A Balance of Complexity

Despite having Napoleonic Wars set up on my ping pong table all ready to go for the last month, I have yet to touch it.  Instead, I reach for Dominion,  a game I can teach in two minutes and don’t really have to think hard about when playing. I love tabletop roleplaying games and have a session to plan and two other game books I want to read, but when I’m home from work, I bust out Turok on PS3 and shoot dinosaurs with exploding arrows and plasma rifles instead. And don’t even get me started on the last time I posted to this blog.

Am I burnt out on tabletop gaming? Have I reached my board game limit and I’d rather veg out in front of the TV? Is there something wrong with me? I doubt it. Instead, I’ve probably reached my complexity limit.

Not too long ago I read this article linked from Slashdot titled, An Epiphany I Had While Playing Pac-Man. In it the author argues that people, especially geeks, need a certain level of challenge or complexity to their lives. A geek’s “brain cycles” must be utilized at a certain complexity level or he starts searching for challenges elsewhere. A person’s job often creates the baseline complexity that must then be added to or subtracted from to create the desired complexity level. The variable complexity is introduced through hobbies.

For me, two of these hobbies are gaming and writing. Up until the WBC, my work schedule was pretty low stress and didn’t really tax my mental capabilities. In that time, I set up Napoleonic Wars and started reading the rules, I planned, ran, and wrote narrative recaps of a Star Wars roleplaying game, I wrote a blog post a week, and I jumped at every chance I could to game.

In the past three weeks, my work load has increased exponentially. Four projects are in the middle of deployment, each competing for my full attention. Meanwhile, I try to assist on another four projects, create user-conference presentations, provide first-tier technical support one or two days a week, all the while trying to finish two critical documents. Oh, and my graduate studies start next week.

The fact that I’d rather fight virtual dinosaurs than plan a campaign to conquer Europe using intrigue, guile, and military might is natural. Work has maxed out my complexity level. Blogging, war gaming, and even RPG planning has fallen to the wayside. Instead, my brain wants to just sit idle. Despite enjoying complex war games, I just can’t handle them right now.

So, dear readers, have you found the same to be true in your life? Is work affecting your gaming preferences? Are all your buddies stressed out and just want to play Rock Band instead of Here I Stand on gaming night? Or do you feel you have to drag yourself to the night’s Twilight Imperium game when you really just want to have a beer and play Munchkin?

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2 Responses to A Balance of Complexity

  1. John says:

    Sara (who I am sure will refuse to comment publicly) noted that these cycles are not just relegated to geeks. Her hypothesis is that all people are like this, indulging in hobbies that stimulate areas of the brain that don’t get used as much in work or family life.

  2. […] true in the last few months, as Russ and I juggle graduate school and full-time jobs. As Russ previously mentioned, there is a correlation between how complex life is and what corresponding games get to the table. […]

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