I am a gamer. I am a mom. Can I be both? Damn right I can.
Sometimes it surprises me that other parents are amazed by the amount of time I spend gaming (among other things), despite the existence of eight and five year old daughters. I suppose the ones who don’t know me very well assume I must be neglecting them, but my friends know that my kids are happy and healthy, and get regular doses of hugs. During my epic run on Star Wars: The Old Republic’s double experience points recently, they were cuddled up beside me, drawing, reading, and playing their own video games. My partner in crime, Tiara, was doing the same with her two children as we flailed online about our newest gaming obsession. A pending parent asked how we managed to make our gaming work in tandem with our parenting.
The simple answer? We include our children in our favourite past times, and/or we plan our gaming around them.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve never adhered to the belief that children mean the absolute devotion of every single moment of my time to them and only them. Certainly, having kids requires major lifestyle changes, but as much as parents need to accommodate their little ones, it is entirely possible to get the little darlings to compromise a wee bit, too. I give my beloved parasites more than enough of my heart and soul to keep them happy, but I can’t afford to give them my sanity, too. That’s why it’s imperative for me to take time to do the things I want to do, even as I slot my Me Time around them.
“You always make time for what you love and that’s true, even with kids,” says Tiara, whose children are also eight and five. Gaming is as much a part of her family life as is reading, sports activities, school performances, and various family events. “It’s just a balance.”
Since I often play massive multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs), it helps to play with understanding people. Other gaming parents intrinsically understand the limitations and interruptions that children will cause, but generally speaking, playing with a group of mature, responsible adults is fine, whether or not they have kids. I spent my first maternity leave in a Final Fantasy XI Linkshell filled with young adults who dubbed me the Linkshell Mom after my first was born. They understood that experience chains would be broken for diaper changes, and that I may or may not be breastfeeding during events. As baby became mobile, my gaming tapered off to only occur after the little one was in bed, but now that my daughters are both older and more self-reliant, I can game whenever I want once more.
Not that I game all the time. There are binges like double XP weekends, or 24 hours straight during Extra Life’s annual charity gaming event, but even before I had children, I’ve always made a point of taking care of the responsible adult stuff first before getting my game on. For the record, we were bike riding, at swimming lessons, grocery shopping, and gardening this weekend, too. I have no reason to feel guilty over the time I dedicate to my gaming habit, and I certainly have no issue with my kids knowing I’m a gamer. Why wouldn’t I want to share my interests with them?
I joke that the real reason I had children was to have them do the tedious work in MMOs, such as crafting, but the truth is, I love when they want to participate. I’m very pleased to report that my five year old recently mastered her WASD keyboard controls and kicked some robot butt in DC Universe Online, while my eight year old designed her own track in Little Big Planet Karting. My husband is also a gamer and takes pride in our eldest’s ability to identify what attributes would work best for each role-playing class, and both girls love cooking in Guild Wars 2. They also play their own, age appropriate games, such as LEGO Star Wars and Scribblenauts Unlimited. They are particularly fond of the levels I built for them in Little Big Planet which are based on their very own imaginary world.
Aside from MMOs, I enjoy action games and have developed my button mashing skills with the likes of Bayonetta and the Batman: Arkham series. I love strong, character-driven role-playing games and have an unhealthy obsession with Bioware’s Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Since these games contain more adult content, I usually don’t let the girls watch when I’m playing, however, they have snuck down from time to time, or I let them play during the more tame parts. As a result, we’ve had some very fun and enlightening experiences. They learn about perseverance, facing challenges, and the importance of positive encouragement when mommy is having a really hard time on a boss battle. They follow along with the mystery and intrigue of the cinematic cutscenes. They question my moral judgement when I callously slaughter bunny rabbits and other innocent wildlife. We never miss a teachable moment in our house. If we allow the kids to see more mature content, it always comes with ample discussion. And sometimes, our children teach us a thing or two in the process, such as my youngest daughter’s insight into the Joker’s psychological issues.
At the end of the day (which is when I usually game), it’s not that difficult to be a gaming mom (or dad), or to enjoy any of your favourite past times, for that matter. As, Tiara said above, it’s about finding the right balance that will allow you to do the things you love without ever feeling guilty for indulging yourself. Statistics show that there are many gaming moms who have figured out the proper balance that works for them, and lots of websites where like-minded parents gather to share their tips and tricks, for both in game and out. Gaming doesn’t have to end when children become a part of your life. You just have to figure out how to make everything work together.