Thursday, February 20, 2014

Gaming as a New Parent or "All Your Time Are Belong to Son"

The first gaming console I played - Atari 2600
All of my previous posts so far have been about the two loves of my life - my wife and my new baby son.  I thought I would change it up a bit and get a tad bit "nerdy" with this post.  Video games have always been a hobby of mine for as far back as I can remember.  I remember playing my parent's Atari 2600 in their basement not really knowing what I was doing but enjoying every minute of it.  It wasn't until a few years later where I received my first console of my own - the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES.)  From that point on I was in love and between my brother and I growing up, we owned every console that was released with the exception of a few lesser ones and had a blast playing them.

I carried this love of video games into my adult life and while I didn't play as much through college, when I entered the work force and started receiving an adult paycheck, my love of gaming was reignited.  I consider myself to be pretty video game savvy - I visit the big name video game blogs and listen to gaming podcasts sometimes on my drive to work, so when the news came that we were expecting a child, I knew my hobby was going to take a hit.  What I didn't realize at the time was how much I'd be ok with it.  But a baby in your life doesn't mean you can't enjoy the things you used to.  Granted, you're going to have a lot less time and your time really isn't your own anymore, but by doing things in small doses and being able to stop when you have to, you can keep on keeping on in the video game world.

The XL version of the Nintendo 3DS
The first thing I noticed when Jack was born was that I spent a lot less time actually playing on the couch in front of a television.  I own a Playstation 4, Playstation 3, WiiU, and an Xbox 360 but games on those consoles are an investment.  Big name games will come out where I'll try to find time early in the morning or late in the evening to fit in some game time on these systems but my primary playing time has been on two consoles much smaller - the Nintendo 3DS & Playstation Vita.  These systems were always the travel gaming fix where you would play in the car or on a plane but now they were becoming my go to system of choice.  The reason is simple - you can play good games in small amounts of time and pause them and resume whenever you want.  I would play a game in the morning, close the system, and then pick it up in the afternoon playing exactly where I left it.  I understand these consoles are marketed for bite size gaming for traveling but their true market, in my opinion, is the new parent who is also a gamer.  The ability to play big name games as well as smaller indie titles all in one handheld platform is a major plus for these smaller systems for people with limited amounts of time to play on them.

A lot of people look at the handheld gaming market and scoff at it because it doesn't have as many high profile games as their console big brothers.  One look at the cumulative scores on metacritic for the Nintendo 3DS and the Playstation Vita will show that the statement is just not true.  The games may be different in design and playstyle but you are still getting a large quantity of high quality games that persistently score well with critics.  Even if you want that large scale RPG with a grand epic story - you can find it here and in most cases it's better than the ones on the console (Bravely Default and Persona 4 Golden are two shining examples.)  

Grand Theft Auto on an iPhone
Another gaming choice that is surprisingly robust these days is your phone.  If you own an iPhone, Android based phone, or a Windows phone then you have a slew of games available literally at your fingertips.  While the app stores are junked up with "pay to win" games that disguise themselves as "free to play" games you can also find some really solid games that are on par with the bigger consoles.  Old Final Fantasy games are constantly being re-released if you want a nostalgia fix and Grand Theft Auto games have been showing up to a lot of critical acclaim on these devices.  If you wanted something smaller you can find some really solid indie titles, usually from a small team, that will easily consume a solid chunk of your free time without you realizing.  Just be on the look out for the dreaded in app purchases that can often leave a sour taste in your mouth if you aren't careful.

I know that as Jack grows up and we have more time to ourselves I'll play more on the consoles but for now the bite sized gaming chunks are perfect for what I'm looking for.  They fit perfectly into a hectic life with a baby and the games are actually really good.  The new Zelda game, Link Between Worlds, and Bravely Default are two amazing games that have been taking up most of my gaming time.  One thing I know I'm looking forward to is playing video games with my son as he grows up and games like Skylanders and Disney Infinity show that there is definitely a market out there for that age.  I had some of the best fun of my childhood playing video games with my mother and I hope to replicate that with my son, in moderation of course.  In the meantime, I'll prepare by playing my 3DS with the lights out as he sleeps soundly in the bed with us.  Happy gaming!

2 comments:

  1. Good post. I actually started gaming more after my first son was born since I was up at 4:00 feeding him. I also read a lot more. Kids give free time but they also take it way when they get older.

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    1. Thanks for reading! I agree with you - having something to play or just tap away at helps when you're up in the middle of the night.

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