I've read Kill Ten Rat's blog off and on for awhile, and a recent post really struck a chord with me. He discussed openly about neglecting health and work to play games.
I'm not a brave blogger like him, so let's just leave it at this: I've had some rough patches in my life where the balance tipped towards gaming. No, nothing bad... I fed the kids, went to work, took out the garbage, etc. But I shouldn't feel guilt and regret for playing games.
Looking back I realize my "dark days of gaming" happened when I went against my gamer rules. My what? I have a few rules that help me balance games with family, work, friends, all that non-game stuff those normal people tell me is important. Not so much rules as four loose guidelines that kind of evolved over time. I share them with you now:
Take a Break Every Few Days
I may play every other night. Or maybe I play two nights in a row, and then take a day off from gaming. The result is I enjoy my game time more (and earn some rest XP bonus...heh). But more importantly, I spend time with my family or friends or just myself doing something non-game related. I keep my head in reality.
After the Kids are in Bed
I love playing cards and board games with my son or daughter. We even play a little Wii together. We bond, they learn, we talk about stuff. But I wait to play my games until the kids are tucked into bed for the night. No, bedtime is not 6:30. My family is my number one priority, so this guideline ensures I don't loose sight of that. Okay, so maybe you don't have kids. Set a time limit on how much you play in a day or week instead (and stick to it).
After the Chores are Done
I do my work around the house, and then reward myself with game time. I'm not saying the house is spotless. Oh no. Most nights I play, I just do 30-45 minutes of work around the house.
Less in the Summery Months
When the weather is nice, the days are long, and the nights are short, I want to be doing something other than gaming in front of a computer or TV. I stop playing time-draining games like Warcraft and play short console games or play MMO tourist twice a week.
Games are fun but in the end they're just games.