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Real Life Comes First

As I write this, my youngest daughter is home from day care with a head cold. She’s in the other room, engaged in a pitched, no-holds-barred fight with the Sleep Monster, but will eventually succumb.

In addition to the virus that’s been working its way through the family for the last week and a half, a number of other obstacles have cropped up. Our home server started rebooting at random, taking a week of troubleshooting and rebuilding. My phone decided that it didn’t want to receive email or even phone calls on a regular basis. The laptop decided that I would be best served by a white screen after about five minutes of operation. A car battery experienced a slow, lingering death. One of the smoke detectors decided to start chirping in the middle of the night. And my home game suffered a TPK, requiring some ‘reboot’ attention.

I’m not asking for sympathy, pity, or even attention for all of the above. (The server is better than ever, the phone is rebuilt, and the laptop and car battery were under warranty.) But I felt guilty about my lack of productivity for the site, especially on the heels of our end of year reassessment, and so I am stealing some time from all the unfinished chores to finally write an article.

And then I realized that this is just a hobby. It’s a hobby I love, and spend time and money on, and that intrudes into my other interests and responsibilities. But it’s a hobby, and sometimes more important responsibilities come first. As I’ve said over and over to apologetic and frustrated gamers, “Real life comes first.”

Yes, it’s frustrating, but that’s life. It’d be great if we all could do whatever we want, whenever we want, but it doesn’t work like that. Stuff happens, and we get to clean it up. Responsibilities grow as we grow, and I’ve found that the best way to deal with the obstacles is to acknowledge them, and get past them with a minimum of griping and complaining (and guilt, if your responsibilities are impacting others).

So when your group is ready to take on the BBEG, but the player of Sir Abrams the party tank has a sick wife and child, don’t take it out on his character. When your hard drive crashes in mid-prep, and you don’t have any of the data you’ve been working on all week, don’t let it ruin your week, even if it royally screws up tonight’s session. When you haven’t gotten any game time in months because you grossly underestimated how much time and attention a newborn baby requires, think of all the time you can game with that little bundle of joy when he or she gets older.

And now that Little Bit is asleep, I’m off to clean her bottles and do the laundry.

Got anything else to add, or just want to vent on that time when something kept you from your game? Sound off in the comments and let us know!

12 Comments (Open | Close)

12 Comments To "Real Life Comes First"

#1 Comment By Macona On March 1, 2012 @ 2:05 am

My game has suffered a lot this year because of RL problems. I started running Carrion Crown just before Christmas, but last night was the first time that the full cast could turn up. Almost everything you can think of has happened. Holidays, working late, illness, marrage, etc.

After a couple of months I was really getting frustrated, thinking that maybe people aren’t enjoying my game. But once I calmed down a bit I could put things in perspective. We aren’t teenagers anymore, and we all have other commitments which are more important than the game (unfortunately!!).

#2 Comment By E-l337 On March 1, 2012 @ 3:15 am

Once upon a time, I was playing five different games a week with minimal fuss. Everyone was happy, and it seemed like weekends were filled with non-stop action, with a different game every night – or sometimes picking up where we’d left off the night before.

But I’ve noticed a lot that the gaming has become more difficult to maintain as we’ve passed the young adult stage of our lives. People have jobs that conflict. Where once we could maintain three different games every week, we now struggle to make one session happen on a regular basis. Most of us have gone to different colleges, graduated or dropped out of them, moved to different areas, or even in one case had a child.

All of these things have impacted our gaming schedule, making it particularly difficult for those who join us on the other side of the globe to play with the rest of us.

But real life does come first. We all have jobs, school to study for, careers to pursue, or children to raise/prepare for. Life happens, quite often, and quite loudly. The best you can do is let the group know what is going on, and maybe something can be worked out.

Because if you didn’t have a life, you wouldn’t be able to sit around pretending to be someone else, now would you?

#3 Comment By sarahtops42 On March 1, 2012 @ 5:15 am

Completely agree with this post 100% but just wanted to add something; Make time to do the things you enjoy (such as gaming) when your real life becomes more manageable. It sounds obvious but when real life strikes a lot of people tend to overlook the things they find entertaining and want to get into again once they’ve stopped doing it for a while for various reasons.

(This reply isn’t very articulate sorry, I haven’t had my caffeine yet today!)

#4 Comment By Svengaard On March 1, 2012 @ 5:34 am

That was the mantra in my MMORPG guild for years. It made the guild one of the best on the server with an amazing core team while the rest of our raid members were more casual. We were still competitive and usually able to tackle new content when it was released.

Just to play the devil’s advocate, when a huge event is planned for weeks and a player says two days before “Sorry, it’s a sibling’s birthday this week and we’re going on a day trip” then the gloves come off. There’s a massive difference between emergencies coming up unexpectedly and daytrips. Especially when birthdays are annual.

