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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!

Category: WoW IRL  Tags: , , ,  10 Comments

Change Your Perception and Gain 5 Skill Points In Optimism

You’re having a shitty day. Nothing is going your way. You left your iPod at home and anytime you’ve tuned in to the radio, it’s been nothing but commercials. You’ve been running errands and somehow end up in the longest check-out line at the store. Traffic is horrendous and as hard as you try, you can’t seem to get in the faster lanes. Finally, some WoW time at home, but only after an hour-long patch.

Fuck your life.

By the time you actually do log in, the server’s unstable and nobody can stay connected for more than 5 minutes. After a rollback and restart – and a tank who’s 30 minutes late – you run Dragon Soul for the 10th time and that trinket still doesn’t drop. Or it drops, but some warlock prick wins the role, when it was so clearly a healer trinket. more…

Balancing WoW and Real Life: Understanding the Psychology of Addiction

I’m on a quest for balance. Specifically: Balancing WoW and family life. I don’t spit out words that my actions can’t cash. So if I say that my family and my kids are important to me, then I damn well better make them a priority over my games. I lost my baby girl to a rare disease and if there’s one lesson I’ve learned, it is to make each moment count.

I find myself playing the game less and less these days, but it has taken me years to get to this point. One thing that brought some understanding was to know the psychology of addiction and the mechanics of how the game takes its hold over me. An article on http://www.cracked.com helped to open my eyes and I want to help others bring that balance to he lives of others too, but first allow me to explain that psychology of addiction. more…

Why Do You Game?

I’m super excited to welcome a guest to the blog for this week’s post. The following was submitted by Tshaddz, a fellow WoW-loving PvPer, on his thoughts about gaming and why it is that he games.

“Why do you game?” This is a question I am asked far too many times by friends, family and significant others, usually with a negative connotation. More often than not, I answer them with a simple: “Because it’s fun and my hobby.”

Is that really the answer though? Is there an underlying reason that I don’t bother to explain because I’m hiding from the truth? Or maybe I don’t bother explaining because I know they still won’t get it?

Before I jump in to answer why I game and why online gaming has become so popular, let me tell a little about myself. I am a 29-year-old man with an amazing girlfriend with whom I live, an ex-wife, a beautiful daughter and great career. All fairly normal things for someone my age, but that’s only part of my life. more…

Is WoW Your Escape?

I used to play WoW every chance I got. Either at home, at work, or whether I had anything else to do that day or not. It just didn’t matter. I remember sitting and playing for huge stretches of time and not even noticing. 3pm came around, and I still hadn’t eaten breakfast. When I did recognize that I was playing way too much, it was something I got defensive about with anyone who brought it up.

For me, WoW was filling the void left behind by my daughter. It was a way to escape the pain of everyday life. It was a way to banish the tedium of responsibility that got lost in my depression-fueled haze. I’d rather stay inside and WoW, than to go outside and be reminded everywhere I turned that I no longer had a daughter. Seeing little children reminded me. Seeing parents reminded me. Looking at my rearview mirror and seeing an empty car seat reminded me. more…

Letting Go: Conquering My WoW Addiction Part 4

This is Part 4 (and the last) of a series. Click here for Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3.

Over the next few months, I manically tried to rebuild my life. I met a wonderful man who accepted that I was still a work in progress, and as far as I’d come I still had a long ways to go. I did eventually return to WoW when we moved back to Los Angeles. My life finally seemed to be somewhat stable again. And when I found out I was pregnant, I had to find low-impact activities to keep me occupied. So one night when I was bored and my son was asleep I decided to dust off the laptop. I seized every moment I had to spend with my son and my boyfriend and only played while my son was asleep or at school. WoW wasn’t my lifeline anymore; it was just a game.
more…

Letting Go: Conquering My WoW Addiction Part 3

(This is Part 3 of a Series. Click here for Part 1 / Part 2)

Installing WoW on our work computers was a big mistake. I ran a small office with my brother and he WoWed too. Maybe we thought that if we played at work more, we’d play at home less. I was trying to take a step toward not being glued to the computer every moment I was home, but it was definitely a step in the wrong direction.
more…

Letting Go: Conquering My WoW Addiction Part 2

(This is Part 2 of a series. Click here for Part 1).

Outside of the game, my husband and I were sleeping in separate beds. Divorce became the next logical step, instead of something we never thought we’d consider. And I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was painful to be with my son. Every time I looked at him, I just felt empty, reminded of the fact that he used to have a sister. I couldn’t take him to the park because the three of us had gone to the park, together. The sight of other young children was like a knife twisted in my chest. I couldn’t even walk by a Starbucks without remembering her asking, “Mommy, want coffee?”

This is what grief does. It carves a hole inside of you; a treacherous cavern that you know will cave in with just the slightest touch. But I didn’t want to face grief. I thought I could outpace it, and even if I was just one step ahead, it would be okay.
more…

Letting Go: Conquering My WoW Addiction Part 1

I never imagined I would need an escape from my day to day life.

At the age of 30 I was married, successful in my career, and mother to two beautiful children. But that year, my world came crashing down. My daughter – just two years old – was forced to fight a devastating bone marrow disorder called Aplastic Anemia. Her bone marrow was unable to produce new blood cells. My husband and I were left helpless and we agonized as our baby girl fought for her life.
more…