My stubbornness vs. MMO

It was on.  Oh, it was so on.

This was the thought pounding through my head as I made my way up a tree ramp for the 45th (no, I’m not exaggerating) time, slaughtering mobs left and right.  I crested the peak, looked for the large mushroom before me, and started hopping my way down.

Hop.  Hop.  Hop.  Hop.  Drop.  Hop.

And as I hit the bottom, I hoped in vain that this would be the time that the achievement would trigger, that RIFT would grant me “the Shroomer” title, and I could finally leave this cursed tree and continue onward.

It did not.  I sighed, turned around, and started back up the ramp.  The voice in my head was merely growling, a low and steady rumble that belied my stubborn intent to get this achievement or bust.  It was silly — I knew that.  There was no substantial advantage I was going to gain by getting it.  And to make a potential departure scenario more likely, I knew from my research on the forums that this particular achievement was buggy and possibly broken.  Still, some wrote that they were able to do it, and the GM I contacted around run #30 said it was possible.

Run run run.  Hop hop hop.  Nothing.

At least I’m getting XP, I consoled myself, and some loot.  I wonder if I’ll write about this on my blog and open myself up to people rolling their eyes and saying, “Why bother?”  I probably will if I can’t think of anything better tomorrow.

I’d gotten addicted to doing achievements in RIFT, and set a personal goal of doing all of the ones in each zone that were possible without an obscene grind (which meant I ignore the rare creature kill achievements and the artifact sets) before moving on.  It’s actually been a blast, and slamming my stubborn head against some of the trickier ones has proven to result in a dose of euphoria when I’m able to achieve it.

Run run run.  Hop hop hop.

“Mushroom Soup” achieved!

It’s always when you least expect it, and in this case, it was a quick one-time run that I did in the middle of the afternoon.  One chance at it, and around attempt #60 or so, it worked.  I’m now Sypi the Shroomer, and better for it — with the exception of that twitch in my eye that I can’t get rid of.

The funny post-script?  After getting an email from a GM telling me that the achievement was working, he sent another saying that it was possibly borked.  Thanks for letting me know!

Quote of the Day

“People? We require shelter, food, industry, and something to occupy our time. There’s a disconnect at some of these quest hubs when you look around at the scant shelter and imagine, where the f*** do all these people sleep at night? What the hell do these guys DO during the day besides stand here? Is it telling that creatures like goblins seem to have better living arrangements that the Telarans you’re constantly fighting for?”

~ Grimnir’s Grudge (aka My Bestest Friend)

Four methods of juggling MMOs

I’ll admit it.  I just like talking about handling multiple MMOs so that I can spend a half-hour Google image searching the most crazy juggling picture.

So if you have any semblance of a life, school, or work responsibilities, chances are that it’s a little difficult to handle more than one of these time-sucking MMOs at once.  Many people stick to just one at a time, and I’ve certainly done that.  But I usually can’t resist dabbling in a buffet of online goodness, and because of that I’ve had to experiment with different methods of juggling MMOs.

Over the years, I’ve found that there’s really four different ways for a time-strapped gamer to engage in multiple titles, and wanted to share those along with the pros and cons of each.

1. Game by the hour

This method tries to get the best of all worlds every day by dividing up your available game time by the number of MMOs you want to keep tabs on.  So if you have three hours and three games, you give each one hour apiece for that day.  Two hours and four games?  30-minute play sessions.

Pros: You keep all of the games fresh in your mind, since you’re logging in daily to each of them.  You experience a wide variety on a daily basis.  You make some progress in all games daily.

Cons: Advancement will be slow.  You won’t be able to do time-intensive activities, like dungeon runs.  You’ll often just be getting into one game and then have to switch to another.  It’s hard to shift mental gears like that so often.

2. Different day, different MMO

This is a little like number one, except that you divvy up your days instead of hours.  Three days a week for WoW, two for STO, one for Aion, and one as a wild card.

Pros: You get to devote your full attention to just one game for that day.  A longer play session allows you to do more activities, including dungeon runs.

Cons: It’s more difficult to keep track of progress and goals, since it could be days between logging into a particular title.  You may really want to spend time with a game but have to wait days to go back to it.

3. Group play

In this method, you join a dedicated group or team that meets on a regular basis (usually weekly) to tackle the game together at a cooperative pace.

Pros: You’re always assured of having a group.  It’s great for games that you’re okay with only playing once a week.  Lots of community and socializing.

Cons: You won’t be able to go at your own pace or play that character otherwise.  Playing weekly means that it will be hard to remember how to play your character or what you were doing.

4. Do whatever you feel like

This is the least structured out of all of these methods.  In it, you simply decide that night what games you want to play, whether it be one or several.

Pros: This allows for the most flexibility according to your moods, schedule, and desires.  You’re not forcing yourself to play a game that you don’t feel like playing at that moment.  If you have strong personal discipline, you could use this method to give equal time to all of the titles in your umbrella of interest.

