The Gaming Parent

There is, if theatrical cartoons are to be taken as a pillar of modern philosophical thought, a circle of life. The more I think about it, the more fatalistically hopeless this revelation seems to me. Locked onto inevitable ideas of predestination and futility a circle to life not only suggests that we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of those who came before, but also implies that we are creatures locked onto a mortal coil of fate. I'm not sure why we're celebrating this in kids films – "˜Listen, Billy, you should pack your dreams in a little box and bury them in the attic, because you're going to end up chugging Malox and wearing a suit that stinks of gin and desperation, wallowing in a dead-end middle management job while you count the seconds til your death – but at least they put it to a cheerful sounding song.

Despite its depressing implications, the circle of life does give people like me license to talk in generalizations by extrapolating personal experience onto a community at large. That means I can deliver advice with no professional experience – like bartending or taxi driving – and be pretty certain that others will share my perspective. And so this article is something of a warning sign for our latest gaming dad, Griffon who is celebrating the birth of his newborn automated feces maker.

What is most difficult about being a new parent is that the things you think you know about parenting before having a child and the things you know as soon as four months after are the difference between knowing how to drive a car and knowing how to pilot an alien starfighter from the future.

Now that I've wasted two paragraphs endowing myself with authority based on false pretenses, ultimately resorting to a weak comedic turn, I can get on with the discussion, which, as you've undoubtedly already realized, is about gaming with children. It may come as some surprise to those of you without children, but having smaller less capable versions of yourself in the house actually changes your life in several significant ways, not the least of which is that you have a lot less time to spend indulging your recreational appetites. Babies, in particular, are not known for their self-reliance. You will find the only thing they can capably do on their own is eject disgusting fluids from a variety of orifices, and make noises the would raise the dead and send them packing to Guadalajara (widely known as the home of the vacationing damned.). This proves troublesome if you're engaged in an online match of Counter-Strike or halfway through a Live race in Project Gotham Racing 2.

So here are some tips for our newest dad. These aren't really recommendations, because as you will quickly discover anything you can actually do is utterly fruitless in altering your child's behavior. These are more some facts that you're just better off knowing from the start. By no means is it a comprehensive list, but these are certainly the top five.

Babies Can Not Be Reasoned With. This does not mean you won't vainly try for hours to try and explain the situation and its relative normalcy to a crying infant. Babies are not so much like reasonable humans as they are a light switch attached to a car horn. They really have two setting, off and loud, and you might just as well explain to a deaf Irish Setter how there's really no need to be barking as try and calm a crying baby with rational explanations. This is a double problem if you're a gamer, because babies also do not believe you when you say you only have half a lap left. Nor do they care. Which brings us to dictum number 2.

Babies Are Completely Selfish. If you were wounded and unconscious on the floor, your baby would not be crying from concern for your well being, but rather because things were unusually quiet and they felt a bit peckish. Considering how disinterested they are in this dire a circumstance, imagine the mind-blowing indifference with which they'd treat your desire to finish watching a Final Fantasy cutscene. Combined with their complete rejection of smartly worded reasoning, you begin to get an idea of what an uncertain experience gaming can be when you're a new parent. But even in the best of circumstances "…

As A Parent You Have Tripled Your Capacity for Guilt. Let's assume that you've put the baby in the bouncy seat and he is happily shaking his rattle, kicking his legs, and making sounds that are presumably not some form of fury. Even in these happy and unusual circumstances, should you decide to try and sneak in ten minutes of Madden, you'll suddenly feel like the worst parent in the world. It is in these moments that you recall all the bazillion things you promised to do as a parent and just haven't done yet. Despite the fact that you've already read the same book to him five times so far, you'll be absolutely convinced that these minutes you spent playing Madden will be the reason your kid turns into an illiterate psychopath. You can suddenly imagine the psychologist's horror when your child explains that dad took once played Halo in front of him as an infant. Should you ignore this permeating guilt, there is yet another pitfall for the gaming father.

Your Baby Has a Sense of Humor. I learned my son had a sense of humor early on. I was standing with my wife fawning over him, which is something you'll spend a startling amount of time doing, and I said, "there's nothing I don't love about him." Actually, I was in the process of saying this when my son made a sound from his lower half like a passing truck driving through mud. If anyone wonders why bathroom humor is so popular, it's because it's the first form of humor we have. My son also saves all his urine for when he is being changed, that way he can spray it on our clothes, himself, the wall, the cat, and occasionally the ceiling. I'd think this an unfortunate coincidence if not for his complete look of satisfaction.

