Confession time: I was pretty much a man-child until I was 26. I was the perpetual student, in grad school, and working a job that let me set my own hours. In short, pretty much the perfect arrangement for a longtime MMO fan. When I graduated, everything fell into order and my whole life changed. Maybe you’ve found yourself in a similar situation. Full-time jobs, children, all of the good things of life swoop in and steal game time right out from under you. It raises the question: how can you be an MMO fan when the whole world is conspiring against you – should you even try?
A little more background before we continue. For me, it wasn’t being a first-year third grade teacher that made playing MMOs a challenge; it was becoming a father. The joy of my life, my little son Theodore who is only now nine months old, grabbed the keyboard from my hand and asked me to pick up the bottle and pat his little back. I did, happily. The two things combined, fatherhood and teacherhood, all thrust upon me within five months, not to mention being the husband I wanted to be, radically shifted my priorities. I was dad. I was twenty-two student’s “Mr. Coke.” Being Syeric, the Orc Warlock just wasn’t as important.
But, hell, sometimes a person just has to relax. I’ve spent the last three months trying to figure out how to fit each part of my life into the waking hours of my day. This is what I’ve found out.
1) Face it, you’re a casual
Gone are the days of the 2A.M. raid. Sure, you might be able to pull it off on the weekend, but if you’re anything like me, staying up past eleven on a weeknight is a far stretch. Between getting home from work in the evening, spending time with the family, and getting ready for work the next day, there is precious little time to be anything resembling hardcore.
That might sound like a loss but, come on, we’re talking MMOs in 2014. There is literally no better time to be a casual MMO player. Developers are designing content for players aging out of the hardcore bracket while still keeping things in check for the up-and-comers. There are plenty of things to do and long-term goals to chip away at. My goal? Get myself ready for Warlords of Draenor’s LFR tool and then find a guild I can join on Saturday nights. I’ll see the content but differently. Given that three years ago I wouldn’t have seen it at all, I’m alright with that.
2) Make time wherever you can
Finding time for MMOs can be tough but it’s not impossible. Be willing to break your time into smaller chunks or learn to love the late night. For me, I take a couple of hours a week after my son goes to bed to put on my headphones and log in. Staying up late isn’t a good idea for an early riser like me, but on the weekend, all holds are off. That’s core dungeon time: a solid, uninterrupted block when the family is asleep. Look at your life. Where can you fit in an hour or two? You’ll be surprised how little it takes to stay connected.
3) But give up on keeping up with the joneses
This was a tough one for me. I want to get in and play each new game and level alongside my friends. I want to run dungeons and have static groups, share in the stories of our adventures together. As my level 94 warlock in Warlords of Draenor can attest, that’s just not happening.
What I didn’t expect was the sense of relief that came from accepting that fact. I’m loving taking a slow tour through Draenor. I’m soaking things in, relishing in the painterly environments and new enemies; I’m reading quest text and immersing myself in the story. Most importantly, I’m holding onto that excitement to log in and see new things far longer than I ever have in the past. It’s like I’m finding MMOs all over again, re-experiencing that mystery we so often lose to years and extended hours of play. I plan to do the same with RIFT, but…