Habits

Lately the amount of time I spend traveling for work has been excessive; I’m often out of my home three or four days a week. Sometimes longer. The “advantage” to this, at least as far as this blog and my gaming hobby is concerned is that it provides me with additional time to write and play MMOs that I otherwise wouldn’t have at home. For a while I kept the time I spent gaming even while away to no more than an hour or so longer than what I would have done were I at home, but over the last few weeks that’s changed and I’ve started to spend additional hours gaming when I’m away.

There are many readymade excuses of course—I don’t have much else I could be doing, I’m tired from an often physically exhausting job, it’s only for a couple of days, etc. However I’ve noticed that this additional time spent playing games on the road affects my expectations when I get back home. I am by all definitions an introvert and slightly obsessive compulsive so I prefer to be alone and I am most comfortable when I have set patterns in my life. For a while now that has included taking an hour and a half most evenings to play an MMO and another thirty minutes to write.

However being allowed even for a few days to immediately withdraw from people after work and delve into the comfortable pattern of MMO gaming has created a desire to be able to do the same when I’m at home; it very quickly devolves from exception to expectation. Unfortunately this is not a first for me. When I began playing MMOs and especially once I discovered raiding in World of Warcraft I would do the same. “I can get in an extra hour or two, the kids are busy playing with friends,” I’d tell myself. Or I’d wake up on a Saturday and immediately sit down to farm mats or level alts as I sipped my morning coffee only to continue playing in the afternoon and evening if I could get away with it. It was an unhealthy time in my life as an MMO enthusiast and more than once I questioned whether or not I should just quit altogether.

That isn’t to suggest that I’ve noticed the same degree of obsession this time around but that I am all too aware of what it can devolve into. The irony in all this is that at the same time I’ve been looking to make some new habits in our family life so that we spend more meaningful time together without TV, electronics, or devices of any kind. However developing that kind of family habit really does require me to be home consistently and so I’m struggling to find the time I need to get us started down this route as a family. So because of this travel I’m on the precipice of developing some very bad habits as a gamer yet I’m also feeling crippled in my ability to cultivate new family habits at home. What to do?

Well, pray for one. That for me is a given. I’m praying once again that I would either hold loosely to this hobby of mine and let it be holy, consecrated for God— “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31) or that I lay it aside. I’m praying for the wisdom, resolve, and love that I need to develop these new habits in our family life. And I’m also praying for a change in the travel time required for my job and I fully expect to be writing about the answer to all these in a future “Answered Prayer” post. Whatever happens I don’t want to go back to those early WoW days when my every waking thought was about class builds, professions leveling, and BiS gearing.

For my own wellbeing and as a role model for my family I want to demonstrate a heart for worshipping Christ alone and to exercise that freedom I have in Christ responsibly. My hope is that I’m able to do so and also be able to continue playing MMOs and be a part of this community. Perhaps the problem is I’m too bound to the latter for the former to be possible. Either way I trust the Lord to resolve this internal conflict and it’s nice to be able to share all of this with people who won’t view my love of gaming and MMOs as petty but who can also appreciate the value I place on Christ and family.

Have any of you experienced a time when your gaming hobby was out of balance with the rest of your life? Is there any advice you would give, especially to a husband and dad for improving and prioritizing family time while still being a gamer?

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4 thoughts on “Habits

  1. Yep, in college with no family life or work to worry about, and with certain lectures being eminently skippable because one couldn’t make head or tail out of what the instructor was mumbling to the blackboard anyway… My gaming life got a tide bit… runaway, shall we say. The age of multi-user stuff was just coming into its own too, so it was a really exciting frontier to explore.

    These days, I think the key is being a lot more discerning about the games we’re playing. “Alarm clock” games that require you to live by their schedules, or must-check-in at certain intervals or face lost progress, should be taken right out of the equation. Ditto games with save points at certain locations, or organized scheduled group content kind of stuff – anything that might demand equal or more attention over what you want to prioritize. If family is key, then being able to just shut off the game on demand (and resume later) is less hidden stress all around, so choose games that respect that kind of playstyle.

