PlayStation 5’s Playtime Counter Makes Me Confront My Sinful Existence

Don't look at me.

For most platforms, a built-in play time counter is not a big deal. Steam, Xbox, and Nintendo all have these things baked right into the systems they’re on, and have been visible for years at this point. But for PlayStation, that’s only been the case for about a week, as the PlayStation 5 now has the amount of time you’ve spent playing games dating back to the beginning of the PS4 era right on your PlayStation Network profile. So it seems like the PS4 was keeping track of these things in the backend, but it hadn’t been integrated in any way that was player-facing, short of the annual “here’s what you played last year” recaps Sony has done recently. If you were really determined, you could find out through checking with family controls through a browser, but that’s hardly as efficient as what the PS5 has now. The PS4 was my primary system last gen, and friends, I am looking at the horrifying truth of my playtime of the past seven years and feel like I am confronting demons I had been ignoring for too long.

Some of these play counts are fine. Something like 2018’s God of War coming in at 55 hours sounds right when you take into account that I played that game all the way through twice. The 114 hours into Persona 5 Royal also just serves to remind us that the game is long (and also isn’t long enough because I still didn’t get to do and see everything I wanted to). But there are some weird issues where games appear multiple times, as if your playtime is in pieces. Final Fantasy VII Remake appears twice on my list, one that says I played one hour, and another that sounds like a more reasonable 35 to see it all the way through. This might be in reference to the demo that launched for the RPG, but I kinda wish it wasn’t here cluttering up my space.

The real kicker is when you get to the “forever” games. The Games as a Service, if you will. Here’s where we’re left to confront our deadly sins for all the times we ever said “I don’t have time to play game x, y, or z,” when even a fraction of time removed from these would allow us so much time to play other things we’ve been neglecting. Before we get to the real sin, let’s talk about my first two “forever” games. Street Fighter V was my fighting game of choice for about a year, and I’d known I put a fair amount of time into it before, but the game didn’t have any time counter built in, so I had no idea just how much time I’d spent playing as Hot Ryu. Turns out, in the grand scheme of a lot of the games on this list, it wasn’t that bad, clocking in at 215 hours across one year.

Street Fighter V was my fighting game until 2017, when I got really, really into Injustice 2. It was not only my fighting game love, but it helped solidify Green Arrow as my favorite superhero and even pushed me to get a tattoo. I spent 683 hours playing NetherRealm’s take on the DC universe. But that’s not even that bad compared to where we’re headed next. 

One thing worth noting is that these stats aren’t as accurate as counters you might find in-game, because they straight up just measure how much time the game has spent loaded up on your PlayStation device and on the screen. So, say you left a game paused for an extended period of time and came back to it later, all that time you spent away is recorded as well. Or if you kept something like Kingdom Hearts III on at its main menu so you could listen to “Dearly Beloved” on loop, all that time you spent listening to that lovely song would add to your play count. 

So if I were to, say, leave Overwatch running while I did other things, the time the main menu was up would be making numbers go up. If I were stuck in a long queue time, those numbers would still, in fact, be rising. So that’s why my time playing Blizzard’s hero shooter has reached 1080 hours just in a little under two years of playing it.

Yes, I know that’s probably chump change to a lot of people who have some ridiculous number to throw out for Destiny, or to that one guy I know who has 4551 hours in Dota 2 over the course of eight years. And I’m sure World of Warcraft fans who have been in it since the beginning are straight up laughing at me right now. But I’m having the numbers put right in front of me that tell me just how much more time I’ve spent with Overwatch than probably any game ever. Some of that comes from me being essentially jobless and very much below the poverty line for much of 2019 and not buying other games, but that’s not even the case anymore and yet, here I am still dumping hundreds of hours into one game on the regular while ignoring dozens of games I should be thinking about for GOTY talks next month.

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I have typically been a single player person most of my life, and even that shows in some of these playtimes. Mass Effect: Andromeda and Dragon Age: Inquisition are floating around 300 hours across multiple playthroughs. The Last of Us Part II has 144 hours clocked in from seeing credits three times and then going back to play individual sections I wanted to see again. But eventually those games become things you put down and come back to every few years or so. 

I really have been playing Overwatch with no real goal in mind beyond killing time for about two years, and now that I’m looking at the number, I think there’s part of me that feels like this should be some dirty thing, like a branding on my profile showing how much time I’ve sunk into a game that is built upon a lack of forward momentum. It’s a lot of hours spent being mad about wasted setups, bad teams, or any of the weird issues Blizzard brings to the game as it struggles to keep itself in a good place. But I don’t know, I could see a point where I reach twice that number in another two years. With Overwatch 2 coming (possibly soon) the number might end up split across two games, but the longer I look at that number the less horrific it looks. Once you get past the shock of it all, you remember moments that made up those hours. Good plays, time spent with friends, or using it as an icebreaker to talk to someone new in your life.

So yeah, I’m thinking I’m ready to shoot for 2160 hours by 2022. You know, assuming Overwatch 2 is any good and I’m not distracted by the next shiny “forever” game that comes my way.

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Kenneth Shepard

Kenneth is a Georgia-based writer who still periodically cries about the Mass Effect trilogy years after it concluded.

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