Monthly Archives: December 2012

Managing your gaming time with school responsibilities

Wow Insider recently had an article in their “drama mamas” series about a college student who was having a difficult time with balancing his gaming and college studies.  The article does a nice job of talking about the importance of learning self-discipline and time-management skills. Their most important advice is to make sure that you put in the effort to prioritize the right things (like passing your classes, doing your job, paying attention to your family), and then setting a schedule of when WOW is (or isn’t) the right activity for you to do.

The problem of dynamically changing schedules

I spent 6 years of graduate school as an active World of Warcraft player. I have now graduated with my PhD, but my academic work life still follows the college schedule I used to have, so I still have a schedule that changes fairly dramatically with paper and grant deadlines. College in general has the difficult problem of having constantly changing time demands. Attending school means that you may have some huge deadlines on weeks like finals, followed by weeks with little or no work, and then a huge schedule shift as you start a new semester with a whole new set of demands.

Raiding times are usually fixed schedules

The constantly changing demands of a school schedule makes gaming and college life balancing difficult. However, these types of demands don’t have to prevent you from being able to do your favorite gaming activity. If you are in a raiding guild, the two to five days a week of raiding tend to be at specific (non-flexible) times. When I transitioned from a normal 9 to 5 job to a much more random graduate school life, I quickly learned that I had to stop playing in a raiding guild that was going 4+ days a week and raiding until way past what should have been my bed time. However, I didn’t want to quit playing WOW (it was what helped keep me sane, gave me a way to talk to my friends and family, and was really my main social outlet on days when I was studying or writing at home for long periods of time).

The Balancing Act

How much free time do you really have? The best approach for me was to find a guild that fits the amount of play time I generally have during a  week. Figure out how much time you usually spend on your other more important responsibilities, and then you can budget your gaming time for times you tend to be less productive at studying. If you know that you may only have 10 hours a week free to game, then don’t pick a guild that raids 15 hours a week. In fact, make sure you schedule other non-raid game activities (daily quests, farming, etc) into your budgeted time for the week.

Does your raiding guild allow you to put school first? With the importance of flexible schedules, it is important to also find a guild that lets you cut back on your number of raid days periodically around the time of major deadlines, such as finals week. My guild has a calendar and forum system that we use to track when people can and can’t raid. So, while we have 2 days a week of 25-man raiding, we don’t require 100% attendance to maintain a raid spot . Instead, we have a 77% attendance requirement for our lower raiding rank measured over a 3 to 6 month period.  This allows for short-term problems to take away from game-time, but requires you to be present in the long-term. People who want to raid more than those 2 days can sometimes go on 10-man off-night things, depending on the tier of content, and there is almost always someone around to run LFRs, 5-mans, etc.

Now, the guild still raids with a fairly hardcore mind-set and the higher raiding rank requires maintaining an 84% attendance record for the 25-man raids. We have had a handful of people looking for a casual guild who still found us too much of a time burden in terms of the preparation (getting valor point capped, spending time to learn the bosses, etc). The important part is that I am able to cut back my raiding around the time of important deadlines (such as my dissertation defense last summer, and now my problem of having grant deadlines bump too close to raid times). For me, it has been important to have things to think about other than just obsessing over work. However, when deadlines get close, my play time goes down. After deadlines pass, my play time goes up. Being able to flexibly change my play schedule around my deadline schedule is the only reason why I was successful at both school and WoW. I even resorted to getting guest posters for this blog when my schedule didn’t allow me to write quality posts as frequently.

Communicate absences in advance. An important feature of our guild’s more flexible scheduling is that we still require people to post about known absences in advance, so that we can adjust our scheduling to make sure our raids stay full. You can’t just repeatedly disappear without telling anyone and expect to still have a raid spot for very long. So, keep in mind that as guild officers or guild members, communication about scheduling is really an important part of maintaining the WoW vs Real Life balance. My twitter stream is often full of messages of people saying things like: “Two people didn’t show up for raid. Not sure why!” Just like you shouldn’t feel pressured to raid at times when you need to put real-life obligations first, you also shouldn’t just ditch your sport’s team and leave them hanging. Keep in mind that the rest of your WOW raiding team had to schedule their play time, just like you have to do. However, good communication means that everyone can win (eg. if you know that three people on our 10-man team have finals on the same week, you can cancel that week’s raiding far in advance, instead of stressing everyone out!).

Sometimes, raiding isn’t the right activity. If even committing to the same two days a week is too much, there are many other options for people who don’t have time for progression raiding. It is important to remember that gaming can sometimes be about more than just progression raiding. In addition, it is important to realize when it’s just not the right time to be raiding for you. While I have had the ability to be part of a guild that raids two days a week (at a progression pace I can still enjoy), sometimes, life just needs to come first. If raiding is interfering with your real life obligations, sometimes walking away from raiding is the right thing to do. My guild has had several past raiders eventually quit raiding, and instead play the game with more casual activities that don’t require as much advanced planning and effort.

