Being a Parent and a Gamer: Part 2.

Making the most of your precious (little) free time.

As a continuation from my last post, I wanted to keep sharing perspectives from gamers who have become parents. We’ve written this article in conjunction with a snapshot survey of the Racketboy community (A fantastic, definitive retro gaming site) — I wanted to capture the responses of fellow gaming compatriots who have children. Have they continued to find enjoyment (and time) in gaming as a hobby? (You can read part one here.) Our interview questions focused on the intersections of being a parent and enjoying video games as a hobby. Outside of time spent gaming, have the types of games they’ve played changed? Do they see their children taking an interest in gaming? Their insights I really appreciated as a new parent, and I hope they are relatable or provide some take-away wisdom. Today, three new Racketboy forum members step up to the plate: Reprise, Marurun, and BogusMeatFactory. My own reflections will come in a follow-up conclusion to this article series.

Amount of Time Spent:

As a parent, has there been a change in how frequently you are able to play games?

Reprise: “Absolutely. Honestly, nothing prepares you for the huge change that is having a baby the first time. I don’t even think it’s naivety per se, it’s just nothing prepares you for it. It’s a huge change. Free time? Say goodbye to that for the first few months, especially the very first weeks. I used to game all the time (retro and modern), but don’t do as much anymore. I also cancelled my PSN subscription because I don’t feel I can justify paying for it anymore (I don’t even play any online games on my PS4 anymore).”

Marurun: “Yes. I can now only play games pretty much after the child is in bed, because he’s still too young to involve him in my game-playing.”

BogusMeatFactory: “There has absolutely been a change in how frequently I play games. When becoming a first time parent, a vast majority of my time was spent taking care of them versus spending personal time playing games. “

How many hours a week on average did you play before your kid(s) were born? Did this change when your kid(s) were just born or very young.

Reprise: “Several to be honest. I’d game most evenings and all weekends for the most parts. There were the odd patches when I wouldn’t game as much, but on an average week, I would play a game at 2 or 3 evenings in the week and then put in several hours over the weekend. When they were first born, I didn’t game anywhere near as much in the first few weeks. Then I slowly started building it up again. I feel like I still got plenty in as when they’re so young, you are quite limited with what you can do with them and they do sleep a lot. Does that sound terrible? Haha, I don’t mean it to.”

Marurun: “Between PC and consoles, maybe 7-20 hours a week, depending on what games I was involved with at the time.”

BogusMeatFactory: “I spent roughly 20-40 hours a week…I gamed a lot. After my first daughter was born, I spent roughly 8 hours a week at a maximum depending on the situation.”

How did this change as your children have gotten older?

Reprise: “As he got older, I started to manage more of a schedule. So during nap time, I’ll game a bit. Sometimes I put in a bit in the evenings after he’s asleep. I also stopped gaming in front of my son. Especially because I’m not comfortable with the more adult nature of a lot of my games (not just GTA or anything adult rated, but just the general levels of violence or bad language in a lot of normal games) and also because he needs me to be focussed on him and engaging with him.”

Marurun: “When the child was still a newborn I didn’t have time for almost any gaming that wasn’t on my phone. Once he was old enough to largely sleep through the night I was able to start playing some games again. I think I peaked at about 8 or 9 hours a week, and only because I was determined to finish a particular game. More casual gaming activity was less than 4-5 hours a week.”

BogusMeatFactory: “I have had a lot more time to play games as my daughter grew up. She is 3 now and I have more time to play games and more time to play games around her. My playtime is now around 20 hours-ish a week at maximum.”

Types of Games:

Before you were a parent, what were the most common genres you enjoyed?

Reprise: “I don’t know, as I like most genres and games. I guess adventure games, platformers, FPSs, cinematic games.”

Marurun: “I mostly played FPS shooters and action-RPGs on PC, occasionally taking time out to complete a recently acquired classic console title. I liked leveling and loot mechanics in games, so I did kind of gravitate to those for PC-fare.”

BogusMeatFactory: “I played a lot of multiplayer games, MMORPGs, Online Shooters and games with a heavy community focus. I also played a lot of co-op games with my wife. Usually I played a lot of games that were time extensive. That required a lot of focus and for long periods of time.”

Did you have a preferred platform for gaming?

Reprise: “PS4 and PS3 for modern gaming. Dreamcast, Saturn, Mega Drive and PS2 for retro. “

Marurun: “PC, 75-90%, other older classic consoles, 10-25%. Mostly PC Engine, Genesis, or Wii in recent years.”

BogusMeatFactory: “I played mostly PC and Nintendo platforms pre-child.”

Did becoming a parent change the types of games you enjoy or the types of platforms you play them on?

Reprise: “I play a lot less retro and the PS4 is no longer my preferred platform. Handhelds like the Vita and the hybrid Switch are now my preferred platforms because CONVENIENCE. I rarely play retro games now to be honest, just because it’s a bit more of a faff…”

Marurun: “I haven’t played enough games since to be able to say for genres, except that I’ve been largely handheld/mobile exclusive for the past year. Everything I’ve spent any real time with has been on DS or Switch. I will tentatively say no, except with PC largely out of the picture it has mixed up what’s available to me. There are lots of PC games on my Steam account that I would probably have played that I haven’t.”

