I'm Just Here To Ruin Your Fun

Chore Wars: This is a real thing! Where was this when my kids were growing up?

"Young man! I said do your chore!"

A portcullis creaks in the background when you raise your head to look at me. The glint of sword-steel flashes back at me from green eyes, or maybe that's a drift of magical dust caught in your lashes, a thin waft of cannon-smoke rises from your hair.

"Mom! I'm right in the middle of ..."

The plaintive complaint trails off. A fatal hand pointing to the kitchen is the only response.

The controller thuds on the coffee table with the dull ring of shod hooves on stone. You let out a classically eloquent teenage sigh as you lever yourself off the couch cushions and stump into the kitchen with the awkward gait of someone shrugging their ill-seated armor back into place.

I am honestly sorry. I wish you wouldn't look at me like that. I'd much rather be there, too. I know that it's all part of the Mom job description, but I hate being the one who has to interrupt the adventure.

I would also much rather just draw a cool symbol on the counter, place my hand on it, and have the dishes come clean in a flash of blue light. Then I could wave my magic wand a la Merlin and have them all walk into the cupboards. I was tempted to try it rather than nag you again, but all I could find was a permanent marker and that would take forever to scrub off the counter top. It's too short to get the proper swish and flick into it, too.

I know that time works differently while you're there. The few moments you feel like you spent in Brocéliande are in fact the entire hour I gave you when you solemnly promised me you'd do the dishes without me having to ask you again. Check the clock and see. It's weird. I think it's the same effect that can make 15 minutes of homework seem like two hours, only running backwards.

What? You say Einstein had a theory and I should look it up? Cool. I'm glad to see evidence that you did your homework. But you're stalling. You need to do your chore, son.

My many years of practice at doing this to you doesn't make me like it any better when the world does it to me. I have my own worlds I venture in. I hear Barsoom is awfully nice this time of year. And who was it that dragged the family to watch Fellowship of the Ring all those times?

Gaming is like going on vacation in a lot of ways. You wait for it and get all excited reading up on it and everything. You get all your hardware and stuff together, and sometimes it can be a big fuss with driver issues or whatever.

And then it's here! The day finally comes. You unwrap the disk, slip it into the drive and wave from the bow of the ship as you spin your way off to wherever. I just got back from a trip to the Sphere. I ran around as errant protein and fragged a lot of Hunters while trying to find this guy Tommy's girlfriend for him. Tomorrow, maybe Ivalice. Or Solaris. Who knows? That's one of the great things about gaming.

But like a real-world vacation, it doesn't change anything here at home. You still have to face the same piles of dirty laundry and unpaid bills you left behind when you loaded the disk. To add insult to injury, your body didn't ignore those real hours you spent the way your mind and hands did. You're as tired as you would have been from tromping around on those reportedly quaint cobblestone streets in the real world.

I know it can be incredibly frustrating. Sometimes it even makes me angry; especially when I'm called back to face an unpleasant task. You're out there saving the damsel, then some person from Porlock shakes your shoulder hard enough to drag you back to the living room. All that real-world stuff hits you. It can feel like they chucked that bag of garbage you were supposed to have taken out already right in your face.

It sometimes takes a minute before you get all the way back (like when you ask a question at the wrong time and I accidentally answer in Japanese). I've learned to nod and stand up and put the controller down before I say anything at all. That way I have time to take a breath and choose my words so I don't bite someone's head off just out of pique.

In the end, my sympathy doesn't do much for either of us. Things have to be done and they have to be done in this world. It can't be helped. Maybe you could think of it as a quest. It's not exactly a dragon to face, but dirty dishes are about as welcome, and I'm sure even St. George spent a bit of time scrubbing his plate down at the stream while he was riding about. It's part of all the stuff you skip via fast travel.

But we can't skip past our daily grinds. So when I remind you for the third time, I'll reflect that hint of steel in your eyes back at you in my voice. And the @)%&@% dishes will get done.

Comments

Just, really.

(two teenaged daughters myself)

Very nice article, Colleen. You illustrate nicely that uncomfortable transition from game-world to dirty dish filled, gots-stuff-to-do real world.

We do value our game time. During the week, it's a major temporal coup if I can snag twenty minutes a day. And though not much may be accomplished in that time, at least I'm there if only for a short time, until the cat knocks over the litter box or the washing machine begins to bang.

I feel like that truculent teenager all the time and forty is only two short years away. I am already disgruntled about having to clean the gutters this weekend instead of creeping through the dystopia of Dunwall.

