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The long game

Opinion: Tim Ingham doesn't have the hours in the day...

"Do you need any help packing?"

A nervous grin creases my cheeks as I dismiss Checkout Girl's emasculating enquiry. She tilts her head forward in response, offering a plaintive expression and a mouthed, half-hearted, "Okay.". She looks goofy - almost dottily virtuous - in her netted hat and lemon overalls. But there is an odd air of menace to her.

Her eyes still fixed on mine, she jolts the supermarket conveyor belt into action - and begins robotically rolling items over her red-eyed scanner.

Beep. Beep. Sausages, pizza, tomatoes tumble down. I carefully begin stacking each item in the ghastly green, tissue-thin bags in front of me.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beans, celery, washing tablets. A small pile of sustenance begins to form under my hands as I struggle to match Checkout Girl's pace.

"Could you just..."

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

"Please, maybe just..."

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

Faster now. She's taunting me; daunting me. I swear they're getting louder. God, they're definitely getting quicker. Did her eyes just glow crimson?

BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.

The gossamer plastic under my hand splits, and packs of yoghurt and shower gel jettison onto the growing mountain.

BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.

Sense of volume escapes me.

"Stop it! You witch! I can't take this any more! I can't take it!"

The beeping dies, along with the panic. The entire room's eyes are upon me. Checkout Girl's threat has diluted into vulnerable whimpering. A diminutive old man with a craggy forehead shuffles over. He wears a plastic badge with stars on it. He says quietly in my ear: "Please. Just leave. You are obviously not a real adult. We only serve proper people here."

It's a recurring nightmare. And I know what's inspired it.

Every week, they come in droves: Excellent, acclaimed software juggernauts, flogged by wide-grinned developers, intensely proud of the Triple-A babies they've painstakingly crafted.

Zoom

Need For Speed, Black Ops, Fable III, New Vegas, Donkey Kong Country Returns, AC: Brotherhood, GoldenEye 007, Halo: Reach - these are my shopping list. Treyarch, Ubisoft, Harmonix, Lionhead - they are my Checkout Girls.

And you, dear reader, you have become my therapist. Cheers for that.

It's not just the new titles, either. Currently gathering dust atop my consoles are Mafia 2, Bioshock 2, Ghost Of Sparta and Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow. I've dabbled with them all - but, in truth, not given them half the devotion they deserve. My sanity is at stake.

There are 24 hours in the day. For me, most of those are taken up writing words like these.

And these.

One's dedicated to masticating.

At least 30 minutes involve compressing the highlights of the other two into conversation.

Then there are cups of tea, email, ironing, Stuart Baggs, Comparethemarket.com and slumber. (Which, as we've established, is all-too-often interrupted by Morrisons'-based mind terrors).

Zoom

In a working week, that leaves 60, maybe 80, minutes for my beloved hobby each night. Combined, just the estimated campaign time of the previously mentioned games reach a goliath 110 hours.

No wonder kids are still erroneously looked on as video gaming's biggest consumers. They're the only ones with enough time on their hands to get the most out of it.

Is there a solution? Perhaps. For starters, it's bizarre that games don't have an approximate 'running time' on them. For time-poor - read employed - fans of entertainment, it's important that we know when we're getting an 80-minute knockabout comedy or a three-hour epic. The movie industry obliges. Why don't video games?

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