Cons: Very easy to allow one title to dominate, time-wise, and to allow others to slip into obscurity.  Could lead you back to a single-game playstyle much easier than the other methods.

Right now I’m going for a #1, but #4 keeps pressuring me.  Some nights all I want to play is RIFT right now, while others are balanced with LOTRO.  Starting this weekend, I’m going to be tossing TSW into the mix for a while at least, so I’m giving this juggling thing a lot more thought.  I may need to structure my time more than I’m doing so right now.

Gaming as a married father

If there is one question I get more than any others, it’s usually, “Syp, dude, how do you do it?  How do you juggle writing, work, gaming, and family?”

The answer often is, “Not perfectly, but I’m learning.”

For a long time I lived as a bachelor, and aside from work, my time was my own.  But enter a wife, two (soon to be three) kids, and other responsibilities, and that time becomes less my own and more others.  Which is cool.  Whenever I’m feeling aggravated by all of the things I have to do before getting around to some personal fun time, I remember just how lonely I used to be, and how much more balanced and fulfilled I am now.

So in thinking about this, I came up with a few personal lessons that I’ve been learning over the past few years as a gamer who’s become a married father.  How can you balance it?  Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. Readjust expectations of playtime

Once you have kids, your free time is going to suffer.  It’s not a bad thing, but it is inevitable and you have to make peace with that fact as soon as possible.  My spouse and my kids take priority over gaming, and I have to constantly check myself to make sure I’m keeping it that way.

I’ll be honest: In the beginning, I did experience moments of bitterness toward these other people in my life who were being demanding of my time.  That was the bachelor in me trying in vain to hold on to a way of life that was waving bye-bye.  But I realized that as much as I like games, they’re just a hobby and incapable of satisfying my needs the way that my family and faith do.

So I readjusted my expectations of my playtime.  I no longer had time to do huge gaming marathons.  My gaming sessions were often going to be short.  And with that, my play style and goals were going to have to shift accordingly.

I’ve actually found that having restrictions on my game time has made me appreciate it far more than when I could gorge on it.  I’m reminded of one of my favorite verses from the Bible: “If you find honey, don’t eat too much, or it will make you throw up.” (Prov. 25:16).  Solomon was talking about the importance of moderation, especially in regards to good things.  MMOs are my honey.  A little can be savored and appreciated; a lot can make me feel regretful and wondering why I just “wasted” a whole day on a game.

2. Keep family time free of gaming

This is a very important personal rule I try to follow.  If people are home and awake, I don’t game.  Period.  I spend family time doing family stuff, even if it’s just sitting together watching a movie or eating dinner.  This works out for me since everyone but me in my household goes to sleep fairly early.  Even if they didn’t, I would hate to send a message to my wife and kids that I’d rather be playing a game than being with them.  So I just make that block of time game-free, and I’m cool with it.

It certainly helps to join guilds that are either understanding of this or are largely family-oriented themselves.  Guildies who understand that sometimes a kid wakes up and needs attention are invaluable to hang with, because it takes a lot of the pressure off having to be in the game every second.

3. Have a spouse who understands that this is your hobby

While it may seem like some crazy logic, it’s actually good for married couples to have their own hobbies and interests that are separate from their spouse’s.  Having that “me time” helps to recharge personal batteries while making the “us time” more valuable and interesting.

My wife, by and large, is not an MMO gamer.  She’s played them, but she doesn’t have the sustained interest in them to stay in the genre.  What’s fascinating to me, in terms of games and news, is kind of boring to her.  It’s just how it is.  But she understands this is my hobby and supports me in it, which means sometimes she gives me some extra time to just game or listens patiently while I babble about the latest and greatest.

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s so vital as a gamer not to be in a relationship where games are seen as vying for your spouse’s affection or as the antagonist that’s threatening.  If there’s communication, priorities, understanding, and compromise, gaming as a hobby can very much be an asset to a relationship instead of a detriment.

4. Be okay with not being the best

Because of my limited gaming time, I have had to come to terms that I will never, ever be the best in MMOs.  I won’t have the time to develop mad skills or grind the best gear or even hit the level cap in all of the games I play.  Some games will be sampled, some devoured, but all will feature me as a middle-class adventurer.  And that’s okay.

It’s here that I have to make sure I don’t compare myself to that guy in the guild who hit the cap in two days and has been farming purples ever since.  I realize that the more games I sample, the less I’m going to advance in any single one.  And if I’m going to fully explore a game or gear up, I know that it’s going to take much, much longer than it used to be.

Again, that’s okay.  Games are temporary pursuits; fun, engaging, relaxing, memorable — but temporary.  Family is much more enduring than that, and I’m content to invest my time, skills, and grinding abilities right there.