time

Gaming on a time budget – how to get stuff done anyway

time_management_101Adult life is time-devouring. I said that several times on this blog, but reality keeps reminding me of this harsh fact. When one-third of your day is filled with a job, the other third with sleeping, you need quite some impressive micro-managing skills to get all the other things done. One of these other things is probably gaming. Sooner or later, however, you’ll notice that you have only an hour or two a day to truly devote to that. That is, if you don’t want too much wife / husband / girlfriend / boyfriend / bootycall aggro or really want to do the dishes today (psh, like you will). Then again, your still-in-university or in-between-jobs friends are way ahead of you, so you want to at least do some catching up. What to do, what to do?

Well, dear reader, it’s time for a compact lesson in gaming time micro-management, inspired by a cool post written by the Godmother (who should just call herself the Mistress of Garrisons by now). Where she gives you tips for a bucket list, I want to help you guys out with three easy tips to optimize your game time!

1. Know your goals

Wanna hit 90 with that alt in World of Warcraft, or do you want to make some progress during the beta weekend of WildStar? Different goals require different methods and different time amounts. Creating goals gives you something to work towards to, including a sense of completion once you reach one. Give yourself clear goals for the week, and see that you work on those.

2. Know your time budget

On a good weekday, I have about two hours worth of consecutive gaming time. This means that I can plan my goals around that, making sure to not reach for the unreachable. Try to track your average daily time budget, and adjust your goals to fit them. Your rare minutes of gaming time will feel less worth if you try to achieve too much in too less time.

3. Get SMART

In the business world, companies like to formulate their goals SMART: specific, measurable, ambitious, realistic and time-related. When creating your goals based on your wishes and available time, run them through these five letters and see if they have all five components. A goal which can’t be measured doesn’t provide a clear finish line, while a goal that is not ambitious enough will not feel rewarding. The SMART-formula is not the alpha and omega, but it is a good foundation for creating strong goals.

Limitations are meant to challenge you, and the lack of gaming time as an adult just tests your time management skills. Yeah, you won’t be able to raid 8 hours a day like back when you were a teenager, but then again…do you really wanna go back to that if it means having acne all over again and being the nerd of the class?

Wait, one of those two never actually changed…

 

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The problem I have with time travel

time turner harry potter

I hope all of you have seen one of the greatest movies of our time. I’m talking about a piece of film that has forged our pop culture and that was years ahead of his time. Or decades behind it, depending which of the three we’re talking about. Which movie series am I talking about? I’m talking about Back to the Future of course!

Back to the Future must have been my first exposure to the concept of time travel as a kid. The idea of literally racing back (or forward) in time intrigued me, but back then, the idea of watching a show about five teenagers fighting Japanese sentai show stock footage also “intrigued me”. All I saw then was a cool idea involving a DeLorean, but as I grew older (and more critical), I realised that everything involving time travel just bugs me.

The first time I noticed how much of a problematic plot point time travel is was while reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. While the build-up to the reveal of the Time-Turner was done nicely (both in the book and the movie), the introduction of such an item brought with it the question of “Why don’t we use this damn thing to set everything right?” The absence of such a powerful tool in the later books annoyed me even more, considering how it would have been just the right tool for about every problematic situation.

And here lies my problem with time travel: the moment you introduce the possibility of going back in time to change things, you open up a can of worms, or rather one of plot holes and inconsistencies. The entire concept is difficult to begin with, so why would you as an author think you’re able to handle it the right way, without damaging your plot and the suspension of disbelief of your audience?

Of course, there are ways of handling time travel right. As much as I despise the new movies (though I still have to see Into Darkness. I’m a prejudiced prick), Star Trek and the MMORPG based on it solved most of the problems of time travel by deciding that the events of the movie simply created an alternate timeline, in which the new movies and the MMORPG progress. It’s not a perfect solution, but it gives me some comfort. Hopefully, Blizzard is taking notes for their upcoming time-jumping adventure.

Nevertheless, time travel is something I find hard to enjoy. The reason for that might just lie somewhere in my past, but considering I won’t be up for the destruction of our timeline, we’ll never find out.

