This article is near and dear to my heart. I have been wanting to write this article since the week I was asked if I would be interested in writing for GeekMom. I know that anyone who games and has kids probably has thought of some of these things, but for those who aren’t parents yet and think that they will either not be able to game anymore, or will carry on the same as beforekids entered the picture, they will pick up at least a single point that will help them.
June 29, 2011
As a parent and a gamer, there is a fine line between giving up gaming to be a parent and ignoring your kids to continue gaming. I have been accused of being on both sides of the fence regarding my “hobby.” Some parents have accused me of being too focused on gaming. “You are hindering your child’s development with your selfishness,” and “Why do you want to play that?” are two phrases I used to hear frequently from so-called friends and relatives. Eventually, my husband and I had heard it enough that we did stop gaming only three months after our daughter (now 5) was born.
We played World of Warcraft (WOW) on a Player vs. Player (PVP) server. I remember the warm night, in June, 2006 when we threw our hands in the air and proclaimed, “We aren’t gamers anymore!” Our daughter had woken up suddenly wanting to be fed during what is now referred to as “adult time,” the 7-10 pm period. We were playing WOW and were repeatedly being killed at our respawn point. A combination of our friends not helping us, our daughter crying, and the unsportsmanlike players camping out on our virtual graves drove my husband and me to shout expletives and unplug the computer. We did not renew our WOW accounts after that month, and ended up selling our characters to our so-called “friends.”
Part I of this article is about being a parent who games. I hope that my five years of gaming experience with kids will help you find a balance of board games and babies without going through the hardships my family went through. Part II of this article will be advice on how to game with your kids.
Pick your gamers carefully: Understand that the people you game with before kids come into the picture might not be the same people you game with after “you and me and baby makes three.” Some friends won’t like crying, others won’t like how you handle your children, and others won’t like the amount of time it takes to play a game when children are dividing attentions. Our change in taste in games is only half of the reason we have changed gaming circles three times since 2006. After having our first child, I found that the original group of gamers we played with thought we should care more about our WOW levels than our own kid. I was not sorry to let them go. But it raises the question: how do you game without ignoring your kids?
Game online: Every other Friday we use Skype (or a similar program) to talk while playing Dungeons and Dragons using a virtual game table. Since the game starts after the kids go to bed, my husband and I can take part in adult conversations while playing games that require higher reasoning skills, without neglecting our children. In fact, it’s quite easy to call a “bio break” to go get that last drink of water for our oldest or emergency pacifier for our youngest.
While the parents are away, the grandparents will play: Friends and family are important to have. We are fortunate enough to have grandparents available who are willing to babysit. Most families aren’t as lucky, and even we can’t always rely on our parents, so we also trade off babysitting with other parents to get in our gaming fix. Bonus for the kids is that they either get to spend time with grandma/grandpa and get a special treat or get a play date!
Let them throw dice: Play games with your kids around. There is no better way to start molding your geek version 2.0 than to expose them to the games that you like to play. Gaming with other parents who have kids close in age to your own makes it fun for everybody involved. If people you game with don’t have kids, try having a game bag for your child that contains cards, cheap plastic miniatures, dice, or even a DS or Leapster in it that only gets played while mom and dad are gaming.
Some of you might be in a similar situation to mine where your spouse is frequently the person running the game (Dungeon or Game Master otherwise known as a DM or GM). If this is the case talk about what you expect from each other during gaming sessions. Decide if you are going to take turns changing diapers and starting projects for kids or if only one of you is going to handle the kids. Believe me, deciding before you start playing saves hurt feelings and misunderstandings later, and makes game play a lot more fun.
Parenting and gaming should go together painlessly. Hopefully, sharing my experiences give you some ideas on how to be a gamer and a parent. Do you game? How do you game with kids?