So, with that in mind, know beyond a shadow of doubt that your child will wait until the most inopportune moments of gaming to make his displeasures known. Playing Madden during a crucial fourth down play as you drive Ahman Green toward the closing gap, your son will suddenly expel a violent shout. As a father or mother you are incapable of ignoring this, and must check to make sure the baby isn't being attacked by a rabid emu. Of course, this means your fourth down conversion is a statistical impossibility without a single emu in sight.

But the most important and surprising of all these dictums is"…

It's All Worth It. To cut the inevitably sappy sentiment I'm inclined to put forward, I'll try to keep this short. The most surprising thing about the reaction you have to your kid is that in almost every way you won't care about the shocking difficulties he will bring to your life. There's only one person in the entire world who could pee on me and make it funny, and that is my infant son. I'm willing to bet that if any of you suddenly took it in your head to urinate on my shirt, I would react in a sharply different way. For my son, however, I am absolutely incapable of harboring anything like anger, much less resentment. I live and die with every smile, every cooing noise, every whine, and every yawn. So, the rest of these suggestions are just some facts to get used to. They won't really matter.

Congratulations Griffon, and welcome to the fold. This means you too can now look down upon Certis and tell him he's living a hollow life bereft of meaning. It's fun, try it!

- Elysium

Comments

There's only one person in the entire world who could pee on me and make it funny

Just wait till E3!

There's only one person in the entire world who could pee on me and make it funny, and that is my infant son. I'm willing to bet that if any of you suddenly took it in your head to urinate on my shirt, I would react in a sharply different way.

If you change my diaper for me, I *promise* I won't pee on your shirt. As a grown adult I can appreciate the effort you'd be putting forward.

How did I know the 'peeing on me' segment would be a highlight for you buffoons?

*Paging Griffon* - *Paging Griffon, are you listening?*

This is sobering stuff, Elysium. For me the fantasy of the stay-at-home-dad is filled with notions of free time, gaming, strollering in the park exhibiting the little poop golem to attractive women, and drinking beer. A can of beer can teach a child so much about shapes, colors, and the properties of fluids! And if you drink a few of them, you can build a pyramid!
Your article is eye-opening, but I'm not quite ready to give up my fantasy. Maybe I'll just build an emu fence.

Elysium wrote:
Babies are not so much like reasonable humans as they are a light switch attached to a car horn.

HAH! You wouldn't believe how many adults that I know are exactly like this!

This is sobering stuff, Elysium. For me the fantasy of the stay-at-home-dad is filled with notions of free time, gaming, strollering in the park exhibiting the little poop golem to attractive women, and drinking beer.

*cue exaggerated overly pointed laughing

This is an awesome article, thanks Elysium.

I had actually been tempted to start a forum topic about parenting experiences, since I feel pretty overwhlemed right about now with how damn hard this job is. I was afraid it would come off as too self-serving, so thanks for opening up the topic. A huge Congrats to Griffon...no matter how hard it is I still look forward to the next time we get to celebrate a new baby...it really doesn't get any better.

The bold points you make in the article are right-on, but I especially appreciate #3, about guilt. That was something I was totally unprepared for. I knew A) babies were a lot of work, and I knew B) they required huge sacrifice, and I knew C) they couldn't be reasoned with, but I didn't know that when A, B, and C were all taken care of, I would still feel the need to do more, to teach more, and to focus more on them. I guess in the back of my mind I thought that would be free time to try and approiximate my lifestyle pre-kids. Of course the reality, like you point out, is pretty different. Even if you do get that free time, you need to commit mentally to making it time for "you". And that comes with a lot of guilt when you know darned well that it could be time for "them". What I've discovered, and still struggle with, is the fact that making time for you will make you a better parent and a better husband.

It is so hard when you feel like you're setting a bad example (and anyone who has ever turned a bouncy seat at just the right angle so your baby can't see the violent FPS you're playing knows what I mean), but the fact is giving yourself 15 minutes to recharge your batteries will remind you that in fact you still have some level of control over your life, no matter how infrequent you can excercise it. It will make you appreciate what you have and be a more positive presence when you're really needed. I say all this and still feel, every day, that I'm not doing enough.

It's funny the things your mind will do when that kind of stress is placed on it. Here's a gaming example: My first son was born in Feb. 2002. My second son was born in July 2003. (Before you say anything, yes I know about birth control...did you guys know it's only 95% effective!?). As the birth of Jasper, our second, was approaching I found myself in a little bit of a crisis -- I was terrified of what life was going to be like with two babies. Having absolutely no interest in MMORPGs, I ran out and bought Star Wars Galaxies the first day it came out. I played it until he was born on 7/22 and then quit because of course I had no time anymore. Which was just as well because it blows. Anyway, I realize in hindsight that trying to play a MMO was my way of trying to convince myself that I had that time for that kind of timesink. Of course, I totally don't have the time, but I was absolutely in denial. I had never tried an MMO before, and as soon as my life was about to get totally and utterly insane I ran out and bought the most time-consuming game I could find. Totally subconscious.