BogusMeatFactory: “Having a child absolutely changed what platforms I play games on. I didn’t have a lot of time to play games on my PC, because it was not conducive to taking care of a child. Add to that, a lot of my playtime shifted away from online games so that I could pause or dedicate time to help out at a moments notice. If it was late at night and my daughter would wake up and cry, I could immediately stop what I was doing and help her. Having the Wii U was a huge help during that time though, as I could hold a sleeping baby and play certain Wii U titles.

As my daughter grew older, I had more opportunities to play online games thankfully. Using things like Steam Link to my TV and the Nintendo Switch have really opened up a lot of opportunities to play the types of games I used to enjoy late at night while also taking care of my second child. Also, a very strange thing occurred recently. Games have been more accommodating to people with disabilities and I have been able to use that to my advantage. Wearing headphones is difficult, because I can’t hear a baby cry and having sound on my games could easily disturb my family (my wife works as a nurse and needs to be asleep by 7 PM on nights). Some games, like Fortnite offer a hearing impaired mode where sound is simulated visually in the game and has been a boon to me, allowing me to play without restraint (and honestly it gives me a slight advantage to be fair).”

Enjoying Games with your Kids:

Have your children become interested in video games as a free-time activity?

Reprise: “My son is just 2, so he hasn’t seen a lot. When I used to do more gaming in front of him, he showed a lot of interest. I even had to give him his own controller as a toy (it’s a third party PS3 pad), although I’ve since taken it off him due to fears he’ll bite the sticks off and choke on them.”

Marurun: Not yet, he’s too young.

BogusMeatFactory: “My first daughter is only slightly interested. She cares more about physical activities than video games. She is 3 years old currently and I try to introduce her to some of the classic Nintendo games, which she shows a minor interest in. I even built levels in Mario Maker to help introduce her to the concept of running left to right, jumping to get coins etc. Each level ramped up and introduced new elements to help her. She didn’t show much interest. I think a lot of that is that I don’t spend a lot of time in the day time playing video games. I talk to her about them, because I am interested in them and she loves the Nintendo characters, but doesn’t really connect them to the games themselves.”

Was there an age that you started enjoying video games together?

Reprise: “He’s too young, but hopefully soon. Like I said, he has shown interest. Also, he LOVES the new Shenmue 3 trailer.”

BogusMeatFactory: “Only now have I started being able to enjoy any game time with my 3 year-old. We have played Dr. Mario and the original Mario Bros. She is just now starting to grasp the concept of inputting commands on the controller and seeing it appear on screen as an action. I hope that she gets into gaming, because I found it to be insanely helpful in critical thinking skills, problem solving and reading comprehension.”

Are there specific games that your kids enjoy that you now enjoy (perhaps even begrudgingly)?

Reprise: “See above. At 2, he’s still probably a bit too young.”

BogusMeatFactory: “Not at all. My 3 year-old hasn’t done much gaming without me and I am very open to new and different types of play.”

Are there any restrictions as a parent you place on the games your kids play, content specific or amount of time?

Reprise: “There will be when he starts gaming. Currently, he’s not allowed to watch too much TV. It’ll be the same for games. I’ll also try and avoid anything inappropriate or violent until he’s older.”

BogusMeatFactory: “My daughter gets 1 hour a day maximum to do Tablet time, using the Kindle Fire Kids Edition. It comes pre-loaded with software and learning tools and a very rich parental control settings. We set limitations on her using the tablet for videos and games and require a certain amount of time in her 1 hour to do reading and comprehension, basic math and writing skills.”

Racketboy Honorable Mentions: Any favorite classics that you enjoyed as a younger version of yourself that you’ve gently nudged them into trying? How were the results?

Reprise: “Shenmue as mentioned above haha.”

BogusMeatFactory: “I’ve been trying hard to get my daughter in Mario and it has had mixed results. She loves Mario and Luigi as a character, but shows a minor interest in the games themselves. She has loved the colors and action of Splatoon (not to play, but to watch) and is my personal cheerleader when I play. I am looking to get her introduced into Animal Crossing when it comes to the switch and really hope that is her first game to really get into. It really encourages reading and writing skills, socialization and problem solving. Plus it allows me to indirectly interact with her townsperson and her world in fun and exciting ways.

I also got her to play some of URU: Ages Beyond Myst, having her run the character around, which she enjoyed, but had no idea what was going on. Mostly I want her to be comfortable with the idea of moving an avatar without fear of death so that I won’t discourage her. I do not backseat game as I want her to experience it at her own pace. Also, some of the games I treasure the most, I want her to experience without me being there, so that she can process it at her own pace and share with me. I am excited to see if she gets into games, but will not in any way be disappointed if she doesn’t. She is her own person who has a love and passion for things already. She knows I love to play games and the last thing I want to do is pressure her into thinking she needs to like them in order to bond with me. We will see how things turn out as she grows up.”

Thanks so much to Reprise, Marurun, and BogusMeatFactory for sharing their thoughts and perspectives on being a gamer and parent. I’ve really learned a lot from hearing their stories, from their own personal tastes, takes on how to purposefully engage their children on gaming, and making time for gaming despite having a family. In the next (and for now, final) post, I’ll share how gaming has changed for me with having a very young baby.

You can read part one of this article series here! Thanks for reading and please share your own story and journey with gaming and parenting in the comments below.

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