Daily Elysium: Gamers With Kids

It's a bit difficult to achieve the Gold Standard; causing thirty-five million dollars worth of damage from a high-speed, nitrous powered, head on collision at a busy intersection is not an easy goal, though it is certainly worthwhile.  I mean, sure the mini-vans are nice to use as a launching point, but it's critical to get one semi to jack-knife into another and roll the passing bus.  Once you get that, just sit back and rake in the damage points as taxis and company cars shatter against the carnage.  Still, even then, twenty, maybe twenty-five million dollars is an average run, way short of that thirty-five million I need for a real sense of accomplishment.

Certis already talked about Burnout 2, so I thought I'd see if he'd borrowed a clue from a neighbor or something and actually knew what he was talking about.  As it turns out, his clue lending neighbor is on to something, as Burnout 2 is a visceral game that will leave you chucking maniacally while tumbling vehicles shatter in glass and bent metal.  This is, of course, a good thing, or so I normally think.  Except, today as I rubbed my hands together and grinned as though determined fishermen were trying to reel in the sides of my mouth while innocent drivers panicked in slow motion carnage, a question again struck me, one that's been troubling my gleefully evil moments lately.

What the hell kind of father am I going to be?

As October 7th approaches I find more and more of my time and consciousness consumed with the idea that all too soon a very small, very helpless, lump of flesh that some will try to convince me is a human will be completely dependent on me as one of only two resources it has at its disposal.  This is, of course, utterly ridiculous.  I don't even have a firm handle on exactly how to keep myself from chronic peril for any significant length of time, and I'm pretty sure the only reason I'm still respirating on a regular basis is because somewhere someone is diligently convincing others not to kill me.  If I ever find that person, I fully intend to buy him a beer.

So, it's with some concern that I ponder the question of what to teach a child who, if one believes in nurture over nature, is a blank slate upon which I will scribble.  I think for the first few weeks I'll video tape everything I say and do around the baby so Elysia, and possibly a team of psychologists, can analyze the data for any serious errors.  So far I've got it on good authority that I shouldn't teach the boy to drive in the first few months of life, that I should not ask him to bring daddy a knife for a good long while, and I shouldn't feed him steak until he at least has a tooth.  That's pretty much the extent of my solid parenting knowledge.

Also, some people say I shouldn't teach him to play violent video games.

This could be a problem, because I grew up a child of Warner Brothers cartoons, and if Bugs Bunny taught me anything it's that violence is the funny part.  A brief examination of last night's Rainbow Six: Raven Shield game with Certis, Pyro, and I bears this fact out, as we mindlessly completed level after level, mostly talking about the subtle artistry of Buffy: Season Four and Five, until Pyro laid a live grenade at my feet.  I like to think my character looked down and his eyeballs popped out in a hilarious awwoooga kind of way.  From there on out, the night degenerated into mindless comedy as Certis, Pyro, and I devised rationalizations for killing one another. 

I think again: what kind of dad does a man like that become.  Shoot your friends, it's fun ... and funny. 

I imagine hearing my boy trampling down the hall toward the echoing sounds of carnage drifting from Daddy's Fun Time Room, only to be intercepted by my wife who will say in a patient, and I think disappointed voice, "no no, daddy's playing one of his angry games ... again."  She will say that last word 'again' in a very loud and stern voice that is meant to penetrate the reverberating explosions and remind me that, on a basic level, I'm a bad person.  It's a troubling vision, but an inevitable one.

Usually, I write an article like this and I have some kind of resolution.  The reason for this is partly that I think people like the standard arc of narrative even in their commentary: introduction, conflict, maybe more conflict, a short nap, and resolution.  The larger reason is because I like to convince myself that I have all the answers.  But, this time, I've got nothing, only a nagging troubling sense that a man who takes such pleasure in the digital carnage of a catapulting SUV or inept counter-terrorists and the grenades they handle, is not fit to explain the world to small impressionable humans. 

On the plus side, I painted the nursery a lovely shade of blue this week.  It looks quite nice, and I'm pretty sure the paint fumes will help to push my troubles aside.  The colors .... how they swirl and swirl.

- Elysium


Well, whatever you do, dont take him to your local video game store.  He/she may lose all respect for you well before he/she becomes a teenager.

I think the only thing you have to fear is he/she pointing at you and screaming "NERD!" upon exiting the womb.

I think again: what kind of dad does a man like that become. Shoot your friends, it's fun ... and funny.

