The lights are on
Power Member - Level 9
Ah, the joys of working full-time, having children, AND trying to fulfill my gaming obsession ALL at the same time. Amazingly enough, I still manage to fulfill my gaming habits. Diablo 3, AC:Revelations, League of Legends, and WoW (yes, it has begun again) have all been going through my rotation lately. Regardless, here is the newest topic: raising little gamers.
As I said a while back, my recent prolonged hiatus was partially due to the birth of my second child. It has been quite an adventure to say the least. Ask any parent: each day with an infant is a new discovery. Luckily, this one is turning out to be (and I’m knocking on wood here) as easy going as her sister. Let’s hope it stays that way.
In the grander scale, though, I have had to come to terms with my gaming habits and the impact they have on my 4 year-old. As her mind and manual dexterity develop and mature, I am constantly reminded that what I play has an impact on her. This has come in many forms. Sometimes, it is just a reaction to something on screen (i.e. Ezio nearly falling off a ledge). Other times, she wants to have a controller, too, or she’ll ask to play games on my iPhone (on which she has a specific folder of apps to play with). I have also found her laying on the couch with my DS, generally without asking permission.
"Have you caught a pikachu yet?"
"Dad, get your own pokemon."
It is rather plain that she has a similar desire and/or interest in gaming to me and my wife. While she may still be a bit young to sit down and really comprehend what she is doing to the point that she could get Mario to a flagpole, I realize that this day is not too far away. Because of this, I get increasingly cautious of the types of games I play in her presence.
While there is still no concrete evidence of a link between gaming and violence, I am completely aware that the environment in which children are raised has a direct relation to how they develop. Simply put: we are a reaction to our environment, whether it be positive or negative. We either embrace our surroundings, or act against it. Such is the case with my daughter. She has already taken to waterbending in the bath, since we watch a lot of Last Airbender and Legend of Korra. Such things make it quite obvious that she is old enough to not just understand what is going on in a TV show, but to learn larger concepts. To further illustrate this point, just the other day we watched the zombie episode from Season 2 of Community. She understood that characters were exhibiting zombie-like behavior. She understood the word “zombie” itself, what that meant, and how to recognize such an entity. I had to calm her down at the end of the episode by pointing out that, while they were “zombies”, they got better.
In recent months and years, my wife and discouraged us from playing some of our more mature titles while the kids are around. Sometimes it feels she is being overly cautious (Demons's Souls, for example), but can be better to err on the side of caution. With the impending release of Borderlands 2, this is something I have been having to remind myself of. This is a game in which the main goal is wholesale slaughter and one of the playable characters flies a "double deuce" when activating his special ability.
"Okay, okay! We'll turn off friendly fire. Sheesh."
Gaming not only has an impact on her development and perception of reality, violence, and subject matter. As a gamer, each minute I spend playing a game is a minute I am not spending with her. Thus, raising children as a gamer becomes a lesson in time management. Ask any gamer parent: when you have children, your gaming takes a back seat. The lives of your children become priority, no matter how great your love of WoW, Diablo, Call of Duty, etc. But, then I hear of things like this. In some ways, these extremists want me to distance myself from gaming altogether until my children are both much older. Gaming is a very time-intensive hobby, but it is just that: a hobby. Unless your professional career and income depends on games, they need to be compartmentalized and prioritized. This can truly be a challenge.
Don't be this guy. Or, she may act out...
One of the ways I have been able to balance my gaming and parenting may be a bit surprising. Once upon a time, I was an avid Magic: The Gathering player. It was a favorite way to pass time with my brother and my friends when I was growing up. By the time my first child was born, I had already gotten out of the game and sold my entire card collection. After she was born, I found myself waking up in the middle of the night for bottle feedings quite regularly. Since I had heard many a horror story about falling asleep while holding an infant, I sought ways to keep myself awake. One of the methods I employed was Duels of the Planeswalkers. This title worked so well with my feedings for two key reasons: It engaged my mind and I could play it with one hand. The nostalgia was simply an added bonus. I also dabbled with other titles, such as Civilization Revolution, Carcassonne, Catan and others.
One of the biggest things to keep in mind, though, is to be involved. Don't turn a blind eye to what your kids play or how they are playing them. I think we can all safely assume that the fabled foul-mouthed 12 year-old on CoD is not being carefully monitored by their respective parental units.
A future greifer. Ah, they're cute when they're young.
Of course, the decisions each parent makes is entirely up to them. But, I do recommend using some modicum of caution. Learn about the ESRB rating system. It's a great tool and actually does a fairly good job at describing why a game got a specific rating. Try sharing in play with your kid(s). Co-op games are generally very easy to do this with. Sharing some Little Big Planet levels or a Halo campaign (with a teenager) can be a great bonding experience. Don't let your 8 year-old pick up The Witcher 2, though. That would probably not be a good idea.
These guys know what I'm talkin' about.
I look forward to gaming with my little girls. As long as that is what they want to do, that is. I have a feeling we'll be a gaming family for quite some time to come.