Being a Parent and Gamer: Part 3.

Reflections from a New Father.

Note, this is a continuation of parts one and two. You can read part one here and part two here!

Nearly a year ago our first child was born. We then moved across the country shortly after his birth. My wife started a new job. I started one too, staying at home with our son. This was a calculated decision: 1. We won’t be able to get this time back with him. 2. We were unfamiliar with the area, thus choosing a daycare at random was unnerving. 3. Daycare is expensive. All these factors aside, having a little one surely has changed life for the better. His entrance into our worlds has brought many smiles, laughs, tears of joy (we won’t omit those of frustration), and created so many wonderful memories in such a short time. It has also drastically changed our understandings of the concept of free time. For me, this means how much time I’m able to enjoy video games.

Then and Now:

Before having a child, I often played video games around 1 to 3 hours a day and probably around 15 to 20 hours a week. I usually played weeknight evenings and when the mood struck on weekends, structured around our other weekend plans. Now I probably play under or close to an hour a day, and definitely under 10 hours a week. An important caveat is that we don’t allow him to see screens for the foreseeable future. We’re trying to be mindful of what his exposure is to them. So, my gaming sessions are usually after he goes to bed for the evening. Occasionally when he sleeps I might try and make some progress on a game, provided I’ve finished other tasks around the home. A nice feature, and not a bug of having a little one is having built-in time limits and my very own accountability partner. I’ve certainly noticed how much less I’m able to play games but I feel my enjoyment and satisfaction from playing has risen.

I’m certain there’s a folk saying out there that applies perfectly with the point I’m trying to convey, but I’m going to go with “Variety is the spice of life”. It seems fitting in the present set of circumstances. Our days have a fairly predictable routine, but a good variety of activities spread throughout the week. We’ll have lunch as a family near my wife’s work one day, then we’ll walk / stroll through the park the next, go to story time another, and FaceTime with our families near the end of the week. So even when the day follows a cyclical pattern of eating, playing, and napping determined by the needs of our son, there’s a fun variety of things we’re doing together. Plus being able to see his growth, personality develop, and typical baby milestones has brought us immense joy.

Life simply feels balanced right now. Of course there have been moments of chaos and unpredictability. I don’t like to revisit the first four months of his life when he wasn’t sleeping at all through the night. That shook all of our notions of “normal.” Our state of the household seems to have settled, even amongst teething and growth spurts. So now, between caring for our son, spending time as a family, tending to housework, exercising, and meeting / socializing with new friends, gaming has taken a fairly welcome back seat in my life. It’s there when I want to experience an immersive story, or take on a new challenge, or kick back and relax with a game, but those opportunities have been drastically reduced. This has felt fine.

Making the Most of My Time:

Despite playing games (and purchasing far fewer) on a less frequent basis, I’ve been able to optimize how I play them. I’ve beaten approximately 12 games in 2019. For reference, in years past I’ve beaten: 12 games in 2018, 21 in 2017, 17 in 2016, 30 in 2015, and 13 in 2014. I consider a game beaten when I see the end credits roll. This year, I tend to complete the main story in games, if there is one. I don’t get side-tracked with being a completionist or hunting down in-game collectibles. Similarly, I haven’t played many multiplayer games, though getting demolished in Tetris 99 on Nintendo Switch has been humbling and enjoyable. Also Tetris Effect for PS4 is the complete opposite of Tetris 99 — so relaxing, soothing, and trance inducing! In all here’s what I’ve beaten:

  1. Pokemon TCG – Game Boy Color
  2. Pokemon Let’s Go Pikachu – Nintendo Switch
  3. Cave Story + – Nintendo Switch
  4. Pokemon Snap – Nintendo 64
  5. Advance Wars: Days of Ruin – Nintendo DS
  6. Monster Boy in the Cursed Kingdom – Nintendo Switch
  7. Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst – PC
  8. Eternal Darkness – Nintendo Gamecube
  9. Chibi Robo – Nintendo Gamecube
  10. Tetris Effect – PS4
  11. Wolfenstein: Old Blood – Xbox One
  12. Spiderman – PS4

One of my goals this year has been to continue to play games off my backlog. I’m pleased that I’ve stuck to it! Genre-wise I’ve played fewer RPG’s than in years past. I just can’t commit the time that they require. In theory they sound great — frequent save points allow for the game to be broken up easily. However when coming back to one after not playing for some time, I have no idea what I was doing or where I was. I don’t think I find them as appealing for the time being. Spiderman was probably the longest I played a single game, over the course of a few months. It was just such a great, complete experience and probably the best open-world game I’ve played to date. My Switch has gotten a lot of love. The undocking function lets me start and stop and offers some nice flexibility given my limited time, and doesn’t exclusively require the TV. All in all, I feel like I’ve enjoyed a good number of quality games often driven by a strong main story. Chibi-Robo, Spiderman, and Monster Boy have been my standout favorites this year. So even though I’ve played far less time-wise, I still feel accomplished with the games that I’ve been able to play through.

Closing Time:

Previously, I allowed gaming to fill the downtime in my day. At times I felt obligated to play games I purchased, and then I felt guilty on the time I spent on them. I was clearly off-balance and feeling buyers remorse on my most precious currency: my time and life energy. Having a baby provided me the clearest of realizations. He needs so much of our time. Our child shapes so much of our day and has changed my concept and availability of free time. I once mourned my previous life of late night gaming marathons. I feel like that has to be a common thought for most new parents, but definitely hit me hard when it sank in. Now that some time has passed, I think I’ve overcome those stages of grief. It seems silly when I look back at it. Now I view the time I’m able to play games as a gift. My son will eventually develop interests of his own as he grows into a little boy. Maybe it will be games, or maybe it will be something entirely different. I’ll try to not let my fandom of video games bias his own decision making. That day will come someday in the future, but for now I’m content with the present. Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts about the worlds of parenting and gaming too!

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