[Picture drawn by me.]

Yep.  Being a parent is actually kind of like that...

Today was the second anniversary of my daughter's birth. To put it more simply, my daughter is officially now considered a "toddler" as she is now in her "terrible twos"...  While so far I have not yet encountered what is supposed to be all that terrible about 2 year olds, I am certain that it is probably going to be largely connected to the fact that as my daughter becomes more intelligent and mobile, she is able to get into more and more things-some of which are probably quite dangerous if used incorrectly. 


"But I LIKE being shocked by 10,000 volts! It recharges my cuteness!"

Now, I am by no means a "helicopter parent" but unfortunately there are certain things that my daughter is finally getting dexterous and skilled enough to figure out that might cause severe problems (such as being able to pull out the plug socket safety covers, for example).  So far, nothing bad has happened.  But all it's going to take is her finding some forgotten penny that accidentally rolled under the couch or something, and she's going to think it's probably a fabulous idea to stick it in that slot and ZAP!  Unfortunately, electric shock is quite effective in hurting young children, and I don't want my daughter to have to go to the hospital for something like this.  Add to the fact that my husband finally started his graveyard position and now sleeps for most of the morning and a bit of the early afternoon, there is a good amount of time for our daughter to get herself into mischief (even though she usually wakes him up to get him to turn on Spongebob and give her some water/banana).  The economy has really hit our expenses hard (our rent just went up and prices for food are skyrocketing). Still, we're getting by, if only with some sacrifices.

Here, Pikachu demonstrates his famous "cuddle attack."  it's super effective (and garners many snacks from the cuddle "victims".)

But in the positive column, she's starting to do more imaginative play, her ability to climb is growing by leaps and bounds, and she's speaking in almost complete sentences.  Compared to last year, it's pretty much like she's "evolved" into a completely different and more advanced little person.

"But what does this have to do with gaming?" you might ask.

Good question, and one that I intend to make quite clear in the paragraphs below! :D

A lot of people ask me why I am still a fan of RPGs.  To some extent, I think that even the soul-sucking grind is something that I can relate to.  It's constant, often repetitive and sometimes you feel like you're working uphill in a blizzard with rickety (or non-existent) scaffolding).  However, the view once you get to the top of a summit and finally get those levels or that plot/story advancement is worth all that hard work.  To some extent, the battles are comforting-you know what to expect, and the turn based nature of said battles allows you to think and strategize either as quickly or as leisurely as possible. 

Even today, I still have trouble choosing which one I want as my original partner.  THEY ARE ALL SO CUTE! *faints from cuteness overload*

Pokemon is one of the most common examples of this phenomenon.  I remember playing red/blue version and then playing gold/silver version and then eventually even playing up to crystal version in the Pokemon universe.  What always fascinated me is that not only did people train their Pokemon to fight (and no, I am not suggesting that we train our toddlers to duke it out in order to win parenting badges), but there were many other partnerships, including training your Pokemon for religious purposes, or as service animals, or even as valued companions equal to that of a person.

I'm not sure how that happened, and I'm not sure I *WANT* to know.

The truth of the matter is that in real life, to call the grind to make it from a drooling newborn infant to a running-around-and-saying-"NO"-to-everything toddler INTENSE would be the understatement of the year.

Consider this.  A newborn baby often takes up practically all of your day.  They sleep in short intervals and wake in short intervals. They generally have to be fed and changed almost constantly, and as their feedings and changings subside a bit, they start developing the neck strength to hold their head up, and then over the course of months, the hand-eye coordination to grasp objects.  Still months after that, is the leg and foot development, the growth of teeth, and plenty of other changes and development both mentally and physically.

When your experience points needed are fulfilled in a traditional RPG, your characters will level up.  Most of the time, milestones in infants are marked by the month, as "improvements" to basic motor skills are often quite quick to present themselves.  But once a child gets to be one year old, those physical changes slow down a bit (other than the growth spurts, lol), and the child's cerebral abilities begin to develop.  When Alice was 1 year old, she knew how to say "daddy" (only she would call everything "daddy" so I don't know if that counts, lol).  When she turned 2 years old today, she has quite a few words she knows how to say and many more that she understands when others try to communicate with her.

One of the things that RPGs like Pokemon have over real life parenting is the simple fact that you can control your Pokemon quite a lot more than you can control your children.

Like with evolutionary stones, for example.  Don't even think of trying this on a petulent teenager- you won't get a Vaporeon!

In the Pokemon universe, you can choose whether or not a Pokemon forgets/learns different moves.  You can even evolve them (or choose to keep them in their youngest state) using special stones or simply leveling them up enough.

With children, the actual control over their personality or choices beyond a certain degree is practically nonexistent.  I know that my mom wanted me to be a frilly girly-girl, and was very disappointed with me when I turned out to be a roll-around-in-the-mud tomboy who enjoyed reading and playing wrestlemania attack on the trampoline with the boys.  But to some extent, even though she was sad, she eventually accepted that I simply liked My Little Ponies and toy dinosaurs better than Barbies and baby dolls and she made her peace with it. 

Similarly, if my daughter likes something, as long as it isn't dangerous to her health or safety, I am not really able to do much about it-even if I don't agree.  And to some extent, I support this (although god help me if she decides she wants to be a cheerleader).  I understand that a child is their own person and part of developing into an independent adult is finding out who you are and being true to whoever that person happens to be.

But to some extent, as a parent, there is quite a lot of "training"-from training them walk to training them to eat veggies, or say "thank you" or even wave "bye bye" when someone leaves.

And this training is merciless day-to-day grind.  Sometimes you feel like you can't even imagine a light at the end of the tunnel as the kid is up fussing and crying all night with teething pain, eventually it somehow passes, and you're not quite sure how you kept yourself together through it.  But there's also a sense of immense pride and satisfaction that indeed, you were strong enough to endure and even rise victorious over the pain and misery of the trials you faced to reach this destination.

Many people ask me why I had children when it's so hard and complicated and messy.

I could say the same to those of you who have racked up hours and hours and hours in a game where there is tedium and stress and even a couple of points where you want to snap the controller in half and have a console barbque.

The truth is, regardless of whether it's parenting or leveling up your characters in your favorite game, IT IS WORTH IT.  Slogging through the grind and the tedium only leads to a richer feeling of accomplishment when you finally make it through it all.

So what is your stance on "grind" either IRL or in games?  Do you feel it adds to that feeling of accomplishment, or are you one of those people who would rather eat your own legs than spend another hour working at leveling up?