Phew. All that aside, thanks again for the great article.

PS: My boys just came and visited me at work and it totally made my day.

I'm taking notes, as I will hopefully be joining the fold within the year. I've been delaying it for as long as I can, but delaying the wife's biological clock is like putting off paying your taxes. Eventually you have to give up some of your assets.

My bubble is burst, as well. I envisioned playing games in my big comfy recliner, with the little squirt napping on my lap, oblivious to the world around him. Works for my cat.

Hi all. First time reader, first time poster. Woo!

Anyway, as the first-time gamer/parent of a 2-month old this was absolutely the best read I've had since becoming a parent. Since the competition are mostly all books on parenting, Al Franken's last book and salon.com, you can decide where the bar is set on that. Regardless, the car-horn analogy will be used early and often in the office from now on.

Now, if only I could find a way to make the little one sleep long enough for her mother and I to resume playing our Diablo 2 characters. We've been just "this" short (my thumb and index finger are currently a quarter-inch apart) from finishing it off at the Nightmare level, but haven't played it since she was born. My gaming sessions these days are primarly 20-minutes of online poker (play money)... quite a far cry from Galactic Civilizations, Neverwinter Nights or Call of Duty.

(But you're right, it is *all* absolutely worth it.)
---Todd

You're scaring me.

I have a daughter on the way (Mid June), and I've been pretty convinced that the babies sleeping time will be my gaming time.

Is it really that bad? I mean they sleep a lot right? I'm going to have some time? I really appreciate the personal stories from people, so if anybody else has any input, please jump on in.

Since the competition are mostly all books on parenting

I've given serious consideration to writing a stay-at-home dad's realistic book on parenting. There's so much unrealistic guilt tripping crap in those parenting guides, and almost none of it is aimed at men/guys. I've read more than one parenting book that instructs the moms on how to deal with the fathers in equal part to the children, and some even seem to say 'hey, if dad shows up at all you should count that as a victory!'

Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of invaluable info in there too. And, I'm glad I read about thirty of them, but they rarely get around to talking about what it's like to be you in this new situation, and how you and your baby are going to change together in the real world.

Let me plug my friend Steve Lewis's book, Zen and the Art of Fatherhood. This is a must read for any father or father-to-be, and not just because he's a friend. Steve has seven (yes, that is 7) kids...if that doesn't require a certain appreciation of Zen, I don't know what does. He's a terrific and very funny writer...it will leave you with a new appreciation of your family and maybe some insight on what it means to be a father.

Other peoples babies sleep a lot.
or at least thats my experience.
Everybody we talked to said how their baby slept through the night right away(ours just started after 6 and half months thank god).
We had a slightly different experience
He wanted to eat every 2 hours...and it took him 2 hours to eat....and sometimes he would take a 10 minute cat nap....
But things got better and as Elysium said its worth it.

Elysium, write the book, I'll buy it.

Afer a very long night this is just what I needed to read, thank you :)!

If it makes you feel any better Griffon, I think the first two weeks are the absolute hardest. About the sixth night I spent ninety percent of my time certain that I'd never be able to do it.

I have 2 children both girls 4 and 2 years old and a lot of what Elysium said is true.

They were the reason I no longer play games like EQ. Nothing like being on a big raid or deep in a dungeon when the little one suddenly needed something.

It is also not all bad. I find my time to play when they nap or now that they older after bed time.

The problem I am having now is that they too want to play with the computer. In between games of Candy Land and dressing Barbie Dolls. Really hard to say no when trying to press the share message home.

Oh and did I mention that the 2 year old knows where the power switch is on my pc? Nothing like having the power pulled on you right as you line up that perfect sniper shot.

Children though open up all kinds of gaming options.

Who would have thought helping Blue finish up the art projects for the big show would be so stimulating? That or helping Rollie Pollie Olie find his dog for a path.

Also what else you going to do at 3 in the morning when Jr will only stop yelling by being held on your shoulder all night long? You got it fire up a game and frag somebody!

They are more than worth it though.

http://www.kneebouncers.com is great when your infant just wants to mash the keyboard (and it's kinda creepy how they just know that keyboards are something to mash)

Who would have thought helping Blue finish up the art projects for the big show would be so stimulating? That or helping Rollie Pollie Olie find his dog for a path.

The first signs of insanity.

Excellent article my friend, you should write that book so I can read it in a few years. Hoochie and I are married in May but we still have things to do before kids become a reality.

Certis wrote:
we still have things to do before kids become a reality.

Well, that's just a basic fact of biology Certis!

