I am pleased to bring you Caleigh's newest Community Article submission, about time management and balance - real life vs. gameplay.

This is a problem that hits all types of gamers, but can be particularly insidious for roleplayers due to the immersive  nature of our gaming style, and the fact that it never has a natural 'conclusion' the way PVP and PVE do. A PVP match will eventually end; you can vanquish the last boss of a raid and raiding is concluded for the evening. But in roleplay, there don't tend to be graceful natural finishes like that - one scene blends into the next and into the next.

Click the 'Read More' to see Caleigh's take on it!

Help! I'm Drowning in Commitments!

By Caleigh

Anyone who games is constantly faced with a priority check. Do I go do the dishes, or do I finish these quests? Do I sign up for this raid, or do I do some laundry? My guild is doing a roleplay event but I haven't slept in four days! -- Okay, okay, maybe the situation isn't that drastic. Not yet, at least. Time management is something that is difficult for many gamers to process because a lot of us view gaming as something that doesn’t need to be penciled in. You just sit down and do it. However, this has caused a lot of problems for a lot of people. For an extreme example, I have a friend who sat down with Skyrim when it came out and didn’t move for nearly sixty hours. She was hospitalized. Yes, that really happened. No eating, no sleeping, no drinking. Just Skyrim. Now, that’s not Bethesda’s fault – Skyrim was a great game, sure, but I think all of us can acknowledge that my friend’s health misstep wasn’t directly caused by being the Dragonborne. Her situation was caused by a lapse in time management. She’ll openly admit that, too. I know that I’ve sat in front of the computer for more than ten hours without a break. It’s not the healthiest thing in the world, but the satisfaction from gaming was enough to keep me coming back. What ways can we prevent this? How do we juggle in game commitments and the ‘real world’?

Well, it’s relatively simple. Pick your battles. How badly do you really want to raid on Saturday? How important to your storyline is this upcoming roleplay scene with your bestest best bud ever? Ask yourself these questions. Figure out what is important to you and what can be put on the backburner. The game will still be there when you get back from walking your dog. If your roleplay partner is really your bestest best friend, they’ll understand if you have to take your kid to the doctor, or finish some homework so that you can stay in school without failing. Hell, every roleplayer – actually, no, every gamer should understand that without ‘real life’ there would be no game. If your raid leader gets angry at you for having to go when you have to pull a double shift at work the next day, he or she needs to reevaluate their priorities. Everyone’s real life should come before anyone’s gaming commitments.

After you’ve figured out what’s important to you, you need to map out an actual schedule or to-do list and go over it with the people you’ll be interacting with. So, you get home from work, you’ve got about three hours to kill. You really want to roleplay with your character’s in-character family member, and they’re online. Or, you could go run a dungeon, but you aren’t really feeling the PVE scene at the moment. Uh oh, then you get a whisper. It’s your raid leader. They need you to fill in a spot halfway through, someone had to leave. It’d take up most of your time, and you could get some pretty good gear, but you really did want to roleplay. This is when you either fall back on your schedule and tell your raid leader that you’ve been planning this roleplay for a long time, you have a limited amount of time before you have to log off, and that it’s important to you, or just tell him no. While it’s nice to be called upon to help your guildies, raid buddies, or just some random group out because you’re usually reliable, you are choosing to spend your valuable time playing this game. You paid for the game. This is your character. This is your game. You get to decide what you want to do – and if someone tries to make you feel guilty for doing something else, they’re clearly not being a very good raid leader/roleplay partner/friend.

That brings up another good point about managing time and commitments. You should only play with people who acknowledge your priorities, have similar priorities, or will understand if you do not fulfill their wishes because of how you feel. I cannot tell you how many times my old raid leaders would throw a fit if I was busy doing something else when they needed me to fill in at the drop of a hat, or how many times one of my guildies got angry that I didn’t want to do dungeons because I didn’t feel like it. At times, people rely on you to come through, like when you’re part of a bi-weekly raid team. You’ve made that commitment. That’s important to you. If it isn’t important enough to you to stick to that commitment without making some kind of excuse, you need to refrain from making commitments you won’t keep or leave the group/event if you don’t want to do it. If I’m not in the mood to roleplay, I will write crappy half-paragraph responses and my characters will not be realistic and actually in-character. If I’m not up to healing a twenty-five man raid, there’s a good chance I’ll be alt tabbed between major boss fights and people may die. You will upset more people by not putting your full effort in to something than simply saying no, as they should understand. What they won’t understand is why you let the whole raid die, or why you haven’t responded to one of their posts in twenty minutes, or why you haven’t pulled the next group in the dungeon. The reason they wanted you to come hang out with them was not to torture you – it was to have fun with you. If you’re not having fun, they’re not having fun. That’s the bottom line.

Make plans in advance to assure your buddies that you’re free. If you’ve got work from 9 to 5, get home at 6, and are able to be online from 6:30 to 10:30, you can fill those four hours with some valuable, quality time. But, if you end up promising three friends you’ll do such-and-such thing with them ‘in a little bit, after this thing is done’, they’re all going to be upset when you didn’t honor those commitments and instead went to play Minecraft with some people from work. You shouldn’t expect others to honor your priorities if you don’t honor theirs .

Games, especially MMORPGs, are supposed to be a fun, happy, social experience. You’re supposed to join guilds, groups, communities. You’re supposed to get in there with friends and family and achieve things, create friendships and goals, aspire to be the best raider/roleplayer/pvper that you can be. Don’t let yourself get upset by a misstep in priorities, and don’t make others make you feel guilty for not living up to their expectations. Furthermore, don’t ever feel that you need to put aside your real life, compromise your work/school/personal relationships for a game, even if that game is important to you.