy. He has tons of other friends and has read a lot of books.

The game is only a year long. I’m at about the halfway point, which is 6 months in. It’s a big testament to how your life can change in a year.

The fundamental conceit of the days is simple: How do you spend your time when you have only have 2 timeblocks every single day?

I’ve reflected on this, and it really isn’t that different than real life. I’d give myself 3 timeblocks on the weekends. (It’s also worth noting that Akira goes to school on Saturday so I really do have more time than him.)

The answer is obvious in the game — focus on your friends. You pretty much only raise your stats when you need to advance a relationship. Otherwise, you always respond to your friends texting you to hang out.

I think the most interesting thing about the game is the way it handles closeness of relationships — Akira has a lot of friends at a relative distance. The top rank of friendship really isn’t even close enough to be a “best friend.” It’s more of a “good friend.” You never get to that point where you’re really that deeply involved in each other’s personal lives. It’s kind of just hang out friends.

I’ve never been one to rank my friends in that way. I pretty much write off anyone who I am not super close to as just someone I know. Not necessarily a friend I just keep at a distance? I’m not sure if this makes sense.

I have about 4-6 best friends at any given time and everyone else is the same to me. I rely and talk to my 4-6 best friends all the time, and everyone else just comes and goes. There’s no emotional fulfillment with the “people I just know.”

I think Persona 5 occurring in my life at this time has really helped solidify that. I’m too sickened by the idea to write down a list of people that maybe I should consider friends (not best friends), because on one end, the list will be very large, and on the other end, it will never feel large enough.

Anyone who knows me knows that I know a lot of people. I meet a lot of people (at least before this year I did). I don’t really have a problem meeting new people. I just don’t value them unless my “best friend sensor” goes off.

Maybe the quiet period of not feeling like I have that many friends would be offset by thinking more in Persona terms. Although Akira is hanging out with people CONSTANTLY, I don’t need to think of it that way. Anyone I talk to at least once every 1-2 months is basically a friend. That’s enough and okay.

“Best friendship” is about having people to rely on. That’s really important, but there shouldn’t be much to rely on people for. (This is irrelevant to this post — but I’m trying to do this less in general.)

But it’s okay to just have friends you talk to about niche topics, or hang out with, and share a single interest with?

(This reminds me that I really want to make some cruising friends. I see skateboarders all the time, but they all seem to be white men, so I don’t want those friends lol. There’s meetups and skate-togethers and whatever in normal times, that’s one of the perks of living in a metropolitan city after all.)

I’m generally trying to wrap my head around the fact that it’s been a really weird year for friendships and I’m okay at the end of it. I just don’t really have a framework for it, so adopting the Persona framework doesn’t seem like a bad idea.

I don’t want to invest as much into friendships as Akira does. I don’t really care. As long as I’m talking to people semi-regularly, even texting and calling, I’m pretty good. I like hanging out with people maybe 1-2x a week. Any more than that and I get drained. I need and like and value my alone time. I tend to feel empty or too hyper after spending time with people a lot — depending on the crowd. That mood isn’t something I chase.

But there’s still credence to the idea of there only being 2 things I can do per day. This has turned out to be relatively true. If we don’t count chores like making dinner or checking email — there’s kind of only 2 “activities” you can do after work. For me personally, hanging out with someone takes those 2 slots.

So recently — basically the entire past month, those 2 slots have been skateboarding and Persona 5. I can not get the energy or the time to read or watch a movie or even catch up on TV.

I think that’s fine, but it’s an interesting way to think about priorities. I think there’s just an illusion that I can maintain all my hobbies, and getting thrown into something like Persona 5 where everything is on pause really puts it into perspective.

There is very little chance at a future where I watch a movie every single day. If we look at the list of hobbies that I listed, there’s at least 7 things there that I do regularly enough to consider it taking up a “slot” of my time:

  • Skateboarding (1 slot)
  • Reading journalism/books (1 slot)
  • English/Bollywood films (1 slot)
  • Gaming (1 slot)
  • TV/YouTube (1 slot)
  • Mandolin (1 slot)
  • Social life (2 slots)

Pursuing this dream where I have everything balanced out in 30-minute chunks per day seems really silly now, actually. No, I won’t skateboard and play mandolin and read and watch a film every day. It’s just not possible to context switch that often and maintain any sense of time.

Given my calculations for 2 slots per weekday and 3 slots per weekend day, that’s 16 slots per week.

In some ways, that’s way too little time. In other ways, that’s enough time to do all of this 2x a week.

I was definitely not watching 2 movies a week and playing mandolin 2x a week (before the P5 addiction). Where were those timeblocks going? I think it was a lot of reading… but I’m not sure, honestly.

Maybe this system of counting timeblocks is a sustainable way to think deliberately about things without falling into the productivity trap of time-tracking and not understanding that time wasted is okay.

I think one thing that’s really interesting about this list is that the actual time taken for each of these timeblocks really varies. I don’t tend to play my mandolin or skateboard for more than 60-90 minutes, but that’s a timeblock. On the other hand, video gaming tends to always be just over 3 hours before I get tired. Reading is always just hours and hours and hours. I can still usually fit in two of these per day, despite the variance. (Life really IS just like video games.)

Just asking myself every morning: What are the 2 things you want to do today, apart from the life maintenance tasks like work, inbox zero, and eating?

I actually might start doing this — particularly because I am trying to skateboard every other day instead of every day. There’s still a few blocks even in this frenzy of a time that aren’t accounted for.