#5 Comment By Hawkesong On March 1, 2012 @ 8:28 am

I think a lot of the stress that some folks feel is from the fear. Or maybe I’m the weird one and no one else gets scared of this…

The fear I’m talking about is that fear that the game won’t ever start back up again – the fear that if you let the game go, your players will all vanish on you. The fear that if you don’t live up to – someone’s – expectations, you’ll be a failure as a DM and a gamer. Whose expectations are we so afraid of not fulfilling? Beats me. I’ve been concerned that my players aren’t having fun; I’ve been concerned that I’m not bringing enough to the table as a player.

Perhaps ultimately what we’re afraid of is that our friends will forget us if we don’t game every week. It’s easy to mash together the notion of “game night” and “hang out with our friends night.” It’s easy – so easy! – to place all the worth of your friendship on the game, so that if the game has problems, you feel your friendships are threatened.

And so we drive ourselves and our loved ones and our friends bonkers trying to cram more into a week than any human being can reasonably accomplish.

Thanks for this article. The perspective change might be dizzying, going from the tight focus to the panoramic view…but it’s a good change.

#6 Comment By XonImmortal On March 1, 2012 @ 9:59 am

Uh, no, sorry. Gaming isn’t a hobby for me. It’s much more than that.

I’m a writer. And I approach a lot of the fiction I write with the techniques I use for gaming. Building worlds, creating cohesive characters that aren’t stereotypes, plots… When it isn’t strictly necessary for a fight or an action to turn out just so, I’ll pick up the dice to roll a stat or skill.

Real life? Oh yeah. I had a flash of inspiration that finally resolved some niggly bits of subplot and character motivation, and was up all night editing and writing, churning out an extra chapter and a half. Then my computer crashed as I was double-checking some names and room layouts, taking that chapter and a half with it. Along with two pages of blueprints, an outline, and some file re-organization.

Meanwhile, my landlady/housemate is continuing her passive-aggressive guerrilla war on my sanity, her three dogs are turning the floor into a mine-field, and I have a bunch of fans demanding the latest updates.

I won’t even go into some of the other crap heaped on me lately. Real people suck, I’d rather deal with my characters. They don’t always do what I thought they’d do, but at least their actions make sense.

#7 Comment By Roxysteve On March 1, 2012 @ 11:13 am

I hear that. I’m currently involved with four games of my own a month and two others. I say “involved” because with the exception of my own Delta Green game Real Life has been reducing the head count at all these games, twice since Christmas to the point that they couldn’t take place at all, twice more that we only played a much abbreviated session.

I’m getting seriously burned out too.

#8 Comment By Roxysteve On March 1, 2012 @ 11:15 am

And of course, a speedy recovery and return to happyland for your munchkinette.

#9 Comment By Silveressa On March 1, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

@Hawkesong Sometimes the fear of people vanishing can be justified, especially if some of the people at your table are only there for your game and could care less about anything going on with anyone outside those few hours they spend rolling dice with you.

With such players when you stop gaming for them they often disappear, usually without so much as a “thanks for the fun times” and can be difficult to reacquire once the game starts up again down the road.

Honestly though, if their only reason for socializing with you/the group is for the game and free snacks, their vacant seat is often better filled by someone more likely to become a good friend over time, and understand when real life takes priority over game night on occasion.

#10 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On March 1, 2012 @ 10:14 pm

Thanks for all the comments; the title to this may seem obvious, but we gamers occasionally need a reminder (especially if we’re just discovering the “joys” of adult responsibility). This article was written a couple of weeks ago; Little Bit is fine, and she’s back to cutting teeth like a dental student.

Another thought that occurred to me is to build the proper expectations. A college student at a table of working parents might not understand the last-minute no-shows, but can be warned about them.

[1] – One way to keep a campaign fresh when there’s a gap between sessions is to use email and chat. My GM did a bunch of one-on-one chat sessions during a long break in the game, and it kept us focused and “in the world”.

[2] – Does it help to think of “Real Life” as the monster that must be overcome in order to gain the treasure of spending time with your characters? Regardless, I hope you get your living situation squared away; everyone needs a Fortress of Solitude.

[3] – Exactly. I’ll game with people who aren’t my friends, but we’ve got to have some kind of connection beyond a few hours a week at the same table.

#11 Comment By Alton On March 5, 2012 @ 5:33 am

I hear you loud and clear. It is just a hobby, and like you, one that I love.

I have to stop myself sometimes and get back to the real world and take care of my priorities before taking care of my games and my site.

Between work, school, home, I still manage to find a little time for gaming.

#12 Comment By Miri Daisuke ManyNamed On June 13, 2012 @ 9:34 am

Oh god. Do not get me started. Real life is the reason our party’s only healer had to drop out of my game and the game Mom was running where he played one of the last remaining three characters that could be counted on to show up after Real Life crashed like a tsunami-earthquake-with-fangs through our gaming group’s schedules….