IMAGE(http://cdn.medialib.computerandvideogames.com/screens/screenshot_281389_thumb_wide620.jpg)

IMAGE(http://wac.450f.edgecastcdn.net/80450F/y101radio.com/files/2012/08/99108760-630x419.jpg)

There's nothing like seeing another momgamer update pop up in my RSS reader, it's like a dog whistle calling me to read another great article.

As I've gotten older I've definitely gotten better at the whole "work first, play later" thing but I've found that I've gotten very protective of my playtime. If I don't get at least a little gaming time in each day I feel like I've failed...or more accurately that the world failed me.

Great stuff. For me it's my 16 year-old son, mowing the lawn, and League of Legends.

Thanks, gang. I was half afraid you would all identify with my son and scold me for being the hardass.

momgamer wrote:

Thanks, gang. I was half afraid you would all identify with my son and scold me for being the hardass. ;)

It's your job. Sometimes I have to go meta wit my son and tell him I'm not being mean, I'm doing my job as father, trying to help prepare him for life. He'd rather play Terraria, but so would I. Someone has to deal with the weeds/dishes/dust/dog poop/clutter, though.

Good piece, thanks.

In our house we have a saying: "Gotta do's before wanna do's" And really, it's just as hard for me as it is for them...

ChipRMonk wrote:

:-)

(two teenaged daughters myself)

My five-year-old just has just figured out how to use the controller to play Axel and Pixel. He's played the whole thing through about 10 times now.

I see my whole future stretching in front of me.

I keep seeing the title and thinking that this was finally my employee profile.

You're better at the Mom job, than I am at the Dad job.
Thank god my wife's game is the Mom job.
Sometimes I worry that my role is more like my sons' big brother than their Dad.
Some weeks it is. The rest of the time, I like to think that I'm a fully functional member of society.

What I'm trying to say is, your thoughts go hand in hand with "The Whims of the Father".

I particularly liked knowing that someone else is frustrated that their daily quests are dishes, garbage and carpet stains, instead of something more distinctly Homeric.

Comforting.

Ghostship wrote:

What I'm trying to say is, your thoughts go hand in hand with "The Whims of the Father".

That was exactly my thought in pushing this article through.

"and sometimes it can be a big fuss with driver issues or whatever."

I loved this line.

momgamer wrote:

Thanks, gang. I was half afraid you would all identify with my son and scold me for being the hardass. ;)

Hardly.

I've recently been forced into some confrontations with my youngest over internet usage versus homework, etc. It can make you feel dirty to come down hard on them sometimes; but if they won't moderate themselves, sometimes the ground rules have to change.

Just one example of many.

My five-year-old just has just figured out how to use the controller to play Axel and Pixel. He's played the whole thing through about 10 times now.

I see my whole future stretching in front of me.[/quote]

Two of my daughters (the oldest joined the Navy last summer and is bobbing around in some European ocean or such) have decided they are graphic artists. This can be pretty cool, as they are all more talented at drawing than I am. MSPaint, Youtube, GIMP, and oddly Minecraft, are the tools of the obsession. It just gets way out of hand, and like all teens, they resent being told to tend to other things.

There is probably some Karmic comeuppance in all that, but still... LOL

some European ocean

IMAGE(http://newnation.sg/wp-content/uploads/inception-squint.png)

I don't have a leg to stand on, Minecraft-wise.

momgamer wrote:

I don't have a leg to stand on, Minecraft-wise. ;)

Pretty much. I think you are directly responsible for many GWJ'ers and PAX attendee's first forays into minecraft.

Spoiler:

<3 <3 <3 Thank you!

This article strangely mirrors my relationship with my 7 yr old daughter. Yet, I know exactly where (or who) she gets this from. Loved the article.

ChipRMonk wrote:

they are graphic artists... ...MSPaint, Youtube, GIMP, and oddly Minecraft, are the tools of the obsession.

I may have missed a metaphor here. Joined the Navy suggest career. Graphic Artist and Navy don't equate for me.

Can you elaborate on using minecraft in graphic arts? Sounds cool.

Ghostship wrote:
ChipRMonk wrote:

they are graphic artists... ...MSPaint, Youtube, GIMP, and oddly Minecraft, are the tools of the obsession.

I may have missed a metaphor here. Joined the Navy suggest career. Graphic Artist and Navy don't equate for me.

Can you elaborate on using minecraft in graphic arts? Sounds cool.

I can't speak for anyone else, but as a sometime graphic artist I find that creating in Minecraft tends to scratch a similar pixel-pushing itch as graphic design.

heavyfeul wrote:

I feel like that truculent teenager all the time and forty is only two short years away. I am already disgruntled about having to clean the gutters this weekend instead of creeping through the dystopia of Dunwall.

IMAGE(http://www.guttereleaf.com/images/gutter1.jpg)

Next year, Dunwall can be sidetracked by a different chore.