I have been playing games for my entire life so far with no end in sight. Over the years of playing games, I have learned many things about myself and the way I experience media, as well as what genuinely affects me on an emotional level (among countless other things). I recently discussed the benefits kids acquire from playing games.
Now imagine my surprise when I realized all that time playing games has actually taught me to be a better parent. Crazy, eh?
Believe it or not, there are certain skills you can develop by being a member of the gaming culture at large. While not all of these develop strictly from playing games, per se; they are all interconnected and have developed in some way through the years due to my time with games and the culture. So, how can your game time now possibly translate to being an awesome parent later? Let’s find out!
Patience is a Virtue
One of the most important qualities you can have as a parent is patience, especially with younger children. Kids are curious and will get into EVERYTHING. It’s just a fact of life. You can turn your back for an instant and turn around to discover your child has fingerpainted animals on all of your walls. While kids will always do things they are not supposed to and they will disobey, we still must remain patient with them.
Anyone who has played any game has had to learn patience. Those of us who grew up playing the frustratingly difficult games of the NES generation know what I mean. Most games require some degree of patience in order to be successful. Players who are fans of notoriously difficult games such as Super Meat Boy and the Souls series, among many others, are well acquainted with our friend patience. Now if you are constantly breaking your controller in frustration, you might want to work on that…
A Thrifty Gamer is a Thrifty Parent
If you play games, chances are you are a bargain hunter, even if only a small amount. We are always hunting for deals and steals in order to play as many games as possible for as little money as it takes. Steam Sales, Humble Bundles, bargain bins, and yard sales are just some of the tools in our repertoire we use to get those cheap deals! (I even wrote a guide on how to be bargain gamer for consoles.) Many players shop smart, are frugal, and know how to do as much research as they can to find the best deal possible.
Having a child can be quite expensive. Car seats, beds, clothes, diapers, and the many other necessities add up quick. However, being a thrifty gamer absolutely transfers into being a thrifty parent.
I could buy that brand-new Graco carseat for $300 (these things are expensive), or I can get this other one someone returned, in like-new condition, for only $100! I have found myself constantly calculating the cost of individual wipes, diapers, and more in an effort to make the best buy and stretch my funds as much as possible. My constant bargain-hunting for games has allowed me to find great deals on things for my daughter. Stay thrifty my friends!
A Willingness to Try New Things
As a parent, it can be difficult to get your child to try new things. “It looks gross! I don’t like the way it smells. This place is different!” And so on. Kids can be very picky, especially when it comes to food. Thankfully, my daughter is a miniature vacuum cleaner at the moment and rarely finds something she will not eat. (I hope I didn’t just jinx myself.) As parents, we want to ensure our child experiences things they might not otherwise. Great things can arise when you leave your comfort zone. Variety is the spice of life after all.
Fellow players also know how important trying new things can be. Some of my favorite games include Spec Ops: The Line, To the Moon, and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. All three games are drastically different and stretch across multiple genres. Without being willing to try something different from my usual taste, I would have probably never played these amazing games. How many times have we played a game we thought was strange because our friend or a critic we respect recommended it?
By trying new things, we allow ourselves to be open to a wide variety of experiences and whatever may follow. Sure, you can play the same yearly iterations of Madden and Call of Duty, but you miss out on great games such as Brothers, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, Transistor, and Bayonetta.
By being a gamer who embraces variety and is willing to try a wide variety of titles, I know the importance of variety and hope my daughter will grow up appreciating variety as well. Hopefully she will never be a picky eater too!
Shrugging Off Critics and Their Unwanted Advice
I’m convinced the moment you become a parent you gain an invisible bulls-eye for unwanted advice and criticism. I am all about useful, helpful, and constructive advice, but useless and hyper-critical advice from random strangers or even people you know? No thanks, mate.
Once I was walking towards my daughter with a bag of chips I was snacking on in hand. Someone told me, “Don’t feed that baby chips!” The joys of parenting! Thankfully, due to countless backseat gamers, I know how to shrug off this sort of uninvited backseat parenting.
The above story is probably also familiar to anyone who has ventured into the realm of online multiplayer. How many times have you been minding your own business fulfilling the role of your character only to receive criticism? “Why are you going top with Jinx?!” “Don’t use your abilities yet!” "Don't heal that baddie!" And so it goes.
While some of the things said online might be more akin to harassment and bullying (which we will get to), a lot of it is in a similar camp to the unwanted, not very helpful advice. By being constantly exposed to it, you learn how to deal with, ignore, deflect, or whatever it is you do. The important thing to remember is to not let it get you, either when playing games or parenting.
Ignoring the Haters and Dealing with Bullies
Like many people, I have had my fair share dealing with bullies, harassers, and those mean-spirited haters. Thankfully, dealing with people like this will allow me to help my daughter when she encounters these toxic creatures. While I hope and pray she won’t encounter them, it seems an inevitable passage of life we all must face.
We’ve all been there before. Playing our favorite game when someone decides to take it upon themselves and be the ugliest person they can be, usually in the form of sexist, hateful, and derogatory remarks.
Believe it or not, dealing with these people online helps determine how you will deal with similar people in real life. The exposure to meanies and bullies online will help you to deal with future incidents in a positive manner, and help you teach your kids how to rise above the negativity.
Organization is Awesome
I tend to be a bit anal with some things. My movie, music, and game collections are all alphabetized. I have also somehow organized my colossal Steam and GOG.com libraries by genre. No easy feat, I assure you.
I have also organized my book collection as well as my shoes, clothes, and my MMO inventories, and our Guild Bank, and you get the idea…. Having games organized allows you to easily find the game you just have a hankering to play, otherwise you are stuck rummaging through a pile of assorted games with no clue as to where that elusive game is! I've learned a thing or two about organizing damn-near everything.
As a parent, being organized is a must for everyday life as well as when you want to go somewhere. Organized clothes ensures you aren’t dressing your child in winter clothes in the heat of summer (you’d be surprised what happens when you aren’t awake yet). Having your child’s toys organized allows you to easily lay hands on that particular toy when they ask, “Where’s my favorite action figure block?!” While it may not always be easy, staying organized is a great skill for parents and gamers alike.
Loving Something that Isn’t Perfect
We all enjoy games, but we know there is no such thing as a perfect game. It is impossible. Every game is flawed in some way. While we may be able to overlook the flaws even the greatest games have, some of gamers even enjoy games that have issues. We know they are far from perfect and they have issues, yet we still love them and hold them dear to our hearts. Now how in the world can that apply to parenting? Rather easily, it turns out.
The most important thing you can do as a parent is love your child. You could provide your child with everything they could ever want or dream of, but without loving them, they would not be content with their life. While there are other important skills tasks you have as a parent, few come close in importance to loving your child.
A parent’s love is dumbfounding, terrifying, and stronger than adamantium. However, children are far from perfect. Hell, kids are basically little adults with no life experience. They will make mistakes, they'll have 'bugs', and they'll frustrate you sometimes. The thing is, no matter what our children may do, we parents will continue to love our children; just like we gamers will continue to cherish our flawed, but enjoyable games.
It’s interesting what parallels that one can correlate between parenting and gaming after some thought. While there are other parenting skills gaming has influenced and sharpened, I found these the most interesting and important. Now if you’ll excuse me, I probably have some fingerpainted dogs to clean off the walls…