Life, Love, Gaming, and Guilt

Have you ever found yourself feeling guilty at the game table?

I’m not talking about the lawful good paladin who is appalled at his colleagues activities.  I’m not even talking about the player feeling some moral guilt over their character’s questionable chaotic evil decisions.

I’m talking about guilt over what you’re missing back home.

Photo Credit: Kevin Thai

The fact of the matter is, many of you have significant others, spouses, even children back home while you’re gaming.  And if truth be told, between work and other responsibilities you don’t feel like you’ve spent enough time with them.

Yet here you are, away from them, playing a game and feeling kind of guilty.  In the end, it raises a question that I’ve heard put many different ways:

Does growing up mean giving up gaming?

As a husband, father, and (thus far still employed) member of the workforce, I want you to know that growing up does not mean giving up gaming.

When it comes to this question of guilt when gaming, here are three steps to help you improve the situation:

1. Put your priorities in writing

This is a practice I adopted a couple years back of actually sitting down once a quarter for a few hours and sorting through my personal priorities (for those interested, here’s my favorite book on the topic).

If I don’t set real priorities in my life, I’m going to drift.  There’s got to be a law of thermodynamics to back that up.  Trust me.  Or you can Google it.

Regardless, by calling attention to what your priorities should be you give yourself a benchmark to measure up to.  And it will allow you to move on to a second step:

2. Set clear gaming priorities

What are you trying to accomplish in your gaming right now?  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  It could be as simple as:

  • Continue my weekly RPG group
  • Learn a new game system or board game
  • Learn a new wargame strategy

Or you could take it to the polar opposite of complexity:

  • Develop and formalize the gaming community at my local FLGS
  • Design your own RPG system or setting
  • Undertake an initiative like my own Chasing the Dragon

It may seem strange to set priorities for your gaming, but let me make an observation: if you’re still reading this blog, gaming must be important to you.  And if something is important, it deserves our thought, our planning, and our intentionality.

So decide where you want your gaming to go–set your priorities.  Then you can move on to this third step:

3.  Negotiate a responsible calendar approach

Once you know what your priorities for life and gaming are, you’re able to budget out your time better.  Where does gaming fit in with the other priorities?  How much time will it take to achieve your gaming priorities?  How does that time compare to the other things in your life?

We feel guilty when we game, but not necessarily because we game too much.  We may actually be gaming an appropriate amount, but we’re not taking the time on other things that we should.  It doesn’t mean you have to give up gaming–it means you have to be more intentional about your time.

And when I say “negotiate,” I really mean negotiate.  My wife and I sit down about once a quarter and talk about my gaming schedule.  Gaming (at least for me, as an avid excited gamer) is like a goldfish in a bowl.  It will take as much time as you give it.  So I have to be very intentional and open with my wife, asking if she feels I’m spending too much time–asking if she feels I’m keeping my priorities straight.

In the end, my family is more important than my gaming.  But that doesn’t mean that gaming holds no importance.  Rest, relaxation, and play are necessary for human beings.  But we’ve got to be careful to get the right priorities in the right order.

If we don’t, we will continue to find ourselves feeling guilty at the gaming table.

But if we set the right priorities in our personal lives and in our gaming, negotiating our calendars well, we will find ourselves finally able to play without guilt, which means with freedom, with fun, with everything you want in your gaming.

What about you?  How have you negotiated these waters?  How have you, as a grown-up gamer, adjusted and kept your priorities straight?  Sound off in the comments below or on Twitter!

2 thoughts on “Life, Love, Gaming, and Guilt

  1. My experience is same as yours. I have discussed my gaming hobby with my wife and daughters. Work, church, and family come first and sometimes override scheduled game nights. Currently I have an every other week gaming group, work lunch gaming, family gaming as we have time, and scheduled events like Gen Con and Church Game Nights. Nice thing is my family enjoy gaming so most of those game times are with them as well. Only my every other week game night is outside my family time.

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