The gaming parent

You like my header image? Looks like I’m going to warn you against the evils of video games and its rotting effect on young minds.

No, this is about that other evil. This post is about how our little tykes rob us of scarce and precious gaming time. You know how this goes, it’s happened many times before: you have your routine at night to get the little one/s to bed. Every now and then you negotiate with your significant other to advance said schedule so you can run a few plays in Madden 15, lap the Nürburgring or slay that damn Wraith in Evolve. Just as planned, all the knee biters are in bed an hour earlier and you power on your gaming machine of choice. Only, over the baby monitor you can hear the retching, squirting or coughing. A poo of gigantic proportions requiring a complete redo of bath time or a coloring of the walls courtesy of whatever was dinner that now requires a pressure washer and maybe even industrial strength paint stripper.

Yes, I can see that grimace or smile, that forlorn look of something won and instantly lost.

Since the birth of our daughter, I’ve finished and am playing the following games:

  • The Room 2
  • Earn to Die 2
  • Infinity Blade III
  • Madden Mobile

No points for recognizing these games as mobile games. Not a single console or PC title on that list. Why? Well I can’t very well strap her bottle to her hands and hope she’s a 9 month old hand-eye coordination savant that can find her way to get the teat to her mouth. Through practice and training with South Korean StarCraft Masters and drawing on my endless hours of Guitar Hero experience, I’ve managed to train my hands to contort into unimaginable positions with the strength to bend bottle caps with my pinkies so I can hold my iPhone 6+ with one hand and give my daughter her bottle with the other, at the same time. Gaming with two hands is so n00b…

I’ve gotten pretty good at this one-handed phablet gaming, but as fun as those games are, they do not compare to Madden 15, Dragon Age: Inquisition and Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor awaiting boot up on my consoles. My sweet, piano gloss, voice controlled, remote play enabled 4 and One. They wink at me as they power on to download the latest update, the pulsing blue light on the Dual Shock beckoning me to caress her svelte form, the emails of cruel seduction highlighting Gold and Plus games on sale or for free… Ahem, love you wife!

The one good thing about not being able to play as many games is… is…mmmm…oh right…no…that you…wait…can do more…not that… Save money? Yes, that’s it, you save money that you can spend on…on…on… diapers. Yup, nappies and formula and baby food and wipes and another pack of wipes and then… and then you go download those free games on Plus or Gold that you’ll never play. Truth is, I can see why guys do this:

dad gaming meme 1    dad gaming meme 2


I’ve only tried the classic “Baby-between-the-legs-on-the-couch-with-the-controller-in-front-to-stop-her-from-falling-on-her-face” position. Problem with this one is that she curiously reaches for the controller causing my deftly executed drift around a crop of trees in an Italian vineyard, intended as a shortcut to the finish line, in my 312km/h top speed Aventador to clip that cocky guy in his 458 Italia and slam into the side of some nondescript outbuilding. From 1st to last in less than a second. Clench controller, grind teeth, sounds escaping in Parseltongue – I love my daughter, she’s my whole world, she’s just curious. Breathe, all I lost were credits and XP. Which would’ve gotten me to that next Driver Level and unlocked some random prize which might have been that otherwise 22 000 000 Cr rare unicorn.

Needless to say I didn’t try that again. Nor any other method. The problem being that becoming a dad at 33, and having gamed for 24 of those, I have refined a gaming position that does not result in back ache, neck strain, eye fatigue or any other malady. I can’t game in any other way, my body will not allow it.

So, over the last 9 months, this is what I’ve found works the best to scrap and claw together some gaming time:

  • [Insert your proven method here]

I don’t think you can. It’s a myth, a legend, a fable. It can’t be done. I keep telling myself that at some point, there will be time. When she’s 2 or 3 she’ll go to bed earlier, as a good parent would encourage their kids to do (sleep is important right) and then I’ll be able to game. I said in this in the company of some friends who have 2 to 3-year-old toddlers, their facial expressions were not ones of agreement. In fact, they scared me a bit. A bit like The Joker or Harley Quinn, mixed with that cockroach alien from Men In Black before he sheds that farmers’ skin. I got a lump in my throat, butterflies in my stomach, sweaty palms. Here are people who have made it past the Year 1-mark, and it seems there is no time salvaged from setting a healthy routine. I think I shed a tear.

So what is a gamer parent to do? You can get up at 3 am and game with your headphones on. Won’t work for me though. Lack of sleep might affect your ability to coherently trash talk that 13-year-old little bast… fellow gamer in CoD or be coordinated enough to best Bloodborne’s fiendish enemies (another game I’m looking forward to… not playing). As a responsible working parent, keeping your job might be hard if you keep nodding off in meetings. That last one’s the important one. No really it is. You can machine-gun-game, short little focused bursts in-between The Routine. This will only work for games where you can accomplish something in 5 minutes or less. Mobile gaming does not count. No it doesn’t. I said no. Okay so that’s a crappy suggestion.

It can’t be done. Sad, but true. So here’s what I’ll do: gamify parenting*. 100XP for nappy changes and bonus XP for not making a mess of the change station, 50XP for every bottle given, 175XP and 250 gold for every milestone reached (sitting, crawling, walking), 5XP for every giggle initiated and bonus gold if she pees herself laughing (-25XP for forcing a nappy change). XP unlocks more skills (ninja reflexes, x-ray vision, anti-gag reflex) and gold can be redeemed for hugs and kisses. Levels are gained on birthdays and each level unlocks more options such as The First Word, Going To Big Girl School and Her First Date. Levels, of course, can be skipped and when said daughter agrees to such level-skipping of Her First Date or Her First Kiss she can jump to the Her First Car-level or Taking A Gap Year In An Exotic Destination-level.

This could be fun. Imagine, in 24 years’ time from now I’ll be 57. I’d have unlocked many skills along the way that helped guide my avatar to adulthood, traded in gold for thousands of hugs and kisses and gamed through levels like Helping Her With Her Homework, Seeing Her Graduate and Celebrating Her First Job. The 279 hours I sank into Skyrim would pale in comparison. Maybe we’d even get to the level Finished My Favorite Game With My Daughter. It would be the greatest gaming achievement of my life.

Huh, I just shed another tear.





*Please note, this game features in-game purchases that requires real money to complete. In-game gold cannot be redeemed for real money. Unless you’re the Dad in which case in-game gold can be redeemed for awesome Father’s Day gifts.