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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

Asshats

I’ve mentioned several times that games like WoW allow us to be the best version of ourselves. While it’s easy to lose yourself in a virtual world that can bring you great friendships, great relationships, and amazing accomplishments, at least you’re striving to be better; to do good and give back to the community that’s embraced you.

But the same isn’t true for everyone, is it?

I hate to be cynical about it, but I think for every one person who wants to leave a good impression there’s someone else out there who just wants to be a complete and utter dick, mostly because they can. John Gabriel of Penny Arcade lovingly dubbed this the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, basically stating that a normal, everyday person, when given complete anonymity and an audience via the internet, will turn into a total asshat.
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Category: WoW IRL  Tags: , ,  4 Comments

How Social Anxiety Affects My Game

For the past few weeks, I just haven’t felt like myself. It’s not that I’ve been particularly antisocial, but I began to dread the idea of interacting with new people or getting myself into unfamiliar situations. And meeting new people and trying new things is such an important part of my life and my business that I knew I couldn’t keep feeling that way. So I sat down and had a chat with Dr. L about it…

Me: I’m not sure why, but I’ve had the hardest time getting outside lately. Even if it’s just to go to the store. It’s the weirdest thing; I can’t get motivated to do anything that requires me to be out in public. Picking my son up from school is a big deal, too. I do it because I have to, but I really dread it. And it’s not because I’m lazy. At home I clean and do chores like crazy.

Doc: So it sounds like it’s not due to fatigue or depression. What’s this block you’re talking about?’

Me: I have no idea. I don’t want to talk to people, I don’t want people talking to me; I don’t want anyone to even LOOK at me. If D is with me I can go out and do anything. As long as he’s by my side, I have no problems. But it’s doing things by myself… just talking about it is making me flustered.

Doc: I can see that. I can see you’re blushing… Tell me, when you were in school were you always in the back, never raised your hand and dreaded the teacher calling on you?

Me: Yes!

Doc: And it wasn’t because you aren’t bright and didn’t know the answer. In fact you’re probably extremely bright but your teachers didn’t know it because you never spoke up in class.

Me: You’re totally right.

Doc: In business meetings you probably never spoke up even if you had a brilliant idea, because you were thinking: “What if I say the wrong thing?” or “What if they make fun of me because I say something stupid?”

Me: Yep, been there. And I’ve found it very hard to pick up the phone to do business-related stuff these past couple weeks. I’d much rather email. I can get on the phone, but not without a cigarette. But I’m an introvert. Don’t all introverts feel this way?

Doc: No. This is beyond introvert/extrovert. I’m an introvert and I don’t have those fears you’re talking about. What you’re describing sounds like social anxiety. It’s characterized by intense fear in social situations. To some it only occurs in new, unfamiliar social situations.

Me: I’m scared I might say the wrong thing and then replay the words over and over in my head. But I also say: “It’s okay. In a week you’re probably not going to remember you said that stupid thing. And most likely that other person has already forgotten you said that stupid thing.”

Doc: Right. People with social anxiety have this fear of being judged by others and a fear of being embarrassed and humiliated.

They're all gonna laugh at you!

So the doc went on about it, describing my past few weeks to a T. I told him I didn’t want to be on any more medication; that I wanted to try and tackle this on my own and find other tools to help me, especially since I’m already on bipolar medication to stabilize my moods and I feel like a zombie at times.

And perhaps most frustrating to me, the situation he described doesn’t ALWAYS happen. I’m not always curled in a ball of anxiety, dreading the world around me. Some days I’m perfectly social. I’ve gotten up on stage and spoken in front of hundreds of people before with no problem! I’ve done motivational talks to small groups. I’ve competed in jiujitsu tournaments with hundreds of people watching me. I used to have a job that required me to meet new people every day. Some days it’s not even anxiety, but fatigue or depression that keeps me from interacting. But when it does happen, it seems as crippling and restrictive as any other mental disorder. So I might take his advice and seek group therapy. I’m kind of looking forward to putting myself in a group with other people that feel the same things I do.

Because I do like making new friends. I do like getting to know people. I like to be present and authentic and share my stories and listen to others. I like to show compassion and be a good listener. That’s ultimately what I’m most passionate about: Helping others. But how can I do any of that if I’m limited by this thing called social anxiety?

Sometimes I wonder where I’d be if not for this occasional block. I wonder how far I could have taken my businesses if not for the fear of speaking.

So I guess I’ve always had social anxiety. But when I’m hypomanic–and only when I’m hypomanic–I can speak to people no problem. Now I’m on medication that prevents me from seesawing into a hypomanic state and the one bit of armor I had is stripped away, revealing the anxiety underneath.

It wasn’t really good news. Knowing there are apparently several layers to my mental health is always going to be a challenge as I cut through each of them one by one. But just knowing means I can recognize that I’m not being lazy or purposefully anti-social. It makes sense to me.

And it gives me another justification for my intense love of World of Warcraft. I can be social. I can think about my responses and mitigate the fear of putting my foot in my mouth. I can laugh out loud and not be afraid of sounding stupid to anyone. I can greet new people without instantly thinking they’re judging me. I can contribute my thoughts to a guild chat discussion without worrying about what other people might think.

But this also explains why I sometimes have a hard time speaking up in Vent, even with guildies. Even though I know they’re all super cool and for the most part drunk or at least buzzed and won’t remember that stupid thing I said or the stupid way I said it. There’s just this underlying fear that holds me back from saying what I want to say, even if it’s on the tip of my tongue.

It might also explain my recent Arena frustrations. I want so badly to be good at it. My teammates say I’m doing great. But there’s still this thing in the back of my mind that believes they’re lying. They just can’t tell me how much I suck to my face. They talk behind my back about that thing I did where I fucked up and lost us the match and how much they hate me and the world is coming down and it’s all my fault… Yeah. Do you hear how redonk this is? It’s so totally irrational and I’m smart enough to know that. But there’s just that SOMETHING that lingers within, telling me I’m the root of every problem imaginable.

The sad thing is, there’s a shred of truth here; I’m at least partially responsible for our record. While we win more than we lose, almost every one of our losses can be chalked up to lack of communication. Could it have something to do with my half of the team being too afraid to say anything on Vent?

And my Arena partner… Light bless his patient soul… Listen up @ShifteaIRL (And @KrisstinaWoW when we do 3s): I’m pledging right here and now to communicate better! I know we’ve already made strides toward it. On Friday after each match we talked in Vent and evaluated what went right and what went wrong, and we’ve already gotten a lot better! (Could be that he’s running a DK instead of the Warrior… not sure).

I want to be able to communicate at the highest point of stress when it matters the most. Because I’m a damn good disc priest. Okay, maybe not damn good. But I’m not shitty. I’m that annoying priest in BGs that you can’t kill (unless you’re a rogue). I’m that “Shoo pally! Go be efficient! Help get your flag back and stop wasting your time trying to kill me! Or if killing me is really THAT important to you, come back with some friends” priest.

I may be good. But I want to be great. I’m talking 2200+!

I have decided to tackle this on my own. I don’t want it to limit me. I don’t want to be held down by anything. This isn’t a passive affliction I’m going to let rule my life. This is a challenge I can conquer just like any other.

Funny how the “thing” that’s been holding me back… was myself.

If you have symptoms similar to the ones I’ve described— symptoms that have kept you from doing the things you want to do in life—please at least check out the links below and speak to a doctor. Life doesn’t have to be this way. We deserve better.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_anxiety_disorder

http://www.socialanxietyinstitute.org/define.html

*Photos from http://www.trialx.com and http://www.anxietycounseling solutions.com

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…