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Evalei triumphantly running away from us with a leaf
When I found out my wife Kelly was with child, I jumped around with an exuberance I probably haven't shown since I opened up a Christmas present containing The Legend of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. I was ecstatic. All I could think about was being a father and the things I would want to share with my daughter or son. Kelly and I talked about having a child for years, but the true weight of that thought wasn't felt until days after she said, "I think I'm pregnant." At that time, we started talking about how our lives would change, what we would have to do financially, and even debated changing the layout of our house to accommodate a baby.
I honestly didn't know what was going to happen to my gaming. And not just that; my mass consumption of entertainment. Rather than creating fictional scenarios in my head, I talked to other fathers in the video game press about their transitions to parenthood. I received a wealth of information, and a lot of it was helpful, but also conflicting. Some people said that their gaming took dramatic hits, resulting in only a few games completed each year. Others said that the changes were minimal, mostly because their gaming and work were conducted at night, well after the little ones were tucked in.
The information I gathered worried me a bit. I completed 69 games in 2011, and walked away from that year feeling like I should have played more. I like having an encyclopedic view of video games. Yes, I read video game news and reviews daily, but that only takes you so far. To truly have an understanding of video games, you have to play them, and you have to play a lot of them.
Having a day job, I mostly played games at night or on weekends. On a good night, I would play from roughly 9 PM to 2 or 3 AM. If you follow me on Twitter, you know that Kelly and I usually call Saturday "Game Day," as we devote most of the day to video games. In a week, I would probably rack up 20 to 30-hours of gaming at home. If I had a game to review, I would also play at work.
Would I still be able to do all of this with a baby? I didn't think so at the time. I knew damn well that my 12-hour marathon sessions on Saturdays (which were probably a bad idea to begin with) were numbered.
When Evalei Alice Reiner was born on October 30, 2012, my life changed completely. I just wanted to spend time with her. I wanted to teach her things. I wanted to be there for all of her new discoveries, whether it was figuring out how to walk (which she did at nine months and two days), or learning that she shouldn't throw rubber blocks at our cat (she still does this and doesn't understand why it's wrong). To this day, if she's awake, I do everything I can to be at her side.
My first month with Evalei was somewhat perplexing from a game perspective. Since she napped so much, I found myself playing just as many games as I did prior to her birth. I remember thinking that my devotion to games wasn't going to change much at all. Granted, I wasn't marathoning games like I used to, but over the course of a day, I had plenty of opportunities to play. Life didn't seem so different then.
And then Evalei started moving. On the day she figured out how to roll over, my gaming time began to decline. Crawling led to even less time. Walking brought an even greater decrease. I now game about a third as much as I used to, and that's okay. The days of me playing as many games as I can are likely over. That desire to have an encyclopedic view of games has narrowed to the hope of having a view of all of the notable releases in a year.
I played games in front of Evalei until she was eight months old. During that time, she would periodically look up at the screen, but couldn't register what she was looking at and quickly lost interest in it. At eight months, however, during one gaming session with Darksiders II, she crawled over to me and fussed until I handed her the controller. I put her on my lap, and she curiously studied my hands as I played. I placed Death in a safe area and showed her that the left analog stick moved him and the right analog stick controlled the camera. She connected the dots. I handed the controller over to her and looked on in awe as she flicked the controller to move Death and the camera. She joyfully chirped as she did so. I also noticed that she was starting to pay attention to the screen more. That was a red flag for Kelly and I. We don't want her zoning out in front of the TV. If all goes according to plan, we won't introduce Evalei to games and movies until she's around three years old. Her first gaming system will likely be a Leapster.
Maybe those Evalei Days will change into Game Days again, only with Kelly and I sharing our favorite games with Evalei. That's the dream of a gamer dad. For now, though, I don't foresee my gaming time going up; only down as she continues to grow. Am I concerned I'll lose touch with games? A little bit, but at the same time, I'm loving being a dad.
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