Conclusions. Time management is hard. It is especially hard when things that are more “fun” tend to be more motivating. So, it is easy to slip into doing fun things and neglecting your studies as a college student (video games are just one of dozens of things that can distract you from your work). Keep in mind that all things (including video games) are better for you in small doses. Spending too many hours per week playing games is bad only if it distracts you from your other responsibilities. Keep in mind that depression and other disorders tend to have onsets during the college years. Most colleges do have mental health services for people who show signs of depression or anxiety, and often times poor grades has more to do with an underlying psychological problem rather than just video game playing.

However, if your problem is just about not wanting to manage your time properly – that isn’t the fault of the game, and it is something you can work hard to change. It is important to take responsibility for your schedule and put real life first. Remember that you only get one shot to do well at school, but that the world of Azeroth will still be here after you finish your finals.

Posted in Written By Lissanna

Video game research!

Our crowdfunding for science campaign has now ended! Thank you everyone!

There was a great TED talk in November about the importance of making better educational video games. Video game researcher, Daphne Bavelier, from the University of Geneva, talked about research on how playing video games can change cognitive abilities and brain development (for the better!). Dr. Bavelier’s scientific work has been a hugely inspirational to me. I was able to attend a talk she gave at Penn State in 2010 about her video game research. The end of the video is particularly inspiring where she talks about the need for gamers and scientists to come together to improve the quality of games with educational goals. My goal as both a gamer and a scientist is to make educational interventions that tap into the motivational aspects of being fun! In honor of my last day of crowdfunding for my very own new video game research project, I thought I would share my inspiration with all of you:

We will soon be returning to our regularly scheduled WOW-related posting. Starting next week, I hope to have more WOW-related content to share with all of you about mages and druids. Thank you all for supporting me and my research!

Posted in Research on video games, Written By Lissanna

Last week of crowdfunding for autism video game research

Hi everyone! We have now hit the last week of the crowdfunding campaign for my research lab’s autism video game intervention project (it ends on Friday, December 14th!). These last few weeks of sharing my autism intervention research with all of you has really been incredible! I have had so much support that I can’t express in words how awesome this community is. As of this morning, we have reached $3,785 towards our goal (38%). The last week of the crowdfunding campaign is always the most important, so please take some time to support my research and spread the word to your social networks!

Lissanna’s druid leveling live stream on Monday, December 10th.

  • The mighty druid Lissanna fought for nearly eight to defend Azeroth from great evils. After slaying the mighty Deathwing, she laid down her staff for the last time and went to slumber in the Emerald Dream.  What could wake this mighty druid from her slumber? On Monday, December 10th, Lissanna the druid will dawn her fighting clothes and resume the battle in Mists of Pandaria once more. This time, she fights for improving Autism Intervention Research! Come watch Lissanna and Martiean level up from 85 together!

To celebrate and promote the last week of my research lab’s crowdfuning project, I have teamed with Martiean from the WoWMartiean youtube channel.   Martiean and I will be inviting some friends to join us and live streaming our leveling party  on Monday, the 10th, from 8 to 11 PM eastern (5 to 8 Pacific). I will be bringing my druid (who is still currently level 85) out of retirement for the night to level during the live stream in support of my autism research project! What better way to support video game research than with playing video games? You can watch the stream live on Monday at the WoWMartiean Youtube Channel.

Other news: Lissanna’s Horde House podcast guest appearance

  • Earlier this week, I joined the Horde House podcast for an interview about my gaming experience, my research project, and more! You can listen to the Horde House episode recording here. The guys are a little silly, but overall I had a lot of fun doing the interview. The interview part is in the first half of the episode.

One more week to go! Thank you all for helping to make this research on autism video game interventions possible, and for showing how amazing the video game community can be! Together, we are truly showing the world the positive side of video games!

Here is the video recording of last night’s stream. You can fast forward through some of the laggy bits. Youtube isn’t the best streaming platform some days. Most of it recorded fine!

Posted in Leveling, podcast, Research on video games, Written By Lissanna

15 Minutes of Fame and some druid news

Hi everyone! I have a few things to cover today.

First, I was featured on WOW Insider’s 15 minutes of fame blog series. You should read the article about my experiences with WOW, my real life research, and more!

There are a couple of other things for druids I’d like to cover, as well, since I haven’t said a lot about druids lately.

  • Team Waffle Cast episode from Friday wasn’t recorded live, but you can catch the recorded episode here!
  • In addition, with 5.1 out now, there weren’t really major changes for resto or moonkin druids, except for swapping around a couple of symbiosis abilities. I have heard from various restoration druids that there are still some weaknesses in druid healing, especially in the case of dealing with burst damage. Posts about restoration healing problems, especially in 25-man progression raiding, have recently come from Beruthiel (Falling leaves and wings), my guildie Juvenate (WTS Heals), and Alison Roberts (WoW Insider). All of these druid bloggers are essentially saying the same thing: Blizzard didn’t solve resto druid healing problems in terms of how we scale from 10-man to 25-man and handle incoming burst raid AOE damage.

Fortunately for Juvenate, we’ll likely keep him around in raids, especially since we can lite his tree form on fire with our campfires. :)

Posted in Achievements, patch 5.1, podcast, Research on video games, Restoration Healing Trees, Written By Lissanna

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