I can...sometimes. This is a pretty keen observation:
In retrospect, maybe I shouldn't have looked.
I was 10 days into playing Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground -- a little RPG I reviewed here last month -- and I was poking around the "settings" menu. I noticed that it had a "time played" option, which shows you how long you've been toiling away at the game. Curious, I clicked it.
Upon which my heart sank into a fathomless pit. Thirty-six hours? How in god's name had I managed to spend almost four hours a day inside this game? I should point out that this was not the only game I'd been playing during that time. I'd also been hip-deep in BioShock and Space Giraffe, so I'd been planted like a weed in front of my consoles for hours more.
This is a missing-time experience so vast one would normally require a UFO abduction to achieve it.
Of course, as the author points out, it's not all bad:
Except, wait a minute. That's just stupid, Puritan thinking. Videogames, like crosswords, are a form of play -- and play is a key element of a healthy adult existence. As game theorist Raph Koster has always pointed out, our playful brains love to seek out patterns, to solve problems -- and there's something existentially joyful about doing this in an environment that doesn't have any stakes if you screw it up
So are video games the bane of your existence, or a healthy diversion? I know the answer has varied for me depending on when you ask, and which game I got last week. I haven't yet picked up a copy of BioShock, but when I do, and particularly after Halo 3 is released, I suspect my answers may be somewhat depressing.