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Drama Mamas: The benefits of balancing WoW and college

Drama Mamas Lisa Poisso and Robin Torres are experienced gamers and real-life mamas -- and just as we don't want our precious babies to be the ones kicking and wailing on the floor of the checkout lane next to the candy, neither do we want you to become known as That Guy on your realm.

Life is a continual learning experience. For example, I learned something from Lisa's advice this week. Hopefully this week's letter writer will too.
Hello Drama Mamas,

This doesn't qualify as drama, but I think it still fits into your category.

See I'm having trouble right now balancing WoW and College.

When I first started playing WoW I was a junior in college, who was no stranger to academic problems, but was making slow if steady progress to graduation. Enter WoW. I got expelled a year later, over poor grades.
It's fairly clear to me that I didn't make good choices, but at the same time I might have ended up expelled whether I had found WoW or not.

After some time off, I got re-accepted into school on a probation status. This semester I have for the most part done an admirable job balancing raiding and classes, pulling Bs while showing up to class most of the time.

Then exams started. It's easy to balance WoW and class when you're in the downtimes and things are normal, but classwork doesn't get served at the same rate all semester long unless you're a math major, and it's hard to go to your guild and say "hey guys, I got an exam this week, can I take this week off?" when you're a key member of their raid team, and when something legitimate could come up every other week. Because then you would be called unreliable, because missing every other week is unreliable, and you wouldn't have a raid spot for very long.

There's really no reason you shouldn't be able to balance WoW and College. There's easily enough hours in the day to do both. If I planned better I could do it.

But I'm starting to re-think this whole doing both thing. Maybe other people can do it, but I'm not other people.

It's a shame, because WoW is such an awesome game.

Signed,
Should be studying right now
Drama Mama RobinDrama Mama Robin: Lisa's going to handle the nuts and bolts of how best to balance your schooling and gaming, so I'd like to tackle some fundamental ideas that you have misconceptions about to help lay the foundation.

Cutting out a favorite leisure activity is bad for you

It's not as bad for you as letting your responsibilities crash and burn so that you can play, but if you don't have regular fun included in your schedule you will burn out.

More importantly, you won't learn a very important skill: self-discipline. This belief is exactly why we recommend working game time into even a middleschool-aged teenager's schedule. Once you learn how to set your own limits for fun and be flexible as necessary, you will be able to rely on that skill for the rest of your life.

If you cop out and cut out your gaming now, you will only have to deal with this again when you are in the working world. And dropping out of work is worse than dropping out of school. It's much harder to get back in to the career you want once you've shown yourself to be unreliable.

So do not drop WoW in favor of school. You're going to have to make some adjustments, but don't miss out on this excellent opportunity to hone your time management skills.

You can be a better planner

You throw out the "if I planned better ..." statement like it's impossible for you to actually do so. Of course you can. Lisa's excellent advice below will help, but let me give you a couple of extra tips specifically for planning your absences.
  • Plan enough time before any exam you know about so that you have enough time to study. If that means you think you should miss a raid, then mark down the date.
  • If you don't know when some of your tests or large assignments will be, ask your professors and get updates as you progress through the term.
  • Always plan a good night's sleep before any exam. I know this can be very hard (it was for me), but your brain learns in your sleep and a jillion studies show that you will perform better.
  • It may help to think of each exam as a raid and plan accordingly. You might find you already have excellent planning skills, but that you just hadn't thought of them that way.
If you are smart enough to get accepted into college, you're smart enough to learn how to plan better.

Raiding isn't a job

But you should approach it professionally, which it sounds like you already are. You give notice of absences and make sure that you are punctual. Your long term self-sufficiency and survival, however, will not be affected if your raid team drops you -- unlike school or a job. So don't worry about losing your spot on your raid team; it just isn't important.

That having been said, I think there is a good chance you won't lose the raid spot you value so much. Go to your raid leader and explain your circumstances. Just say that you will have to be absent on X days during the semester. Give the RL your list of absences as far in advance as you can. You say you're a key player, so your guildies should work with you. They can always rotate in a second string player, particularly with advance notice.

If they drop you anyway, then you're in the wrong place. Find a more flexible raiding guild. They are out there all over Azeroth. You can competitively raid and still have a successful school, work, and/or family life. In my experience, the most reliable raiders are the ones who also have many other real life responsibilities. Once they know how to schedule their leisure time and have properly educated their loved ones ("It's like a bowling league!"), these players show up consistently and are very considerate guildies. Responsible people know that it's not just their own time that is valuable.

So use your current situation as an opportunity instead of a liability. Teach yourself the skills that will make you successful for the rest of your life. And surround yourself with people who are doing the same thing.

