Alan Smithee

The Woes of a Gamer Dad

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I see one thing wrong with this picture, where's dad?Being a father and a gamer are two separate lives that are slowly starting to converge after the events that transpire up to and after having a child. If given an ultimatum and asked to choose one, of course the politically correct answer would be to say your child…but sadly I’ve known people who will chose gaming over family and I feel sorry for them.

This article is not about those people, but my own personal struggles to find balance so that I can do one without being detrimental to the other. Maybe one of you new gamer fathers can take a bit of this away with you and know that everything will be ok.

It was October 2008 when my beautiful baby daughter was introduced into the world, I was happy beyond words. You never quite understand the fawning that other parents do with their own children until you hear your baby’s cry for the first time and the instincts kick in and the protective streak that will define your relationship to the family is cemented permanently in place.

Up to this day, this month, in 2008, I was a pretty carefree individual who was in pretty good shape for my career / lifestyle. I was an avid gamer that would spend upwards of 25+ hours gaming each week. Sure, during my youth it was probably much more than that especially with how many times I new game +’d in Chrono Trigger, but after leaving the institutionalized learning center that is the American School System, life got much more interesting.

Back to the topic at hand, it’s the year 2008 and I’ve been playing lots and lots of rhythm games and tons of first person shooters (all thanks to the Xbox 360 in that era), when it all suddenly and abruptly stopped. I guess stopped is a bad term for it…maybe changed would fit better here.

No longer could I devote long evenings to games, RPGs were pretty much out of the question…my gaming was now and forever changed to mainly casual gaming ,a genre that I vehemently despised. However, when all you have is 20-30 minutes a day or when you’re on your toilet, the DS, PSP, and iPhone become very real options when it comes to gaming.

For the better part of seven or eight months, my gaming consisted of short bursts of whatever I could get on my iPhone…including Tetris, solitare, and anything with zombies. This is after all when iPhone gaming wasn’t quite the awesome scene that it is now.

Only in the recent months, when my little lady has hit the tender age of 20 months (that excellent time where communication is still iffy, but fun) I can stand to spend a little more time playing games than the 20 minutes or so playing Wii Bowling or Super Street Fighter 4.

Man, this game is just toooooo good.

My debut back onto the gaming scene was Mass Effect 2, a game that I feared picking up due to the three or four playthroughs that I had with the first game which totaled nearly 65 hours playing the same game. Something that not even Final Fantasy XIII was able to do.

I picked up the game nearly 2 weeks ago and have been completely enthralled with my experience. So much so, that I’m actually planning to have at least 2 more playthroughs. That’s no joke considering that with this play I’ve actually skipped a ton of boring dialogue with NPCs and have been trying to get all of the loyalty missions and upgrades finished before heading through the Omega 4 relay.

So far in those 2 weeks I’ve managed to lose an entire day to this game. That’s right 24 hours have come and gone during this game, all done while being a dad, a homeowner, a drone at my job, a husband, and the guy you read here every day. That’s a ton of time for someone’s who’s always pressed for it.

My secrets are simple, and hopefully some of you other gamer dads can relate and help educate the soon-to-be gamer fathers.

Game when ALL work is done – Harmony in the household is necessary if you want to game and stay out of the doghouse. Don’t even think of playing your favorite console unless there is nothing on your ‘honey-do’ list.

Tons of great gaming happen when the kid goes to bed – When my little girl’s door closes at night and it’s just me and my wife, she will normally go to bed which leaves me a good 3-4 hours to game, IF I’ve got nothing else going on. This brings me to the next point.

Don’t let game time ruin your relationship – Contrary to what you might think as a gamer, choosing your game time over spending some quality time with your spouse is a huge no-no in my book. Earn a few brownie points by watching a show or movie with her/him. I know you’re thinking of your delicious game while sitting there watching Kate Plus 8, but trust me, a little quality time goes a long way.

Convince your significant other to game – This is one I’m working on myself, but it’s a good way for both of you to have your cake and eat it too. If you’re wife is a gamer then you’re golden because there are so many games these days that offer co-op experiences. Hell, even I can get my wife to play Super Mario World or Viva Piñata with me even on a bad day.

Put all games, game boxes, controllers, consoles, expensive things where your kids can’t get to them – At first, it’s cute to see your little one pick up the controller and try to use it, until they hit that age where “putting things down” involves a windup and a pitch. It may seem cute to let them play with the game boxes, but if you’re a collector like me, keep them away from that child’s mouth, nothing ruins paper like a teething toddler who likes to rip things.

Absolutely no M rated games on the TV with your kids in the room – I don’t even care if they aren’t at a stage where they know what that red stuff flying out the guy’s head is. Doing this will prepare you to be a responsible adult who will remain adamant about what types of games your kid can and will play. The rating system exists for a reason damnit, and I don’t want to be the parent that the 5 o’clock news is talking about allowing their kid to play GTAIV or Gears of War.

Unplug – It’s good to do something else besides game, hopefully all you cool fathers out there are well adjusted enough to know when it’s appropriate to game and not. As soon as my little girl is a bit older, we’ll be Rock Banding and Wii Sports playing all the time, but that won’t be all we do, there’s a great big thing called outside that’s fun to visit sometimes.

Not me and my kid, but I can hope we're tight enough to do theme costumes like this one year.

I wish that I had a dad that spent time with me gaming when I was a kid; I had so many defining moments of my life play out with no audience and nobody to share in them. I promise to not be that father. I’m going to be there when she rescues the princess, I’ll be there when she defeats Kefka, and hell I’ll even be there when she guides Master Chief through the wreckage of High Charity in Halo 3.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that yes…you can still be a gamer while being a dad, just remember that now that your kid is here, they are more important than any game ever made and that you won’t truly be able to get back into gaming for a good 1.5 years after having your own munchkin.

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