I don't know a damn thing about kids, and I am not going to have any anytime soon (on purpose). So I don't look at it as a worried parent, but as a grateful son. If my dad had been so afraid of what I might do that he didn't allow me to live, socialize, have fun, regardless of what I was doing, I would be one f*cked up kid. I'm glad I got to watch those hyper-violent cartoons, and play violent games with my friends, it taught me not to be afraid. Nobody can live being afraid of themselves, of what they might do, for long. That's what I always see when I hear of some soccer mom trying to keep thier kids from the big bad bloody boogeyman, some kid growing up afraid that they're one TV show away from being Charles Manson. I'm glad I know better.

Damnit, Certis was right, I am a comma whore. I like, commas, alot.

Ehh,... don't worry about, you'll be fine!

One thing I learned is that, no one was born with the skill of parenthood... so do what you think is right and never regret it.

Now a word of advice... don't listen to me because I have no clue what I am talking about... I just relay what my father once told me. I don't have kids and it looks like I'm not going to have any time soon...

So, in the end Good Luck, Elysium and same to Elysia!

I considered myself a very big gamer in my lower to mid twenties.  Heck, I put in so many hours in EQ and MOO2 that if I got paid minimum wage for that time I could probably retire.

Now that I have very little time to play and I seem to lose my interest in games faster than a prom dress on prom night, I see my son taking over my place with the interest he shows in games.  I have to admit I cant wait till he gets better at reading and writing and moving around on the computer, we will have some very fun times in the future.  One thing though is that we really have to watch the things he's allowed to play.  There is one thing with adults playing games like GTA, and a totally different thing in letting a kid just WATCH games like GTA.

Ive come to the conclusion that wisdom, ethics and even respect comes not only with age but with experience.  In order for a person (especially a child) to realize the difference between what they watch and what is real, it takes ALOT of experience in both the good and bad things that happen in order to get a grip on what is right an what is wrong.   I totally agree not physically abusing your child, hell I went through that as a kid and that left some crap that Id sooner forget, but you gotta spank them when they deserve it or they will walk all over you and have no clue as to why that guy is mad for running their bike into the back of his car.

Also, the Barny mothers that wont even let their kids watch a Pixar movie gotta get a clue too.. if your kid isnt exposed to real life, even in small doses, they will never learn how to deal with real life when it really happens to them... WHICH IT WILL.

Example so you guys dont thing Im blowing @#$% out my %&&.  When my son was 5 we got him the EA Sports NHL 2001.  Him and I both play it in real life and we both love the game so his mom and I thought it would be a great gift for him.  After a couple weeks, we started getting calls and "talks" with his coach about his attitude and his checking the other kids, especially in a non-contact league (this is hockey lvl 2 guys).  We didnt understand and of course had talks with him.  Nothing seemed out of place.

One night, my wife and I walked into our computer/game/kid-movie room and just happend to catch him playing NHL 2001.  We were appalled to see that he wasnt playing the "game".  He was laughing and having a good 'ol time doing nothing but checking the guys into the boards.  He was losing 35 -0 but he didnt care, it was the contact and the fighting that he just loved.  In my mind Im like, hey thats kinda funny, but his mother freaked... and with hindsight she had every right to (she took the game back and got him Spyro I think).

It turned out he really thought that was how the game was played and that is what he was trying to do on the rink.  Now there are many opinions here as to what really happend.   Maybe I didnt pay enough attention to him, maybe his mother and I didnt really explain the way things were but with all honesty he's been going to my games since he was a baby and he knows the rules backwards and forwards.  He just saw it happen in the NHL playoffs that year and came to his own conclusion as to what was fun.

Now thats just a small (albiet Ive written a novel here) example.  He once played Driver2 at his cousins and man thats all we heard for weeks on end.  "Hey dad, if I was driving like in Driver2 and I hit that car and smashed up that police man, that would be cool wouldnt it?".  What do you say to that?  Or how about "Hey mom, you know that game Driver2?  I like that game and when I grow up Im gonna drive and take out all the police cars I see!!!".  She wasnt happy :P

Now I love games too, and man I gotta watch it around him.  I replayed HalfLife a couple months ago and he just happened to catch me playing during the "helicopter part".  Thats all we heard for weeks on end.  About how it was cool shooting those army men and "boy I want to be an army guy so I can have a gun and do things like that".

Oh what am I gonna do when Doom3 and HalfLife 2 come out??!!!

From what I've seen, Doom3 may be enough to cause serious psychological trauma to a small child. Imagine being afraid of the dark because a cacodemon might pop out at any moment... On the other hand, if you don't expose him to the minions of Satan now, he might grow up to be a republican or something.

First of all, awesome story Elysium. We probably don't need to register gamerswithkids.com, but I have a feeling there's a few already in our midst.

I've got more hope and respect for a parent like you, Par, than half of the parents I see. Does it suck when you catch your kid focusing on the morally questionable aspects of a game? Sure. I gotta' imagine that can be a little rain on your parenting parade. However, you're obviously paying more attention now than you did before. What does that tell me? You're learning.

