Brackish Waters

how my gaming and life coalesce.

Could I be a better gamer dad?

There have been a large number of articles and posts about being a parent and gamer over theHomerSimpson past month and believe me, I haven’t been ignoring them. I wasn’t sure and still am not completely satisfied about how I can approach this and adequately express how I feel about this tough subject. I could go witty or brief and simply say “Everything in moderation” or “RL before RPG” but I don’t think its really a satisfying answer for myself or other parents.

I’m not going to argue the semantics of being a great gamer and what places one league of players above another. I’m also not going to give you tirades of back and forth psychoanalytic jargon about being a good parent and the benchmarks for your three year old child. I could honestly give two shits about that crap and since my wife became pregnant I think we picked up the “What to expect” book exactly 3 times.

What I am going to do is lay down exactly how I am as a parent and as a gamer and let other people decide. Will I change? Honestly, probably not. I like my lifestyle and I love my son. As I see it right now, he is doing great. Every morning that boy wakes up with the brightest smile on his face and every evening when that little boy goes to bed, we almost never hear a peep of disagreement from him. If you’re a parent, you know how great that can be.

I am thankful for the life I have but as a parent I can’t help but second guess the decisions I make. I think I got that about 2 hours after we figured out my wife was pregnant and my father would be quick to point out that, like worrying, it never goes away. So, I giving myself a sort of Daedalus test about my gaming and parenting specifically. I hope that it both helps me recognize the weak points in my daily routine and also my strengths.

Enjoy the split personality questioning after the jump!
On average, how many hours a week do you play MMOs or computer games?
I usually sit down at my computer sometime between 7 and 8 pm after the boy has gone to bed and I do anything from play a MMO to just browsing the web until around midnight. The latest I see myself staying up is 1 am. On weekends I tend to play a bit longer if I am home alone. Eight hour streaks are not that out of the ordinary in those cases.

Would you say you get a good nights sleep?
I sleep on average between 5 or 6 hours a night. I don’t think I have had a memorable dream in months and they usually only come when I commit to some sort of 8+ hour sleeping streak.

Give us a rundown of what its like when you get home from your weekday job.
I start by picking my son up from daycare around 4:30pm and then we head home. Our house is pretty close to the daycare, so that makes it kind of nice and short. We usually both need to grab a bite to eat and drink as soon as we walk in so that’s the first thing we do. He hangs out in the high chair while I make dinner and let out the dog. After we eat I usually play with him for an hour or if hes cranky or tired, I let him hang out in the living room and watch a movie.

Would you say he watches a lot of movies or TV shows?
Well, we don’t own a TV, so everything we have is either on DVD or streamed from the web. He watches Veggie Tales, Sesame Street, Fisher Price and Baby Einstein, though hes getting pretty sick of the last one there. I don’t mind him watching the Veggie Tales as much because they are animated and even though I’m not exactly religious, they have a good message. I wouldn’t say he watches a lot of shows, but there are days or mornings when I let him hang out and play in the living room and keep a show on repeat for a couple hours. Usually that’s because I had played too late the night before and got up early with him.

Are you logged into your computer or playing a game after he eats dinner?
I usually have something going on, but mostly its either music, a podcast, or I’m logged in to just participate haphazardly in the chat. I don’t devote this time for anything that requires any type of attention except that for my son.

Does your son ever get irritated that you are on the computer?
Well, hes only 19 months old right now and I wouldn’t have figured that a child that age could have discerned it was the computer that was drawing my attention, but he knows. I’ve had times where he has come up and pressed the power button on the front while it was still on. Other times he has grabbed my chair and attempts to swivel it around away from the screen. I think its pretty funny when he does this. Obviously he is trying to get my attention and he does get it when he does these things. To be honest, I’m not focused on the computer unless either his mother is around or I had thought he was resting on the floor.

When you are home alone with him, do you usually stay in or go outside?
We kinda do both. I know people who take their kids out to malls and large department stores during the summer because it keeps the kids entertained and its air conditioned. I hate shopping and usually don’t subject him to that madness. His mother sometimes takes him to those places but that’s because she likes to shop. I do take him to parks and we spend some time in the yard on weekends, but hes only 19 months and its not like it takes 4 hours of exercise to really tire him out. He gets his daily dose of sunlight.

What type of gamer would you classify yourself as?
I’m more of a hardcore/casual gamer in MMOs because I don’t have a real attraction to end game raiding but I play a bit more often than your average subscriber. I take the time to get into as much as I can with the time and people that I have to play with. I explore a lot and spend a great deal of time reading the lore and immersing myself in the environments. I like being a part of the world in game and also the community at large.

Would you say that you are getting everything you want out of your gaming time?

Yes. There are times when I regret having to go to bed or needing to walk away for real life commitments, but I wouldn’t be able to spend the time I do have to game unless I meet these other obligations. Everyone needs to work, eat, sleep, and do some sort of personal maintenance. Well, most people.

