I've been a gamer since the year 1989. I was a young child and recall playing Pitfall on the Atari, swinging on vines, jumping over snakes and crocodiles to get through the level. This was an exciting time for my 5 year old self. The graphics seemed amazing and for that time period they were. Throughout my childhood I played all the classics, Mario, Zelda, Halo and Uniracers to name a few. Well maybe Uniracers isn't so much of a classic. I have fond memories of these times and yet what I don't have are memories of my parents playing video games with me. I don't fault them for this, it was a different generation and I have plenty of great memories with my parents and connect with them around different activities. However, as I sit and write this I hope that my children have memories of racing the icy slopes of Blizzard Mountain with their father and recalling that time when their Dad helped them aim the most incredible Peggle shot that cleared the board erupting in fireworks and symphony.
Knowing the Difference
Having children is a huge responsibility. While most child raising experiences are great, it is also very stressful. I personally cope with stress by gaming. As my children get older it is much easier to do activities with them rather than alongside them. For example my son enjoys Legos and I used to have to help him build but now we build together and he's very capable of building independently too. What I've noticed as a parent so far is that while I use gaming as a coping skill for all the stressors in my life, there is nothing like sharing a special moment with my kids. Especially if that moment is gaming.
The difference to me from a Gamer Dad and a Dad who Games is the way in which we perceive our priorities. Also how we want others to see us. While I would love to let everyone know how remarkable and slightly above average my skills are in Destiny, I'd much rather they think of me as a great father to my children.
As an adult I like to think I can do what I want, when I want and that people should respect that. Much like the motto of Eric Cartman but with a little less sass. As far as gaming goes, I believe if a gamer wants to play many hours a day they should have the right to do so. Much like any other behavior, if it's not hurting anyone then what's the harm? The difference gamers without children have versus Dad’s who game is that they do not have children depending on them for their time, development and other necessities. Therefore, having added responsibility in your life that directly relates to other people increases the chance that gaming could have a negative impact on others if it takes away time you spend with them.
While I would love to spend some of my days playing Forza Horizon 3 for for a few hours then jump into Battlefield 1 for a couple hours and round off my session with some brain stimulating play of The Witness, other areas of my life would suffer...most importantly my family.
Balance is Power
Creating a life for oneself that involves family, work and leisure is important yet it is the balancing act that fuels the real pay off. When a gamer is able to enjoy time with family, establish productive work to sustain their needs and enjoy leisure activities like gaming, a person can achieve more enjoyment in life than when these aspects are out of alignment.
For myself, I work way too much and way too often which leaves me feeling stressed. My instinct is to cope by gaming for several hours after my wife and kids are asleep however this leaves me exhausted. That exhaustion carries over into my work week resulting in more stress and also less quality time spent with my family. I'm striving for balance and it is a challenge.
I have both good and bad days of course. The good days are not the ones where I have the house to myself for 4 hours and do nothing but play The Crucible in Destiny in hopes of obtaining the ever elusive “you fill in the blank” exotic weapon. No, the good days are when I have gotten enough sleep the night prior to wake up early on a Sunday with my kids, play Guess Who with them and lose to my 5 year old son, read them stories, turn on Forza Horizon 3 for my son so he can drive his Truck that we customized together, help my 3 year old daughter line up shots on Peggle 2, watch football with my wife and when they all turn in for the evening I can play a couple hours of games with my friends before heading to bed myself.
The sound Xbox uses for achievements is rewarding to hear and easily recognizable. In your pursuit of being a Dad that Games and not a Gamer Dad, play that sound in your mind when you teach your children about the games you were brought up on or when you have a long discussion about what it means to be Dovahkiin. Pursue a gaming relationship with your kids and do not allow your own gaming needs to get in the way of family. After all, completing Battlefield 1 on Hard difficulty may be something to boast about yet for me, my children are my greatest achievement.
I love gaming! I love being a Dad to two young children! I love being a husband! What's great about my life is I've got kids who are interested in gaming and a wife who understands my need to game. I grew up in the 80's playing Nintendo classics and dabbled a bit with PlayStation before seeing "the light" that is Xbox. I love everything about it and am looking forward to sharing my experiences through the lens of a gamer, dad/husband and as a gamer with a Master's Degree in Psychology. Let the analyzing begin!