Like it was said above, nobody knows how to be a parent. Even those who are on their eighth kid probably get flummoxed in situations. But if you're willing to learn from your experience (note I didn't say mistakes...sometimes you don't need to actually do something wrong to learn), you'll be that much more aware the next time.

I don't have kids. I plan to. I know I'm going to screw up. But I'm going to try like crazy to just be aware. If it means I have to listen to whatever crappy music they decide is cool, so be it. Video games are going to be a piece of cake. You don't have to twist my arm to watch and research a game my kid is begging me for. TV is going to be tough for me. I barely watch it as it is, and I can't stand the majority of it. But you can believe I'll force myself to do the time and suffer through whatever interminable dreck he/she decides he/she "needs" to see. Even if its...*gulp*...American Idol 2015 or whatever.

Raise your head and be proud, Par. Unlike too many parents out there, you're paying attention. Keep up the good work.

I don't have any kids yet, but I'd say the moment you say this:

"What the hell kind of father am I going to be?"

That means you put a lot of thinking into this and that is more than most fathers do I'd say. Other than that I can only agree with the others in here especially with what Nei said.

So congrats and good luck to both of you Elysium and Elysia

The fact that you can cause carnage and be able to tell the difference between entertainment and reality makes you an excellent father, in my opinion.

Now, for an alarmingly funny take on exactly this subject, I strongly recommend The Story About The Baby.

I'm going to share a secret because I like you.

Parents (myself included) love hearing parents-to-be talk. We enjoy the bright eyed and bushy tailed exclamations of joy. We chuckle as you ponder your worth and inwardly grin as you try to deem yourself capable of keeping another human being alive.

But mostly, we really like the fact that you're going to suffer as much as we all did.

Its somehow comforting to know that in the near future, you are going to become shadows of your current self, never to return to the state of self directed idle time you once allowed. The personal choices of freedom you now take for granted will be ripped away and replaced with a tiny little creature that will control almost every waking (and 'waking' being a term I use with a knowing laugh) action and thought for the forseeable future.

Listening to you quiz yourself on whether or not video games could effect your child, is akin to lamenting your hang nail as your canoe floats ever closer to the waterfall.

The good news is, we wouldn't enjoy your suffering-to-be, if we didn't realize it all works out and makes it worthwhile the entire time.

I've got 4 kids ages 3-10. My experience is that it doesn't so much matter what you let them play as long as you pay attention to them and are ready to stop whatever it is you are doing and answer their questions (even if they didn't really ask a question).

For example, Par mentioned his son played Driver 2 and asked "Hey dad, if I was driving like in Driver2 and I hit that car and smashed up that police man, that would be cool wouldn't it?"  I would have jumped on the opportunity with, "Would it? If you were driving a car and smashed into another car, what would really happen to you?"  The goal being to get the kid to think, *really think*, about what would happen. I'd being asking a lot more questions too, like who would fix or replace your car? What would the police do to you?

I also know that different kids have different thresholds of understanding. My oldest has a very high tolerance for virtual gross, cruel, and violent images. Meaning the images themselves don't bother him because he understands the imaginary nature of them. With him, I do have many talks about how life is different than a simple game.

My second has a low tolerance and is easily influenced by her environment. For her, I focus on helping her to know her limits and ways she can deal with them. At this point, if a scary TV show is on, she will leave the room (or change the channel). Again, it's not a question of limiting what she has access to, but rather helping her to understand what the consequences are so she can make a rational choice.

Taking pleasure in digital carnage is not a problem when raising kids, as long as you also understand why it is ok when it is digital and can take the time to explain it whenever your child is wondering (which will be much more than once, and probably right in the middle of your game... every time )

P.S. For some reason I'm feeling very jealous that you had time to paint a room. I remember when I had time, vaguely.

I loaned Civ III and Alpha Centauri to friend of mine (who has 2 kids, ages 5 and 7) when he got a new computer.  His wife was quite adamant about "no violent games" and only E-rated stuff.   The kids were there (and he didn't object...) when I started walking him through Civ III.  Within about 5 minutes his five year old son says, "So that blue guy is supposed to kill that gray guy?"

Can't really fool kids.  

My favorite moment babysitting his two kids is when their parents had been gone for all of..a minute, the oldest (the seven year old girl) starts climing the support pole in their basement, and by the time I see this she is like 4 ft in the air.  I stopped, and in a calm voice asked her, "Are you trying to get my attention in a good way, or a bad way?"  She slowly climbed down, walked shyly over to me, and spelled out, " B   -     A    -    D."  We got along great after that.