Balancing Gaming and Real Life: The Balance Wheel

I’ve been struggling with balancing WoW/Gaming and home life ever since I started playing in 2006.

I made the decision to write about that balance four months ago. And from that decision came my first “Balance Wheel.” I divided a pie chart into six segments that I felt best represented the different facets of my life: Kids, Games, Blog, Health, Spiritual, and Dan. For every piece I shaded in an estimate of how happy I was with the amount of time I was spending in each area.

Back then, I couldn’t tell you how to balance gaming and RL because I hadn’t figured that out for myself. According to my doodle, I spent little time attending to my WoW characters or my health and spent a lot of time on my blog and the kids.

Last month, I have a different balance wheel. My priorities changed. I lumped the kids and D into Family. I lumped gaming and blog together and added hobbies and business. Hobbies these days include gardening, doodling, or whatever I consider a crucial part of the “quiet time” I make for myself.

I’ve found that each piece of my wheel contributes not only to the balance of the whole, but also directly affects every other piece. For example, part of my investment in Family is the need to provide a secure future for my kids. I’ve done this in the past by starting new business ventures, and recently I’ve partnered with D at the Knowledge Distillery, further blending Family and Business.

I asked ZerenaHoofs how she balances WoW and RL. From what I could tell she seemed to have her shit in order. She was able to WoW, but still be a really good mommy!

* * *

Lil: Some people are obviously engrossed in the game and that’s all they do. Meanwhile they feel tremendous guilt about not being around for their family but don’t know how to break their WoW addiction. I’m sensing from your story that there is that balance between WoW and your family life and I wanted to ask if you had any advice for others out there that may be struggling with it?

Zerena Hoofs: “Honestly, some days it’s hard to keep a balance. I know that there are times I do feel like I should be paying more attention to my kids but I also know that it’s okay for me to have interests of my own. Back when I was raiding a couple of times a week I would give them dinner, put a movie on and hope to god no one needed their butt wiped or cracked their head open for the 2 hours I was online.

I think my balance is in the fact that I know that I have a mental list of things I need to do for them and once that’s done I know I’m free to concentrate on the game. Well maybe semi-concentrate until my husband gets home or they’re in bed. For example, I know I need to fix them dinner, get them bathed and in pj’s, help my kindergartner with his homework, pack their lunches, get their clothes out for the next day, etc. and if I don’t do that stuff I know that MY life becomes more difficult. Because I’m the primary care giver during the week I know that I can’t slack on making sure that stuff is done. My husband doesn’t get home until 7 pm so he really can’t help much except in the mornings.

My weekends are a different story. I know that spending time with my husband and kids is priority #1. In fact, I’d rather be out and about with them instead of sitting at my desk. When I play on the weekends it’s mostly evenings and some sporadic visits during the morning or afternoon.

I’ve learned I need to remember regularly that I am a person too and I’m allowed to have me time. (therapy works!) For a while I lost myself, especially when they were younger and in diapers. I became this person who I really didn’t know anymore just doing everything for the kids, even listening to kid music in the car. (ugh)
In my case it is my expectations of myself that force my balance. My advice to others would be don’t feel guilty about playing the game and taking time for yourself just make sure that you do your best to prioritize real life first. Know your expectations and know your limitations and it should kind of balance out.

It should be said that one of my dream vacations is to be somewhere with an internet connection and play wow for a week or two completely uninterrupted!”

* * *

God I love Zerena and her sense of humor.

The tricky thing is this: Over time, your priorities change.

Sometimes it’s a huge shift like getting married or having kids. Other times it seems like such a small thing, (like drawing), that we don’t even realize it’s eating up so much of our time.

That’s what’s happened to me since the release of Diablo 3. I’ve been playing the hell out of that game, and as a result my wheel has become less symmetrical.

I know I’ll need to make changes in my life if I want to maintain balance, but I also know that sometimes you just get out of whack. Like Zerena says: “Honestly, some days it’s hard to keep a balance.”

It’s an ongoing struggle. Sometimes I achieve the perfect balance and go to sleep content in the knowledge that I did everything I wanted to do that day. Other times I blow an entire evening playing Diablo 3 and lay awake feeling guilty that I didn’t spend enough time with the kids or working on my business.

But I think I’ve become a little more forgiving of myself. I know balance is key, but I also understand that I’m not perfect and what was balanced one day may not be balanced the next.

Will a Balance Wheel work for you? I don’t know. I wish I could write you a step by step guide on how to balance Gaming Time with Life Time, but I can’t. I know what’s worked for me in the past and I know what will likely work for me in the future. I also know a lot of you struggle with the same issue of balance.

So why not give it a try? It’ll take you 10 minutes max, and if you’re honest with yourself I bet you’ll uncover at least part of the solution.

Here’s how to make your own Balance Wheel:

  1. Identify areas of your life that are most important to you. Some examples might be: family, work, exercise, spirituality, health, parents, school, etc. Take some time doing this. You might find that certain areas are not as important as you thought, or may not measure up to what you’ve been told is “normal.” That’s okay! Always remember that this is YOUR life.
  2. For each area, assign it a number from 1-10. This number represents how pleased you are in that current area. 1 being not happy and 10 being nearly perfect. Going back to my first balance wheel from February, here’s what my numbers looked like.
    Kids: 9
    Games: 2
    Blog: 10
    Health: 2
    Spiritual: 7
    Dan: 7
  3. Using 1 as shading closest to the center of the circle and 10 being furthest from the center, shade in for each category that represents the number you assigned in step 2. For example, if you assigned a 10 for family, shade in the entire pie piece. If you assigned it a 1, shade a very small portion closest to the center.
  4. Take a look at how balanced your life looks right now. Is it a perfect circle? Is it an amoeba? Are you spending way too much time at work? Are you not spending enough time with the wife?
  5. We all have the same amount of time during each day. 24 hours. What changes are you going to make in your life to satisfy your and other people’s (family) needs?

