Six Months of Tracking with ManicTime

As I mentioned back in the Month in Review post back in January, I started off the new year with the time tracking application ManicTime in order to see what games I was really playing, and how much I was playing, over time.

If you read the Month in Review posts, you may have noticed that there is a new section each month that reports what I played according to ManicTime.  If you don’t, or haven’t noticed… well, you probably have probably stopped reading by this point.  Oh well.

I had previously tried this sort of thing with XFire and Raptr, but found those to be generally unsatisfactory.  That was largely due to how they presented your data… which wasn’t very well at all.  For a couple of years running Raptr would send users a nice annual report showing their top games played, which was fun.  But that fell off after a while.  And the services themselves had their own issues tracking time.  EVE Online was perennially problematic with Raptr, for example, and simply wouldn’t get tracked as often as not.

After six months of running ManicTime I wanted to see what I had played so far in 2019.  The list probably isn’t too surprising.  Broken out by percentages, the top ten from January 1st through June 30th were:

  1. World of Warcraft – 29.89%
  2. EVE Online – 22.29%
  3. RimWorld – 16.59%
  4. LOTRO – 9.98%
  5. Minecraft – 7.90%
  6. EverQuest – 7.78%
  7. Path of Exile – 1.76%
  8. Diablo – 0.95%
  9. WoW Classic – 0.60%
  10. Civilization V – 0.95%

World of Warcraft reigns supreme, even though I have taken some time off from it now and again this year.  I was a bit surprised that EVE Online was that far behind WoW, but we’ll get to why that is below.

Hardcore

ManicTime tracks all of your activity.  It will tell you what apps were in use on a given day.

Some applications

It also goes down to the individual document level.  If you are interested, see which browser you had running, which web sites you visited, and how long you stayed on any given page.  Or, which Twitch streamer you watched for how long.  Or which server and room you spent time in on Discord.  Keep your nose clean or ManicTime will rat you out.

In Focus

One of the interesting aspects of ManicTime is how it counts time towards specific applications.  In the past, when I measured time using things like XFire or Raptr, they watched the executable and would give me a total of how many hours it was active.

ManicTime, which was meant to be used to support billing activities, is much more granular.  It only counts the time that a given application is in the foreground and active.  This definitely has an impact on some games.

EVE Online probably takes the biggest hit from this.  I would say, without a doubt, of the applications that spent the most time launched and running, EVE Online would easily be at the top of the list.  But, if focus is required for time to count… well, then you start to see how much time I spend tabbed out of the game.  Here is what an evening might look like:

EVE Online focus time

I was up and in a fleet in EVE Online between 6:30p and 8:50pm one evening.  That is 2 hours and 20 minutes of linear time.  However, the gray bands show when EVE Online was actually the foreground application, and the total for ManicTime is just 1 hour and 25 minutes.  You can see the periods of time when I was tabbed out because we were still docked up.

And even some of the EVE Online time isn’t for that fleet.  I logged in an alt and was doing some stuff in Jita while waiting for us to undock. (Cainun has trouble with time and pinged us to log in about 45 minutes early.)  So there were some stretches of time where the game had focus but where I might have otherwise been tabbed out into other apps while I waited for things to happen.

And on Black Ops fleets the time spent tabbed out can be hilarious.  You sit on the blops for an hour, all the while doing other things, waiting for the FC to say in your ear, “Wake up!  Wake up!  Bridge!  Bridge!” Then you have a 20 minutes or so of activity, after which you’re back on the blops waiting again.

Compare EVE Online to the stretch afterwards where I played Civilization V.  I had an audio book running and played for almost two hours straight without tabbing out once.  Some games lend themselves to that.  My World of Warcraft sessions tend to have a lot less time spent tabbed out as well, which is why it comes in ahead of EVE Online despite the fact I have probably spent more time with EVE Online launched.  I have spent time waiting for a blops bridge doing world quests in WoW, so sometimes my EVE time is spent playing WoW.

All on the PC

The one hole in all of this down-to-the-second accuracy is that it only tracks games I play on my Windows box.  If I am out playing Pokemon Go or playing some game on the iPad while I listen to the TV, that doesn’t get counted.  That isn’t to say that I expected it get counted.  It is more that ManicTime is a solution for a specific situation.

Hawthorne Effect

I recall from a college systems study class discussing what is sometimes called the Hawthrone Effect, where knowing that you are being measured in some form changes your behavior.  Changing the lighting levels at a Western Electric factory improved worker productivity no matter what change was made.  That they knew they were being measured made them work harder.

So how does knowing I am being measured affect me?  Do I game harder?

Maybe.

I have caught myself trying to keep EVE Online in the foreground more often than I otherwise might have.  No doubt some part of my brain wants to make sure the game gets represented better despite my tendency to be in other windows.

But what it does more often is suppress my desire to launch other games.  This came up a bit during the Steam Summer Sale where you, to earn some of the event points you had to play certain games and accomplish specific tasks.  I thought about diving into a couple of games, but decided I didn’t really want to have them tracked because I really had no plan to write about them.

That is likely some internal conflict between the blogger part of my brain and the gamer part of my brain, which overlap but still have their own agenda at times.  Most of the time this is not an issue because I am boring and play the same games for years at a stretch.

Results

So far I am happy with how ManicTime is tracking.  In addition to giving me in some insight into what I have been playing, it also adds in a bit of information about how I am playing… at least with EVE Online.

3 thoughts on “Six Months of Tracking with ManicTime

  1. SynCaine

    It is interesting you don’t play other games. I get that MMOs take up a lot of gaming time, but you still have an incredibly short list of titles you have tried (at least according to this tracking).

    Doubly surprising considering how many good titles get released now, and how affordable many are thanks to Steam.

    Like

  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @SynCaine – Well, that was only the top ten I posted. However, if I list out all the games tracked the total doesn’t quite get to 20.

    I think this may be related to getting older. I am often satisfied and comfortable playing games where I already have some context and background. That is a pretty dated list, I will admit. RimWorld is the most recent release in the top ten, and Star Craft and Age of Empires II will show up for July. More old stuff. I did buy GTAV, but that is from 2013, so I am going the wrong direction!

    I think the other thing we’re seeing here is that I don’t play video games as much as I may have in the past.

    Like

  3. Kryss

    Wow, i guess i missed your post about starting using ManicTime, i use Game Time Tracker and it’s too basic, need more data. Definitly try ManicTime.

    Liked by 1 person

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