Good luck. And congratulations for going back to school.

Drama Mama LisaDrama Mama Lisa: The first thing you need to do is overcome any hang-ups, misconceptions, or resentments about scheduling your fun. "I don't wanna have to make appointments to play a video game! This is my fun -- I deserve this!" If that sounds like you, then raiding isn't going to work out, whether you're a college student or not. Part of being grown up (and if you're college age, you are a young adult) means keeping your stuff in check. You don't want to be one of those sad sacks murmuring on their death beds, "I wish I'd spent more time doing ..." Nobody "deserves" to play games when they haven't taken care of what really matters to them, as your schooling seems to matter to you. That's cheating yourself, not allowing yourself some fun.

Second thing: No more excuses. "Maybe other people can do it -- but I'm not other people." That's very true -- but you have shown that you can do it when you try. It's hard, but that's true for the vast majority of people, not just you.

Also, don't fall into the "I don't think I can do this..." trap. You are doing this, right here and right now. You're doing it! It's happening, whether you feel good about it or not. Maybe it's hard, and maybe you're not doing it as well as you think you could be, but you are doing it. So check the "I don't think I can do this" worry off your list.

The thing is, the struggle you're going through right now is going to set the tone for the rest of your life. This is your moment, Should Be Studying Right Now. This is the scene where the camera zooms in and the audience gets to see where your character is going to head for the rest of the movie. Are you going to back down, claiming "This is just too hard," hand the One Ring to someone else, and become a supporting player in what could have been an epic movie? Or are you going to play the lead in your own life?

That said, you're not actually walking into Mordor -- but even if you were, it's just one foot in front of the other. One of my favorite sayings is "Want to get something done? Ask a busy person to do it." They succeed because they know how to get things done. You need to figure out what your goals are. All that's left then is to buckle down and get stuff done.
  • Sit down and make a list of what's important. This means everything, from long-range goals to daily to-do's: work, school, playing WoW, walking the dog, partying on Friday nights, eating breakfast every day -- anything you want to happen.
  • Rank it all. Ask yourself if you only had time to accomplish one thing, what it would be. Rinse and repeat with what's left.
  • Spend some time admiring your prioritized list. Feel the waves of Getting Real washing over you. This is what it takes to be the person that you -- you -- have decided you want to be.
  • Run, don't walk, to some sort of organizer/scheduling system. Some people like apps. Some people make lists and sticky notes. Google Calendar is free and can link up on your phone or tablet, too. Start at the top of your list, and schedule whatever you need to do (even if it's just remembering to think about something) in order to make things happen.
  • New habit: Check your to-do list/calendar every morning and every night. Keeping tabs on what you've decided is important to you is what this is all about.
More general advice:
  • Take care of homework and chores first. This non-negotiable principle keeps responsibilities in the bag.
  • If you're having a hard time remembering to check your list/calendar, write yourself a big note and stick it in the crack of the front door or somewhere you go without fail before leaving for the day. When you leave for the day, check your list and move the note to your bed. When you're ready to go to sleep, there's the note! Check your list again and move the note back to the front door.
  • Don't try to cram snippets of WoW into little niches of time; it's just too hard to break away and get back to business. Easier: If you have a little extra time, drop it on the books instead of the game. You'll be able to more fully enjoy gaming later, knowing that you have a firm handle on your schoolwork.
  • Don't just fling study time into open spots on your calendar. Think logically. It doesn't do any good to block off two hours on Sunday afternoons if your brain collapses after studying more than 30 minutes at a time.
  • Take a look at how much time you actually need to raid. Include a realistic amount of time for supporting activities. (This will decrease steadily as your need for rep farming and so forth disappears.) Now you can see how much time you actually need to do the raiding you want. The rest is icing on the cake. You may realize that you've been so hungry to satiate your gaming appetite that you've spent more time fiddling around in parts of the game you don't really enjoy than you have actually raiding, all just to be able to tell yourself that you're free to play.
  • When you find yourself tempted to log in when you've not yet taken care of business, ask yourself: Which will I be happier to have 10 years from now, a college degree or a video game mount?
Whenever you get discouraged, turn back to your calendar and let it help you keep putting one foot in front of the other. Before you know it, you'll have one more semester successfully under your belt. Write us next spring and let us know how the new strategy goes!

Dodge the drama and become that player everyone wants in their group with a little help and insight from the Drama Mamas. Play nice ... and when in doubt, ask the Drama Mamas at robin@wowinsider.com. Read Robin's section of this post on how to get your letter answered and please remember that we cannot answer privately.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Drama Mamas

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