I’m starting up a new series on this blog that I hope will help meld my old life of playing games and my new life of being a father to an awesome son named Alexander. You can see him chuckling at his good fortune to be born into our home on the right.
Don’t worry, this was primarily a video game blog, and so it shall remain, for now. I’ll have to see if I can muster the will to produce articles of substance during the early years of fatherhood.
This first entry is about the idea of a daily routine, and how routines in general apply to the gaming world. I often used to think that routines were boring, that doing roughly the same things at roughly the same time of day held no virtue. Only a few days into leave with Alexander, and I can see that stance was woefully ignorant.
Daily routines provide an anchor by which to subconsciously measure time, and to free your mind up to do more useful tasks. You never have to think, for example, about what time of day or even what DAY it was when you’re in the middle of a routine. You know exactly where you are and when you are because you’ve done it so many times! Daily routines help organize day to day life in neat little chunks that are easily digestible by your mind. If you get up every day at 7 am, eat a bowl of cereal, take a shower, then groom yourself and get dressed, during that hour or so of time your mind is free to consider future events, like what’s happening at work that day, or how you’re going to improve your score on your favorite golf course in the afternoon.
I had a pretty normal routine before Alex was born. A simplified version of my routine was that I would get up, do a few chores, shower, go to work, come home, play games, and go to sleep. About half of that time I could focus my mind on thinking about stuff like article ideas, mentally building Hearthstone decks, thinking about what class to play in Legion, or really anything I wished.
Now, with Alex running the show (and believe me, he does run it), nothing happens at the same time of day anymore, and generally not the same way even, making even the most menial mental tasks something you cannot auto-pilot. Every diaper is different, every feeding is as well, and his sleeping is chaotic and sporadic (so is mine now). I have practically no time to think about anything but the moment, and that often creates problems that would not exist with any level of foresight at all.
Now take all this Daddy stuff about thinking ahead and knowing what to do without thinking too much and apply it to a game like Hearthstone. Hearthstone is incredibly grindy, and while games almost never play out in exactly the same fashion, many times the mulligan and opening turns are remarkably similar. When facing a Shaman on the play on turn one, do you want to have to think about whether to cast Living Roots to start the offensive when you have a Wrath in hand? Of course, the context of your remaining cards does matter somewhat, but the point is that generally, openings do not change. There is a right way and a wrong way to play them based on all the possible outcomes, and after a hundred or so games with a deck, you’ll probably know what the right choice is. You’ll probably know how most games play out up to turn four or so, and don’t have to grind the math on most lines of play from you or your opponent. This lets you think beyond those opening moves, and consider how best to use your more powerful cards later on.
Routines appear in other games as well. In World of Warcraft, often a raid team will wipe on an encounter many times before defeating it, and once they do so they usually have far fewer problems, which indicates it wasn’t just blind luck that led them to victory. As a seasoned-but-certainly-retired raider of everything from Molten Core to the Dragon Soul(I am SO 2011), I’ve seen it happen countless times. Suddenly, everyone moves out of the fire, the DPS switch targets instantly, the tanks juggle aggro like they’ve been doing it for years, and the healers know exactly when that burst is coming. It wasn’t luck, it was all 10-40 players getting into the routine of the encounter’s mechanics at roughly the same pace. Coincidentally, this is probably the biggest unspoken reason why people actually switch guilds. It sucks when a few people catch on at a different pace than the rest of the raid. If you’re still somehow grinding away at HFC and you’re not happy, maybe it’s time to consider your guild’s learning curve and whether its right for you.
Well, that’s about it for my first try at this sort of post. I don’t think I’ve really said all that much of use, but frankly, it was nice to take a little time to get some thoughts down and talk about something that applies to both fatherhood and gaming. For you guys out there that are not yet dads, know that the lack of a routine has been the most disruptive part of my life right now during this first wild week. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just another mechanic to overcome in life, like going to school or getting a job. Eventually, raid boss Alexander’s pooping mechanics will become second nature to me and when that happens I can think about other things during that phase, like quickly switching to adds that may appear aka, quickly covering him up when he decides to pee during a change.
Wish me luck, and be sure to comment with how routines in gaming have impacted your ability to play like a champ!