Thursday, February 14, 2008

It's All About the Balance

The current topic flying around the WoW blogosphere is "How do you balance WoW and real life?" I've seen this issue addressed in a few places; I know Trackhoof has covered it, as has Softthistle and Alda. (I keep seeing that last name there as "ALSA" which is a Linux sound thing. Forgive my geekism! /beg) And in the time it's taken me to write this article, another one has popped up at She Rolls Horde. Apologies if I'm missing anyone!

Anyways my own answer to this topic has been stewing in my head for a little while now, largely because, to be honest, I often have no idea how I manage to pull off maintaining a balance. How the heck am I juggling the dozen or so characters I have that I consider "active" and my job and my family and my friends and housechores and so much else?

Okay, let's break this down.

A Day In The Life of Pike:

Work Day:

4:45am: Up and out of bed. Feed my guinea pigs, get ready for work and grab some breakfast. While eating breakfast I'll typically check my e-mail, catch up with my Livejournal friends, and read a WoW blog or two (or three, or four... I'm a fast reader)

: Out the door and in my car.

6:00am - 2:00pm: Work!

: Arrive home after work. Take a nice, long shower. When you work at a pet store, specifically in the pet care department, you will come home covered in cricket guts, fish guano, hamster fur, and bird poop. It's just unavoidable. The shower is a must. (My parents' dog thinks my work pants are a tasty delicacy, however.)

3:00pm - 4:00pm
: Checking the e-mail, the Livejournal friends list, the personal online forum my friends and I hang out at, the news headlines to see if there is anything going on that is marginally interesting to me (my definition of "marginally interesting" ensures I really only see the oddball or geek news, like the new Star Wars animated movie), and of course, checking Google Reader for updates on my ever-expanding blogroll. Sometimes I'll work on a blog entry here.

4:00pm: This is typically when I log onto WoW. It used to be I would log into Tawyn and hang out on her for basically the rest of the night. These days-- within this past month or so-- I am much more apt to log into one of my alts at this point. Occasionally I will still log into Tawyn first to see if the guild has anything going on, if not, I'm off to play my lowbies. What can I say-- I love leveling lowbies. Yes, I know I'm insane.

6:00-ish, give or take an hour: Dinnertime. Unless there is something crucial going on (like me being mid-instance) I generally take my sweet time with dinner and sort of take a half-hour or hour-long break here.

6:30-7:00ish: This is usually when I switch over to my Windows partition (it pains me every time!) and get onto Ventrilo. Originally I was only going to save Ventrilo for things like instances, but I've decided I like hanging out and chatting with the guildies so I try to get on for a little bit every day or almost every day. This is also usually when I log into Tawyn (unless I'm really into one of my alts at the moment) and if we're doing an instance, this is usually when I do the instance. Otherwise I'm typically doing PvP or working on bringing rep or skills up.

8:30-9:00pm depending on how tired I am and what's going on: Say goodnight, log off, in bed no later than 9:30pm (and being in bed by 9:00pm is preferable).

And that is how a typical work day goes for me. As you can see, my work schedule has me waking up early and going to bed early so I don't have a whole lot of time for "social activities" even if I wanted to (and I'm so shy... I really don't! =P) because I'd have to be back home before 8pm. Also, this schedule is of course subject to changing: somedays I am on WoW a lot less. Somedays I'm multitasking and doing my laundry while I play. Somedays... about once a month or so... work pulls a switcheroo on me and I work a 1pm-9pm shift instead of my typical 6am-2pm. In that case, I pretty much just flip the day: Try and get some WoW in during the morning.

Now let's talk about my days off:

Non-Work Day:

Between 5:00-6:00am: Wake up. Yes, this is my definition of sleeping in. I try not to allow myself to sleep in very much, actually, because it throws off my circadian rhythm and gives me a headache.

Until about 6:00 or 6:30am: The general morning routine: feeding the pets, feeding myself, checking up on my e-mail and that fun stuff.

