Work-Life-Game Balance

Like a lot of middle-aged gamers, that spot in the “middle” has left me adrift when it comes to gaming. For the last decade or so career, family life and other daily demands have pretty much removed me from doing much active gaming. I’m able to find time to read about games, or write about them, but that’s because it can be done in the spaces between one project or the next, or downtime at home, with no set schedule.
This situation sucks because it seems we’ve hit the Promised Land of tabletop role playing.  Gaming is finally starting to catch up with technology, moving beyond basic online communities and discussion forums to the point where it can actually benefit the gaming experience actively around the table. On top of that, there’s been an explosion of impressive games.
Personally, it seems impossible to be able to fit any face-to-face gaming experience in. I have a career, as does my girlfriend – but she puts in much longer hours than I do, including weekends. Both of us have a child, one six and the other seven, so that means we’re dealing with double the amount of activities, school work, and other concerns that come along with their age. I’m typically responsible for getting the kids to school, picking them, getting dinner, doing homework, giving baths, and keeping them entertained on the weekends (they have no interest in role playing, at least yet, and neither does my girlfriend). Throw in housework, weekend activities, trips, family birthdays and visits…there certainly doesn’t seem to be any time at all to fit a good game in.  Trying to get together three or four people with the same situation for a few hours each week makes it impossible.
There are a number of options for trying to get some gaming in, each with their own concerns and pitfalls. Play-by-email and play-by-post are the least time-restrictive. It works for some people but not for me because I quite like having a group of people around when I play. The newest option – Google+ Hangouts – seems to be a good compromise. You get to see the other people’s faces and hear their voice, as well as leverage tools like Tabletop Forge/Roll20 to help the game along. It does still have the limitation of finding the block of time and the environment to be able to make it work, but given that a lot of my gaming-related activity occurs after everyone goes to bed a couple of hours of later-night gaming a week might be feasible.
For me, work may be the way to go. There are a number of gamers that work here (not surprising, being a software development shop). Word around the cubicles is someone was given implicit permission to use a conference room for after hours weekend gaming. It might also be possible to set up weekly lunch-hour games. We could order in for lunch and get together for an hour or so. We would have access to the projector in the conference room, plenty of room, and we’d remain relatively undisturbed. We’d also have some flexibility as to the day of the game, in case someone takes a day off – not to mention, we’re all here anyway. For some lighter games such as Fate Core,  this might work. For D&D or Exalted an hour might not be enough time to gain any traction.
Short of waiting until I retire, I think that work gaming might be the only way to go.

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