Creation And Play: Games/life Balance

I now have the replacement power lead for my laptop, so I’ve been able to finish making the requisite changes to Codename: Vacuum. I didn’t finish them until this weekend with the printing and assembly booked for this evening, since at the beginning of the week The Daughter was ill and not sleeping well as a result. In a bid to survive the working week we went to bed pretty early to try to get some sleep, which left me with very little time in the evenings to make the changes, print them out and then cut out and assemble the prototype in time for Thursday. I’d planned a playtest session on Thursday lunchtime and I’d intended to have it available for Games Night, but in the end I just couldn’t find the time to get it ready. It’s now been three and a half weeks since my last game of Vacuum, which considering I’ve been playing at least once a week for a year now feels very weird indeed.

All this reminds me of a blog post I’ve been meaning to write for a while about my balance of real life and games and how it’s changed over the years. So here it is 🙂

In the early days of Reiver Games, I had a full-time job as a Software Engineer which morphed into a project management role. I was hand-crafting the games I was selling (four hundred of them between Border Reivers and It’s Alive! first edition) and that took time. I was giving up weekends to go to conventions to sell the games and a good chunk of most evenings either assembling games, checking and responding to emails, doing some half-arsed marketing or designing games of my own. In addition, in the run up to a big convention such as The UK Games Expo, The Cast are Dice or Beer and Pretzels, I’d have to build up some stock to take and, seeing as the handmade games took 1.5 to 3 hours each to create, that was a significant investment in time – so I’d end up using some of my work holiday allowance to spend a couple of days working 12 hour days flat out making games. Games were starting to take over a large chunk of my personal life.

Following my MS diagnosis, and the subsequent life insurance payout, one of the driving reasons behind trying to get Reiver Games off the ground properly and running it as a full-time concern was that I’d get my evenings, weekends and holidays back, seeing as I’d be able to do all that stuff during the working day while The Wife was at work herself.

So now I was spending all day during the working week working on gaming stuff. Of course, as anyone who’s run their own business knows, it’s not that easy to turn off when you’re the boss. So I still ended up spending a bunch of time on RG stuff in my ‘free time’. In addition, all my friends in York I’d made through gaming, and my social life was twice weekly games nights at Paul’s house, once a week playtesting evening at mine and frequent trips to Beyond Monopoly on a Saturday. My trips abroad were for Essen. Life was now heavily dominated by gaming. When we moved down south it was a similar story, my friends were all made through gaming, so my social life and my job were both entirely games related.

With the demise of Reiver Games I swung back the other way. With the exception of a weekly games night with my friends down south, I did very little to do with games. My work was once again software development, I spent little time gaming and no time designing games or playtesting.

Since moving back to Newcastle things have slowly started to swing back the other way again. I’ve started up my own Games Night once a week and bought a few more games so that I have a decent selection for people to play. I’ve been designing Codename: Vacuum, spending a few evenings a month doing graphic design on the computer and then cutting out and assembling the prototypes. I’ve been playing Vacuum once a week on a lunchbreak at work. In addition, in the last few months I’ve started up the Newcastle Playtest sessions and started attending Newcastle Gamers a bit more often too. Games are once again becoming a large part of my life. But I’m still a more rounded character than I was in the Reiver Games days. My work is software development again, and I spend some of my free time brewing beer and learning to play the guitar. Plus I’m a father now, so I spend a lot of my time entertaining and looking after The Daughter.

I often wonder what I would do with Vacuum if I ever get it to a point where I’m happy with it. If it ever reaches that point I’ll have to decide – I toy with the idea of hobby publishing again like the early days of Reiver Games, or KickStarter, or approaching the other publishers I know through my days at Reiver Games. But what I come back to is that my family is a far more important use of my time.

In the meantime, I’m going to concentrate on getting the new Vacuum printed and cut out this evening, ready for tomorrow’s Newcastle Playtest session at The Bridge Hotel, and then working on getting Vacuum to the point where it’s ‘ready’. That’s plenty to keep me busy for the moment.

Home Brewing

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