The trouble I’ve been finding with playing games is that I haven’t been going in with goals. I’ve just been logging in to log in; and without a goal, I find myself just logging out again five minutes later. (Or shutting the program down, or closing the book – you know what I mean.)

So this weekend, I experimented with gaming with intent. When I logged in on Friday, I decided that my goal was to get Rolastra to level 72 and to complete Howling Fjord, and I was involved enough that I made my goal. (I wrote an addon, a while back, that tells me to get up and do something else every half-hour, and starts giving me grief if I stay logged on for more than four hours at a time, so I’m not just plunking down and not doing anything else until I meet my goal; in that time I also cleaned up the house and wrote about 1500 words on a different project.) On Saturday, I decided to get to level 73 in Dragonblight, and made it with plenty of time to spare. And while I didn’t log on for more than a few minutes yesterday, I’m looking forward to the next time I get to log in and play the game – for the first time in quite a long time, the game is something I want to do, and not just something I do because it’s there, and it’s because of the goals I’m setting and achieving.

Now, granted, there are some caveats. You can’t make yourself enjoy an otherwise-unenjoyable task with goals; these mini-endpoints would mean nothing for my motivation if there weren’t a fun (for me) game underneath. You shouldn’t set your goals too high; I’m not setting my bar at “80 the next time I log in”, for what I hope are obvious reasons. And you shouldn’t set goals that rely on the random number generator; if your goal is “win [whatever the best and brightest loot is] when it drops”, you’re assuming a) that it drops, and b) that you’re going to win it. Don’t base a goal on an event whose resolution is fundamentally out of your hands; it’s just as bad as saying that your goal is to win the next time you pull a slot-machine arm.

Still, the magic of explicit goal-setting has been a great way for me to rediscover an interest in the game (especially since it’s been so long since I went through Northrend that I don’t really remember it very well), and for the first time in a while I’m actually enjoying playing games, so that has to count for something.

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