Next-Gen Skillz: Killzone, The Last of Us, and Babies
Being a gamer parent is hard.
When you have a kid, you devote yourself to providing the best possible life for them, and that often means sacrificing things for yourself. As a gamer, that often means you must step away from gaming for a while in order to establish a routine and consistency for your child. But if gaming is high enough on your priority list and you are fortunate enough to have a baby that sleeps fairly well at night, you’ll still have a couple hours in the evening to get your fix.
So this is the life of the gaming parent.
Relegated to your basement or TV room in the dead of night, when the whole house is quiet. You put on headphones so as not to wake the baby, settle into your favorite chair, and let a game take you into another world… with the baby monitor sitting next to the TV so you know when you must return to reality.
At first, this new (and often interrupted) routine of gaming was very frustrating and hard for me to handle. When you’re used to cranking the surround sound system with bass that shakes the whole house, even a great set of headphones is just… different. When you’re used to marathon gaming sessions on a Friday night that keep you up until two in the morning, getting up to rock the baby back to sleep in the middle of a Killzone: Shadow Fall match and calling it quits at 10:30 because you know you need to get some sleep is just… different.
And different isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Having a baby is an amazing, transformative experience, and it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. But gaming has remained a priority for me, and though I don’t get to play nearly as much as I used to or in the same way that I used to, I think I’ve learned to appreciate my experiences a little more.
Take The Last of Us for example.
First of all, the whole dynamic of Joel and Ellie, the father/daughter relationship that it turns out to be, really hits home as a father. This game touched me in a way no other game ever has, and I know it wouldn’t have had the same experience if I wasn’t a parent. But in addition to the emotional connection, it took me three weeks to beat the game, simply because I only had a couple hours a night to play - if I was lucky. But spending this much time playing it really made me appreciate what it was. Returning to the decaying world that Naughty Dog created day after day was truly special, and it’s an experience I would not have had if I’d just plowed through the game in a weekend.
But not being able to plow through games does present a problem in some instances. For example, in first-person shooters like Battlefield and Call of Duty, or even MMOs like Rift or Lord of the Rings Online, not being able to play consistently and develop my skills means that in online matches or when grouping with friends, I am not a very good teammate. Fortunately, I have good friends to play with who don’t care that I stink, but when playing random matches online, it’s often hard to be the one guy on your team that keeps getting worked over.
But all in all, being a late-night gamer with one eye on the baby monitor isn’t all bad. I still get time to play, I still have time to write, and more importantly, I get to play with a beautiful baby girl every day. The rewards for introducing a child into your world, despite the reduced time for gaming, are indescribable. And who knows, maybe my kids will grow into gamers, too? Then we’ll be able to share these experiences over the years together, and I won’t have to go online to get worked over in a multiplayer game. My daughters will be able to do that while sitting right next to me.
It's already fun seeing how video games are affecting my kids. My oldest daughter is five years old today, and she already collects Skylanders toys even though she's never played the game. She likes the Dovahkiin necklace I wear around my neck because she likes watching me fight Dragons in Skyrim. And she's already discovered the joys of the original Super Mario Bros., thanks the downloading it on the Wii.
As she gets a little older, I can't wait to teach her why games are so important to me, and how they've impacted my life. But more importantly, I can't wait to spend time with someone who thinks the world of me while taking part in my favorite pastime.
Life is pretty good as a gamer dad, and it's only going to get better.