I’ll leave you with this wisdom from Doom Guy, best known for his Zombie Plague infestation of Stormwind back in WotLK:

“Real life comes first, gaming comes second. My advice to those who are struggling to find a good balance between real life and gaming is to look at your life, think about what you want out of it, and figure out how to get it. I always wanted a family; a loving and beautiful wife and some adorable children. Now I have those and I want to keep them. Keeping your life just the way you want it is different for everyone. Few people can get away with gaming as their main focus in life. For me, I have to push gaming aside and hope for time for it. A good way to look at it is that without real life, games could never exist, so best maintain real life so you can maintain your gaming life.”

Feel free to let me know how your exercise goes. And if you have any tips for my readers about how YOU balance WoWing/gaming and RL, please share!

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10 Responses
  1. Ninevi says:

    It’s kind of hard for me to come up with something to write here, because this post and all of the advice speak directly to a lot of the time balancing troubles I’ve been feeling lately. It’s very uplifting to hear from others’ experiences, and I thank you for sharing both you and Zerena’s insights and suggestions.

    For me, it’s mostly having to do with spending too much time at work and basically thinking more about games than actually playing them. I think I’ve just gotten to one of the points in my life where a good re-evaluation of balance is needed to figure out and optimize my overall happiness. What may have been a working balance wheel for me previously definitely doesn’t seem to be working at all now, and it’s time for me to figure out what needs to be changed. Thank you again for the Balance Wheel tips — will definitely be writing it out later today and doing some more self-reflecting. 🙂

  2. Rezznul says:

    This is a great article. Thanks to you and Zerena for sharing!

    It is hard for me to find balance, and I always am on the lookout for ways to improve my approach.

    My wife works off shift from me, so as soon as I get home, I am on my own. I love my kids, so really I don’t mind. What is hard is finding that space to decompress and relax, if not for a moment. I find myself struggling to find openings for that.

    I am going to give it a shot, and try to map out things, to get a good grasp of where I can rebalance. 🙂

    • Lilpeanut says:

      Thank you, and I’m happy to hear you’ll be doing the exercise! I’m right there with you, we do kids in shifts here at home too. But we both work from home so there is no escaping the kids ever! In order to have time to relax and decompress (so important), we make sacrifices. Sacrificing SLEEP to have that “me” or “us” time isn’t a choice though really. It’s our only option. I don’t know, Rezz. Have you considered sacrificing your WoW time to do something even more relaxing? Meditating? Reading? Hot bath? 🙂

      • Anonymous says:

        I actually have cut down WoW time a ton, so I can read in silence. I’ve even tried some relaxation exercises. I need to do that some more, 🙂

  3. Cel says:

    TY to both you and Zerena for this. I have a pretty good balance between WoW and my son (pretty much don’t get on before 8pm except for events) even though I still never feel like I spend enough time with him. I’m weaker than I’d want to be at guild participation and fitness. Work stress is probably a bigger problem for me than WoW, like Rezznul I feel like I never get a moment for my own sanity..

  4. Aidrana says:

    I struggle with the same things as you do! I think most people have a lot of things they’d like to do, but have to honor things that they have commited to like the spouse, kids, their jobs and so on. It’s a matter of finding that right balance, and I agree with you completely that it’s tricky.

    It’s good to see you’re a little more forgiving on yourself if you take a night off here and there instead of doing chores to play Diablo 3 🙂 I do that too, I’ll change my mind one night if I decide that I’m just too tired and would rather use the night to veg out. As long as we don’t take one too many nights off, we’re doing alright 🙂

  5. Prefer not to say says:

    I married my husband back in November. I moved across the country for him, pretty much giving up eveerything. I work long hours at a job i hate to pay our bills. He’s been unemployed since January but recently started classes, so now he’s gone all day. The problem is that when he gets home from class, allhe wants to do is play Diablo 3. our life now revolves around it, and if I try to ask him to play less or to stop he flips out about how I control him and how I’m ruining things in game for him.

    It’s tearing me apart, and he doesn’t care. He’d rather sit at his computer than go on romantic walks or do anything. Sunday he told me we were going to “spend the day” together. We we nt for a walk..for about an hour, then he rushed home to play. I love him so much and I have no fucking clue what to do. This is ruining my self esteem, my happiness, and my peace of mind. He’s in his late 20s.

    • Lilpeanut says:

      That’s a tough one. Firstly I’m really sorry that you have to go through that. It must be rough. I’m not a marriage counselor nor have I been in your exact situation so take my advice with a grain of salt… maybe you can make plans for the both of you. Be like, “hey let’s go do this…” So if you’re making plans there’s not really much he needs to do but to show up. (Kinda sucks that you have to be the one to take the initiative but I think it’s a step in the right direction). There’s marriage counseling… it might help him figure out why it is that you’re not a priority… but unless he’s willing to go and wants to go, it might not work. So there are things I’d suggest you do before doing that. Like have a heart to heart with him. “Look, this is affecting our relationship, I’m not happy…”

      Put yourself in his shoes too. He’s been unemployed, and I don’t know what else, but I’d imagine that would totally damage my own self-esteem, not being able to provide for my family. I’m sure any mention of Diablo 3 and he gets defensive and feels attacked. When I was glued to WoW for hours on end it wasn’t because I didn’t love my family. The real world just hurt too much at the time. Some days I was strong enough to face reality, but some days I just needed that escape.

      I hope your situation gets better.

  6. Navimie says:

    I have to say I’m loving all this visual art things you’re doing Peanut! They look really awesome 🙂

  7. mary-li says:

    it is difficult to make the desicion.

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