Elysium -

The only parenting books I'm really looking at are The New Father and What to Expect First Year. New Father (by Armin Brott) is okay. At least it's written from a dad's perspective... but he meanders a bit at times and it's not what you'd call... deep. What to Expect is certainly mom-centric, but hasn't been as insulting to dads as some of the stuff you must've seen. Anyway, if you do take the leap on writing a book yourself, I'll be in line to read it.

On a side note - finally got in a whopping hour of Diablo 2 last night. Little Anastasia and her mom were wrapped up in a rerun of Charmed so it was time to slay kobolds and burning dead. What a rush!
---Todd

Pyroman[FO] wrote:
There's only one person in the entire world who could pee on me and make it funny

Just wait till E3!


Kindly don't write funny sh*t like this when the rest of my family is still asleep.

Now that I've read all of it and the comments, I too must applaud. Fine, insightful article, Elysium. I have a 9 month old daughter who luckily is a good girl... she was one of those blessed children that slept through the night at 6 weeks (sorry phragged :(). But damn if you didn't hit it on the head with the 3rd one. I try to get a little PGR2 time in while she's in the Excersaucer right next to me... and I can't do it. She's fine, not shrieking or otherwise annoyed, but I feel -- after, say, a lap around the track -- like an utter heel. Glad to know I'm not the only one ;).

Great article, Elysium. If I had read this 14 months ago it would have better prepared me for dadhood. Now that my son is on a great sleep schedule (7:00 pm til 9:00 am straight, beat that!) I'm back to a near-semblance of my old gaming schedule. Work, home, play with son, dinner/bath/bed, gaming.

What could be better!

As for pee on the shirt, has anyone here just continued to wear the shirt after it's been sprayed? I used to change shirts, but now I know it'll dry and probably not smell.

Sheesh! look at all the comments!!! SHould we open a section for GWK's (Gamers With Kids)

heh ... great article .. now wait till they start walking or crawling and discover the wonders of manual dexterity and opening cd cases and exactly how tasty thos shiny lil discs can be. mwahahaha!

I don't like that guilt thingy too ... 's why i'm a totally sleep deprived zombie all the time ... only time I can play my games is after 11:00 pm.

Come home from work and HAVE to play with the 2 boys and once THEY'RE asleep gotta spend some time with the lovely and loving wife to show how much I appreciate who she is. And then once SHE'S asleep .. sneak down to the computer room to mash in some play time (sigh)

And it only compounds the problem that I'm a game/console HO ... so I play PS2, XBox, AND PC games ... how do I divide the time?!?!?! Someone need to hurry up and invent time/space warp bubbles for us Gamers Wih Kids!

The birth of my son was a monumental event- in and of itself and also the impact it had on my gaming lifestyle.

Back in the B.B. (Before Baby) times, but after the A.W. times (After Wife), I could theoretically play a MMORPG because I could fit all of the gaming time sinks into my schedule. I could work out agreements with my wife for 'gaming time' which usually invovled a weekend day alone (with her shopping) and a steady supply of beer. I wasn't bachelor gaming with frothing 20 hour bursts, but I could still try to power game with the best of them.

Now that my son is here I cannot even fathom starting a MMORPG. In fact, I cannot start playing a game unless it has a list of pre-set functions that I need. Things like: Save at any point without respawn, significant achievement or plot evolvement within shortened time frames, pause capabilities, reduced amount of pointless travel, etc...

The Atari generation has grown up and they are strong, dominant force in gaming today. I am surprised there are not more games specifically tailored for those of us with the 'spawn in tow'.

//Happy first post to me//

TileGrout

In fact, I cannot start playing a game unless it has a list of pre-set functions that I need. Things like: Save at any point without respawn, significant achievement or plot evolvement within shortened time frames, pause capabilities, reduced amount of pointless travel, etc...

Very true, I also would add, the ability to alt-tab since the wife would be annoyed if I was gaming with all the things that needed to get done.

I just found this site after wondering if i was the only father in the world who would never get any more quality gaming time in. My second son was born a month ago and I have a 3 1/2 year old, they are great. However, I had finally adjusted to the one child, now with 2, I don't think i'll be able to get some game time in. Its taken me weeks to get through W3: Frozen Throne and i'm only on the Scourge missions!!! Forget about BF:42 or other online game. There are so many games to play and so little time.

Now, I shouldn't complain since the family is healthy and I finally have a good, secure job, but it still sucks not to get any game time in. Anyway, thanks for having a forum for GamerDads with no time. BTW, March is going to be REALLY tough with all the new releases, i may need to go to a Tropical Island, nooo that's where Far Cry is....

The only thing I've done to compensate for my lack of gametime was to buy a ton of gaming magazine subscriptions and stay sequestered in the restroom for extended reading sessions.

If I can't play the games, I can at least read about them. Hehe.

TileGrout