It's a question I get a lot when someone finds out that I'm a Video Game Designer...and the answer is no, I don't sit around all day and play video games. In a previous post, I talked a bit about what a Game Designer's role is like so check that out if you want a bit of insight into what I do.
There's only one job in this industry that plays games all day and that's a tester which is generally where people start in the industry. But let's be clear about one thing, yes they play games all day...but it's always the same one and they aren't doing it for fun. Their job is to constantly try and break the game, so spending hours at a time literally jumping against the walls of a level to find holes is the kind of thing they do.
But, this did get me thinking a bit about my personal gaming time and how it diminishes greatly when I'm working extra hours. I generally try to get an average of 1-2 hours a night of some kind of gaming, but during times like now when I'm trying to finish a project that time goes down to almost zero. I find that when I get home, I just want to unwind and do something non interactive. I tend to watch TV, a movie, or just browse the net. I have my personal game stack or "Stack of Shame" that currently has Crackdown 2, Red Dead Redemption, and Blur sitting on top of it...but just don't have the motivation.
I found this study that says people who work more than 10 hours a day are 60% more likely to have heart disease or a heart attack. Well that's exactly what I needed to read, especially when I'm trying to cram 4 weeks of work into 2 weeks before I leave for Gamescom in Germany later this month. But, like I've said before, it's really about making sure you take the time to relax and not over do it even when you do have to crunch.
One thing I do believe is that a Game Designer must play games if they want to stay on top of their game (no pun intended). There are so many times in a design meeting where someone is trying to get an idea across and they will say something like "Remember that one mission in Modern Warfare 2 where..." It's a really great way to get ideas across in a creative profession where it's often difficult to do. But, the importance of playing games goes beyond that. I'll see things all the time that make me analyze how they achieved it technically, or see something that sparks an idea for me in the game I'm working on. Playing great games helps to challenge you creatively and give you a bar to shoot for in any project you are working on.