And then
: Early morning WoW. I love early morning WoW. There's something so serene and calm about playing so early in the morning. I love watching the skies turn from pink to blue. I love the fact that there's hardly anyone else around and that sometimes I'll be the only person in a given zone. Usually I really like playing my alts this early in the morning, but sometimes I'll log on Tawyn too. Because lemme tell ya, 5am server time is the best time to go farming for motes at the Elemental Plateau. There will be like one or two other people there, and plenty of elementals for everyone. One time I was the only person hanging out with the water elementals for over an hour.

After a few hours of WoW I'll generally log off and then this is where my schedule cycling kicks in-- typically on days off I have a lot to do so I try to make the most of it. I'll do blog stuff for an hour, then I'll do housework for an hour, then I'll maybe read or play another video game for an hour, back to WoW for an hour or two, back off to try and get more work done... etc. A lot of times on my days off, my family will go out to eat and I'll accompany them. I'll also try to do something decently social for a little while if I'm feeling up to it (yaaaaay being shy!)

As evening settles in I'll sit down and get on Ventrilo and have some "serious WoW time" reserved for instances, hardcore-PvP-marathons or grinding. Those last two are actually often more fun than they sound.

And I'm in bed by about 9:00 or 9:30 again. If I don't work the following day either, I'll sometimes stretch it to 10:00.

Well, there you have it. That's how most of my days go and I suppose you can say that my key for balance is a lot of variety and a lot of breaks. Way back when I first started playing, my initial addiction was pretty bad. Not to mention that was when I had a job that had a lot of problems giving me all the hours I'd ask for. So I'd be working 18 hours a week, and the rest of the time I was either eating, sleeping, or playing WoW. No joke. I'd be on from morning 'til night and eat while in flight from one zone to another.

Since then, I've made a big improvement in terms of striking that balance. I am not in game nearly as much, I'm rarely on for more than a couple hours at a time (exceptions will be made for things like big instance runs), and my full-time job keeps me busy. In order to save time, I also often "consolidate" things; for example, if I need to go shopping, I just run over to the Target right next to where I work after my shift is done and grab stuff. The gas station and post office are on the drive home so I can stop for gas and stamps too. Things like laundry, as I've mentioned, can be done while playing. And of course, the constant switching between WoW and other things that need to be done, is something that I think helps a lot.

At this point you may or may not be asking "Hey Pike, what about that boyfriend of yours? When do you guys ever see each other?" Okay, well I will admit that it's hard for a few reasons. Firstly he's a notorious night owl and I, well, my schedule has got me turned into an early bird. Secondly he's going to college full time and he's also one of those motivated people (unlike I ever was) who studies and does homework and stuff. But we still somehow manage to be able to talk to each other throughout the day. I'll send him a cheery text message on my phone during my lunch break or something, and somehow, no idea how, we still sometimes even manage to play WoW together. Oh, and to be completely honest with you guys, we've been dating for over three years and have successfully dealt with all sorts of weird scheduling conflicts in the past, so it sorta doesn't phase us anymore. =P (That probably sounds horrible, doesn't it? Hehe.)

I know a lot of you guys are far more busy than I am; you've got kids and school and all sorts of stuff going on that I currently don't have to deal with. How you guys successfully manage to pull off a WoW/real life balance I don't know, but I /salute you all. I hope I can be as balanced when life catches up to me and I leave the post-college doldrums. (Probably not gonna be anytime soon, but hey!)


alda said...

Great post Pike! I'd have to say you are quite balanced and, embarrassingly, more disciplined than I.


And how perfect it is that you work in a pet store - I love it!

Mike said...


Loved this post... when i first started off playing WoW i was HARDCORE into it... weekends would be marathons from 1:00 p.m. (i actually slept in late :)...) up until about 3:00 a.m.... eating while in flight and such like you said...

as bad as that image might be... it was actually fun being into the game that much... because i unfortunately cannot say that i'm as into or can ever be as into WoW as i was then...

Now I play at most 2 hours a day... if i play at all... and i guess i just wish i could get immersed into the world of Azeroth again as i did back then...

nonetheless... great blog :) i never take the time to comment but am always reading your posts even though I don't have a hunter :)