Games & Families: Balancing Your Time Amelia Ramstead August 16, 2011 Columns One of the biggest gripes about games (and, by extension, the gamers who play them) is their addictive quality. You’ve probably made jokes like “World of Warcrack” yourself. According to the American Medical Association, games themselves are not addictive, although overuse can indicate other psychiatric problems on the part of the person who is using them. I’m inclined to agree with that statement – games are not the problem, but people who already have an addictive-type personality may create one. I’ve known a couple of these types myself, and they do everything to the extreme, not just gaming. Most people who play games keep it in control, but it can get tricky in a family situation. It’s easier when the gamer and partner both play and kids aren’t involved. But the transition from gamer to parent can be challenging, especially if your partner doesn’t play. It can feel challenging, but it is possible to keep gaming as a favorite hobby without alienating everyone you love. Basic time management and compromise help make gaming with a family easier. The first step is sitting down and creating a schedule for leisure time and hobbies. Does your game involve raiding with a group? Twice-a-week raids can be penned into the schedule. Everyone, even parents, requires some sort of quality time to their self. Here’s the kicker, though. For every hour you spend doing your thing, you must be prepared to offer your partner an hour to spend doing their thing. Otherwise, resentment builds, and that’s not healthy for any relationship. If you plan to raid more than two nights a week, now is the time to reconsider your priorities. Raid nights usually run three to four hours. While eight hours a week can be doable, twelve hours or more begins to take its toll, especially if you work a full-time job. Leaving your partner to manage the kids around the clock, through both your work and play time, is really expecting too much. The second step, and perhaps even more difficult one, is sticking to the schedule you agreed on. What tools do you have that can help with this? Setting the timer on the stove to track your time is helpful. Some games, both PC and console, have a timer feature that will shut off the game when your time is up. Many gamers don’t like this option, because they may not have time to save their progress or get somewhere safe. Setting the kitchen timer for five minutes before your time is actually up will allow you the chance to wrap up your loose ends. Don’t get involved in a quest, instance or level you can’t complete in your allotted time, or let your group know you have to leave at a certain time. You don’t have to tell them why, if you can’t stand the teasing (or go ahead and tell them, maybe it will cause them to reconsider their priorities as well!). Just like everything else in life, gaming with a family is a matter of balance. No one can say you don’t need time to yourself to unwind and relax, but your kids and partner need you too. To paraphrase the incomparable Mr. Incredible, your family is your greatest adventure. Don’t miss out on them in favor of an electronic one. Amelia Ramstead has been playing games since her family first received an Atari 2600, lo these many years ago. She continues to play, primarily on PC these days. An avid World of Warcraft player, Amelia writes about WoW topics for her blog and as a guest poster on WoW Insider. Especially interested in how gamer culture reflects in family dynamics, Amelia herself has two kids, one of whom has two WoW characters and can barely keep his nose out of his DS. Amelia is excited to join the staff of Comics Bulletin and is looking forward to the chance to converse with others on one of her favorite topics! Find Amelia on Steam as ameeramstead.