Adulthood: the great devourer of gaming time

“Father Time” by Paimonerra

One of the things you realize once you’re an adult is how easy life was when you were a teenager, and how arrogant and stupid you were for wishing to be an adult. One of the greatest perks of my teenage years was all the time I had to play all the video games in the world. I didn’t care much for homework, and I didn’t feel the need to do exceptionally well in school. I did however feel the need to finish the latest Xbox game or help my guild in World of Warcraft. I had my priorities back then, and I thought that in the future, I would still be able to invest the same amount of time into my dear hobby.

Boy, was I wrong.

You see, when you grow up, your priorities change. You see that there are more important things in life than just having fun. You want to invest in a future, no matter if it’s the financial, social or professional part of it. You re-think your decisions, and make sure that the ones you make will count. Before you know it, your childish wants are gone, and you find yourself in a place of your own, with the love of your life on the couch you bought from your own savings. After you pay the rent and bring out the trash, you take a look at yourself and you realize you’ve grown up. That caught you off-guard, didn’t it?

Next to this change in priorities and the sudden realization that groceries do cost money, you also find yourself with a lack of time. That’s of course because of these new priorities. You need money, right? Well, that requires a job, and a job devours time. You want to build up a good and strong relationship with your partner? That swallows time as well. A day only has twenty-four hours, and before you know it, you have to get back into bed to be in office on time and awake.

At first, you don’t notice it that much, but during one of those rare free Saturday afternoons, you browse through your collection of games and notice that you didn’t finish a single game in the past six months. Come to think of it, you realize that your total gaming time over the last few weeks is not more than about four hours. Where did the raiding nights go? Where did the Sunday morning pre-breakfast gaming sessions go? Who dared to take them away for you?

Adulthood did, my friend. Adulthood, the great devourer of your teenage gaming time.

Yeah, I’m dramatizing this, especially since I really don’t mind being an adult (with many childish streaks). However, it makes you realize how precious the gaming moments you have are. It’s a hobby I enjoy, and thus I enjoy every minute of it. I want to make the most of the time I have with my games, which explains my gaming / MMO ADD.  No matter how old I grow, I can’t see myself without a good RPG on my harddrive and a controller in my shaky, wrinkled hands.

Adulthood, eat as much as you want from my gaming time. The one thing you will never consume is my love for the digital arts.

New adventures in new games

“Adventure On” by aguba

It’s the start of a new year, one full of chances and possibilities. You don’t know what will happen to you, and chances for doing something marvelous await you at every corner. You might win the lottery, you might meet the love of

your life, or you might discover why your washing machine keeps eating your socks. But the greatest adventure of all awaits the dice-roller who is brave enough to leave his comfort zone, to abandon  rules oh so familiar, and to venture forth into the unknown territories of a setting not yet explored. That’s right, I’m talking about all the brave tabletop gamers who will have the guts to try a brand-new game this year.

Alright, enough jesting, trying a new game is of course not such a big deal it would seem, but there are gamers out there who stay loyal to one and the same game for most of their role-playing career. Some of them just don’t know better, being entirely happy with that one game that one friend introduced them to. Others actively fight any attempt of the GM to try a new game, stating that rule X of that game is so terrible, or that the setting is just another lame Tolkienesque fantasy world. No matter the reason, trying out a new game is an adventure in it self, but one every decent gamer should undertake once in a while. Why? Because it keeps the mind open.

I’m not saying that every gamer who sticks with one game for years is some narrow-minded jerk who thinks his player’s handbook is some kind of gospel. What I’m saying is that trying games with different worlds and rules allows you to rediscover your hobby. You notice that there are so many different ways to approach the RPG genre, and might learn something you can use in “your” game. I will never forget the look on a player’s face in a short-lived Mage: the Awakening chronicle I ran. She came from a D&D / classic fantasy RPG background, and was used to very strict and precise rules. When I told her that her character’s magic powers were really flexible, and that she could cast spells without even knowing them, she gave me this confused, yet somewhat happy look. Slowly, she got into the mindset of this completely different game, and discovered an entirely new approach to magic in a role-playing game. As a GM, it was great to see someone finding joy in something so simple.

So, all I’m asking of everyone who reads this article is one simple thing: try new games, guys and gals! Ask your GM to run a one-shot of that nifty game you found, or even better, try to GM it yourself! Even if it’s just a single session, lose yourself in an entirely new world, and take those experiences back to your regular gaming sessions. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!