    Personally, my own routine has stretch for some of the above types of games, but I usually don’t fool myself that it’s going to be a long term commitment. I maybe play one of them at a time, telling myself I am knowingly doing this at a hardcore level for a while, and then I stop the obsessing after a month or two. This might not be for you if you already have more pressing priorities.

    Another possibility is blending family time with gaming time. Play a console game -with- a family member or hop on a Minecraft server or some other cooperative game. Maybe even a board game that doesn’t require anything electronic at all.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m neither a partner nor a parent but I would second Jeromai’s suggestion of playing some games with your kids. I’ve always wished that my parents would have played video games with me because I think it would have been a lot of fun and a good way for us to find a common interest. Other than Minecraft, I believe the Lego games are kid-friendly and most–if not all–have built-in local co-op. I wouldn’t force the gaming if it’s disliked though, that’s what lead to my current aversion to board games.

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  2. I have often similarly walked this line, still do actually. I don’t have too much of an obsessive compulsive nature, so I don’t battle with that aspect in maintaining control thankfully. That can be a real struggle. However I too am an introvert, recharging from private time more than anything else. The trap for me has often been the more busy life gets the more “escapist” I want to become in my video gaming. In that virtual world I am in control, I do what I want, I don’t have to answer to anyone! That is very attractive to me. That is even one of the things that drew me to a software development career from my previous one; if I code it right, it works, if not, it doesn’t. No ambiguity, no shifting emotional traps, I am in control. That is still a bit of an illusion but as a person who likes to control things it’s a comfortable one! 🙂 I have also for the past several years been the volunteer worship coordinator at my church. This role requires a decent amount of administration and planning. When my daughter was born that work moved later and later into the night. The result of that of course was that I stayed up later to get the work done, but then also stayed up beyond that to get some gaming me-time. It’s not a healthy pattern and something I still struggle with now even though my daughter is 6.

    So where I am going with this comment? That was a bit of context from where I come from. Couple of things I have been doing:

    1. One thing we have been really working on as a family is actually taking a Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11). For us since we are heavily involved in our church, Sunday never feels like a Sabbath and we certainly don’t rest on Sunday even though it is fun and spiritually recharging. So we picked Saturday. We have been doing our best to keep that day free for family and rest. Sometimes that includes tech, we like gaming and movies, but it also focusses on together time as a family and a day where my wife and I can shut off the incessant “you should be doing…” voice and not feel guilty about it. We don’t manage it every week, but we are getting better at it and when we get it it is pure gold. Even my daughter’s behaviour is better after the down day. Maybe God was on to something there! 😉

    2. The second is a passage I come back to over and over, and I don’t think applying it here is too much of a contextual stretch: Matthew 6:25-34. This passage is certainly about earthly needs, but it is bigger than that. It is about priorities and worry. If we align our priorities correctly with God and His kingdom then the desires of our hearts will be the same as God’s and all of our lives will fall into the correct scope. If we are always seeking God first and foremost, how could anything displace that pursuit, be it gaming, family, job, etc? And also v.34 is astoundingly reassuring for me no matter what I am facing in my life. God has me, He is in control. I cannot go anywhere that He has not already gone. As long as I continually align with Him and His will, the other things will be in their correct spots in my life. If something is out of whack, He’ll let me know. I don’t have this implemented perfect in my life at this point (huge understatement there), but it is a key guidepost for me each step of the way when I frequently lose sight of the goal. Thankfully God is patient and full of grace!

    And prayer, as you said, is certainly key in all of this. How else do we pursue God’s will than actually spending time with Him? Although I frequently have to remind myself of that the more busy my life gets. I’ll be praying too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I definitely see where you are coming from. I spent a lot of time at home during my substitute teaching so whenever I wasn’t called in, I would be at home. Being at home all day can certainly put you in a weird place, and being with community filled that void. Prayer and turning to the word can also turn these times into a more spiritually refreshing time as well. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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