No, that’s not me on the couch, but that’s what I do.
Having a child changes everything.
I know I’m not breaking any new ground with that introduction but over the past 13 months since my son was born my entire life has changed in ways that I never could have imagined. For purposes of this column (which I hope will become a weekly feature) what I want to talk about is how having a child irrevocably changed the part of me that would identify as a gamer.
On a weekly basis I’m going to use this space to discuss how my gaming habits have changed as a result of having my son, it’s a place where I’ll talk about my reality as a parent and who knows some of you out there with children may identify, some of you may have similar experiences and we can have a dialogue about how you dealt with those things. For the first issue of this column though I want to talk about the moment I realized I had changed.
When my son was a newborn it was pretty easy to game around him – I will always remember playing Mass Effect 3 on the Xbox 360 in the living room while my weeks old son slept on my chest (note to expecting parents, do not let your children use you as a pillow, that is tough to break). When you have a newborn you’re only job is to really make sure said newborn doesn’t get stepped on or dropped and is always fed, so it’s pretty easy to carve out some time to spend with Commander Sheppard.
As my son has grown and turned into a walking, screaming, teething nightmare (at times) it has become essentially impossible to game while he is awake. Oh for a few moments my son will look at the TV to digest the colors of Uncharted 3, but then he realizes that if he pushes the red button on the PS3, something else will come on. So as my son has gotten older my backlog of games has gotten bigger.
This past weekend after my son had gone to sleep I finally finished Uncharted 3, but instead of going into the backlog I decided to throw Bioshock Infinite into the PS3 because I had heard some great things. This is where I finally realized I had undergone a change as a direct result of parenthood. About 45 minutes into Bioshock Infinite I paused the game, looked at my Wife and said something I had never said about a video game in my life…
“This is game is really violent.”
See this is what the parenting books and Dad classes don’t prepare you for – having a child suddenly makes you hyper-sensitive to things like violence and language. Now, don’t get me wrong I’m not going to stop playing Bioshock Infinite because of the violence, but an aspect of the game that I would have chuckled at (ripping someone’s head off with a sky hook) 15 months ago is suddenly something that hits me so hard that I have to pause the game to comment on it. That’s a pretty dramatic shift in perspective.
As a non-child having person I used to detest those people who would say things like “geez having kids puts things in perspective” but here I am now doing just that and the sad thing is that it’s totally true – I really do see things differently now that I have a kid. I get uncomfortable watching Doctor Who around my son and the only reason I’m not consumed by that fear is that my Wife watches Myrtle Manor with him in the room so his brain has probably already fallen out.
So now that I am conscious about this fact I’m left wondering how do I respond. I’ve already come to the conclusion that playing video games while my son is awake is an impossibility – a 13 month old doesn’t permit video games to be played while he’s mobile, and he is always mobile so it doesn’t matter if I’m playing a violent game or not, it’s just not happening. However, reserving video game time to post-baby hours of the day leaves almost no actual time to “game.” In fact, by the time my son falls asleep I barely have the energy to move off the couch, I find myself eating dinner earlier and going to bed earlier – over the last 13 months I’ve become an elderly person foil on an NBC sitcom.
So what’s the lesson here? Two parts of me, the gamer and the father are at war with one another and I promise you that the gamer part can’t possibly win this one. This is a primer and the purpose of this column is to recount over the weeks what I’m playing and how what I am playing is impacted by the existence of another human being who is wholly dependent upon me for survival. Right now I’m playing Bioshock Infinite and I am stunned at how violent it is – even the racism, which I can only imagine is a legitimate driving force of the plot is unsettling, I will continue to plow through but I’ll be doing so late at night accompanied by the sweet sounds of a baby monitor.