What would you do if you were gaming and your child started yelling in a room adjacent to the one you were in?
Well, first thing is I would want to know if my wife was in that room. If she wasn’t, then I would probably run full bore into that room and find out what was going on. I’m sorry but I don’t care if every person I am playing with wipes and has 2 gold worth of repairs because of it, I’m finding out what is going on with my son. Gold can be repaid. If she wasn’t in that room, I would find out how he got out of the handcuffs.

If you had the choice between your son’s first baseball game or the release date of a game you had been waiting for the past two years, which would you attend?
No brainer: Baseball game. Everyone knows that release days are absolute hell.

Thanksgiving and first Raid Content?
Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pies, sleep and turkey again? Please.

Funeral and GM Event?
Meh, they are dead anyway.

Wife Aggro or Guild Aggro?
She folds my socks.

Do you tend to forget about birthdays but remember exactly how to get to Deadmines in World of Warcraft?
I can draw you a map if you like. Listen, I just turned 30 and did absolutely nothing on that day because I honestly care little about myself in that regard. For others I guess there have been occurrences when the last minute rolls around and it hits me like a truck. However, if you ask them, I’m sure they would tell you that I always make them something or find them something pretty cool.

Is there anything else you would like to say in defense of yourself and your actions?
I’m sick and I need help, god help me. Oh and my wife gave me a card yesterday that went like this:

Games don’t affect children or make them crazy. If they did, all the kids from the 80’s who played pac man all day would be sitting in their basements listening to chirpy electronic music chomping on pills until they turned blue.

or it went something like that.

Be sure to check out Kat’s post over at her blog, I watched that arguement go down at Guildcafe and I’m glad she made the post. Nice one Kat!

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October 2, 2007 - Posted by | Rants, RL | , ,

5 Comments »

  1. I can’t speak as a parent as I am not one. I can only speak as a man who remembers what it was like being a child who was VERY neglected by his father.

    I read about, hear about, and see guys like you who take an active roll in their kid’s lives and I am grateful to see that how I was raised was not necessarily the norm.

    A few nights back, my guild leader made an announcement that an upcoming and long-anticipated raid was being cancelled unless someone else wanted to lead it. When asked why, he simply stated, “My son is starting in a football game that afternoon. It is the first time he is getting to start, so I told him that I would take him to dinner after the game to celebrate… wherever he wants to go. That may end up being a 5 minute trip through the drive-in at McDonalds… I don’t know. What I do know is that the day and night belongs to my son and this game is not even in the same zip code of importance.”

    Fortunately, I am in a guild that is mostly comprised of older and more mature people. Not only did not 1 single person grumble or complain but every single person who was online congratulated him for making the right choice and said, “Wish him luck for us.”

    Parenting is a responsibility that I cannot even imagine, but if I am any judge of things, I think that you are definately taking the right approach.

    Comment by rao | October 2, 2007 | Reply

  2. Thank you Rao, that means a lot.

    Comment by brackishwater | October 4, 2007 | Reply

  3. Nice post. I think you did a very good job explaining how being both a parent and a gamer can work. It sounds like you are doing a good job. I know it is nowhere near on the same plane of difficulty but, I had to quit playing any games at all for a couple months when we first got our puppy. She can be really demanding and I was so happy to have her that I didn’t want to do anything else anyway. Now that she is getting a little older I can actually play again without feeling guilty. But she’s always there by my feet wanting to play tug-of-war or something. And sometimes she wins out over WoW. =)

    Comment by Leala Turkey | October 5, 2007 | Reply

  4. I’m a 33 year old gamer who is not a parent, and from where I’m standing, you’re doing a good job of parenting. My brother-in-law is a gamer dad who is really great job of balancing family life with his gaming life, so I feel like I have a decent perspective here.

    My RL friends who are non-gamers and not-so-great dads neglect their childrearing for frequent “guy’s nights out at the bar,” sporting events, or other non-gaming activities. I mean, there are dads who sit in front of the t.v. all Sunday watching football and ignoring their kids–I don’t think gaming is the true culprit here.

    All familial relationships require a balancing act between devoting enough time to your spouse and kids while giving yourself some time for the pursuits you enjoy. I think people who are “good” gamers and bad parents would be neglecting their domestic life through avoidance in some other way even if they didn’t game–whether spending days at a time tinkering with their cars in the driveway, meticulously over-grooming their manicured lawns, or hiding out in the neighborhood bar with their buddies.

    None of these things are inherently bad if balanced with all the other factors of life that make us three-dimensional human beings. By the same token, even single gamers can have unhealthy gaming habits when they neglect RL socializing, interaction, and responsibilities to spend weekends at a time parked in front of their comps. I know because I’ve been there.

    Keep up the great blogging. So many of my favorite MMORPG bloggers seem to be Canadian or from the midwest that it’s great to hear the northeast represented a bit.

    Comment by Lucifrank | October 5, 2007 | Reply

  5. @ Lucifrank
    Thanks for the great comment. You made me think of a lot of parents I have met over the past few years and its funny, none of them were gamers but a lot of them I had issues with their parenting.

    @ Leala
    Thanks for the kind words. Atleast with puppies you can potty train em early enough! 😛

    Comment by brackishwater | October 5, 2007 | Reply


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