The Alphastream Game Design Blog

Making Healthy Gaming Resolutions

Happy 2020! Thank you for being part of the hobby I love!

This and nearly every New Year’s Eve, my family likes to make resolutions. We alter our approach each year. Sometimes we have a sealed envelope, to be opened the following year… that’s my least favorite. Others, like this year, we just talk about what we recall we set out to do, how it went, and what goals we have for the following year.

It can be very powerful to make goals. The act of thinking about what we want to achieve can be empowering. The wrong approach however, can set us back. Weight loss programs, budgets… we probably all have a “tried and came up short” story. How do we avoid the pitfalls? Specific to our hobby, how do we make healthy gaming resolutions?

Art by Leesha Hannigan, for the book Acquisitions Incorporated

It’s Never Too Late for a Resolution

New Year’s is an artificial time frame. Don’t feel pressured to make resolutions at the end of the year. Chose a time that works for you. In particular, a time when you will be in a healthy mental space to examine the past and think about where you want to go in the future.

Similarly, don’t feel like a resolution is set in stone. Resolutions are there for you, not you for them. You can modify, discard, or add resolutions at any time to fit your needs.

Being introspective, in a healthy way, is great. Whenever you feel the drive to make a resolution, do so. Write resolutions down somewhere private so you can see your list and reflect upon it.

Pick Several, Aim for a Few

I like coming up with several resolutions, but with the understanding that I won’t achieve all of them. I personally like having 4-6 resolutions. In a given year I might make no progress on some, barely improve a few, and then feel really great about one or two. That’s a great outcome!

Just the act of thinking through goals can be healthy. We get to weigh many possible goals and pick a few we care about the most. We don’t want too many. The right number is one where we can remember them and not be overwhelmed by them.

It may help you to rank them. I don’t personally do that, because how I feel about them can change over time. Also, making even a bit of progress on one can be enough, regardless of how important it might be relative to the others.

Art by Eric Belisle, from Heroes of the Feywild

Write Them Down

Just like spells in a spellbook, writing down resolutions gives them greater power. We can look back on our lists over time and see our continuing goals and those we conquered. It’s important not to judge ourselves. It may be years before some of these goals see improvement.

Choose Achievable Resolutions

A good resolutions is one we think we can achieve, even partially so. Resolutions shouldn’t be about monumental change. Pick goals where even a small amount of progress can be positive.

Most of us have at one time or another had a resolution regarding physical health. A resolution with a specific weight goal is usually hard to achieve and maintain, and the struggle to do so can be counter-productive. A more achievable goal is to be more active or to improve our meal choices. There are many ways over the year we can tackle those goals, and it will all be positive. We might gain weight but increase our flexibility and balance. We might just simple eat a bit more healthily.

Impossible or improbable resolutions feel like all-or nothing. Achievable resolutions are ones where any progress can set the foundation for further positive change. The point isn’t to be hard on yourself. It’s to make any amount of positive change.

I had a year where I tried to set a time of the day when I would work out. It left me feeling like a failure every time I failed to work out. The next year I took a step back and set a broader goal to exercise in small amounts, whenever I could. I tied working out to things I did in my life, such as pouring my second cup of coffee or brushing my teeth or getting ready to shower. A few push-ups here, some leg flexes there, a quick stationary bike ride while I read Twitter… I ended up in a better place both physically and mentally. Over later years I kept the same goal, slowly improving on my goal to live longer and be capable when I get older.

I’ve often desired to paint all my unpainted miniatures. That’s not an achievable goal. I don’t make painting minis a resolution. It’s just something I try to do more of, but I forgive myself for not making much progress in any given year.

Non-Destructive Resolutions

Some resolutions can be traps, causing us more harm than good. Know yourself and what you can achieve. Think through goals and how they can be achieved.

Know yourself and what you can achieve. Be aware of the reality of your life and how goals can impact you in negative ways.

For example, attending more conventions sounds positive… but it can be hugely destructive if you are already on a tight budget. If a goal requires something else to happen first, work on that first step before setting the later goal. Or, incorporate it into your goal. Maybe there is a way you can attend an additional convention if you achieve another goal that improves your budget. Again, build for eventual success and don’t mentally require yourself to succeed this year. Just learning what it takes to get the goal can be a big win.

Another example. Many writers want to set the goal of writing more in the next year. That sounds commendable, but it can be destructive if you are trying to simultaneously improve a relationship with someone you love, achieve a goal with your day job, or try to have more time off to restore mental health.

Smaller Can Be Better

Smaller resolutions are more achievable. They can also be stepping stones to larger goals.

One year I set the goal of consistently walking my kids to the end of the block to catch the school bus. It’s a 5 minute walk up a steep hill, and sometimes it rains. But, it’s a great way to get in a few steps, walk the dog, and see my kids. It also reminds me to stay active across the rest of the day. A small improvement can be very significant across the years.

Art by Wayne England, from Neverwinter Campaign Setting

Sample Resolutions

Here are a few resolutions I favor.

Be Positive Online: How can we, even in small ways, make our online community better? How can we lift others up and avoid creating negativity?

Know when to Unplug: The news, social media, addictive games… a goal to unplug a bit more often can be healthy and free up time for other activities.

Be healthier: As I shared above, my health goals tend to be loose goals around long-term health. I’m in my 40’s and I’m seeing how my parents and older friends age. Our flexibility, our balance, our strength, our general well-being… these can have huge impacts on how well we live out our later years. Even small improvements can make our later years much better and save a ton of money. Goals can also be around dealing with current issues that could get worse, such as diabetes or dental health.

Get more sleep: This was a big resolution of mine for several years as I tried to balance my writing with the rest of my life and ended up sacrificing sleep. Studies increasingly show improper sleep as decreasing longevity, so I worked steadily to get better sleep and forgive myself for projects taking longer.

Replace envy with mentors: We live at a time when successes are constantly shared. Someone gets a free gift from a gaming company and shares it online. Someone landed a writing gig. Someone created something really cool. A good goal is to replace feelings of envy or desire with finding mentors. Feel good about what others achieve and look to learn from them. Cheer people on and celebrate their success, while also trying to pick up good habits and skills.

Share success: When we do succeed at something in our hobby, we can share that. We can teach others how to do what we have done. We can share the hard lessons we learned. We can create opportunities for others, especially members of groups who are traditionally left out. Look for opportunities to mentor others.

Teach the game: Teaching someone an RPG, DMing at a store or convention, running a short campaign for a school or neighborhood club… these can be wonderful goals that help others while improving our mental health.

Set up a gaming budget: I’ve always liked setting up budgets. How much I make, how much I owe, how much I spend, how much I want to spend. A gaming budget can help us be realistic about what we can afford next year and help us make better choices over time. Even small improvements, especially with debt or retirement plans, can be significant over time and help us eventually afford more. Our goals can also be around our budget mindset. We don’t need much more than paper and dice. Goals that help us focus on what we really need can be helpful, rather than goals to buy something that won’t really make us much happier.

How about you? What are your picks for healthy gaming resolutions?

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This entry was posted on December 31, 2019 by .


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