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A New Challenger Has Entered! – Family Gaming: New Baby Edition

By Jason Wadsworth

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I’ve been gaming for most of my life, and it’s certainly become one of my favorite hobbies. Sometimes it’s even been an escape. An escape from stress, from boredom, and admittedly sometimes from responsibility. When I got married, my gaming habits had to change. I had to include and make time for a new priority in my life, my wife. Since then I’ve settled into a pretty comfortable gaming schedule and have become quite used to it. A little over nine months ago, when my wife and I found out we were pregnant, I knew that when the baby came my gaming habits would have to change again. To be honest, I didn’t even know if gaming would still fit into my schedule when the baby came. Our baby was born a few weeks ago; happy and healthy, and the changes have been both more and less than I had expected. It’s not something I could have prepared myself for, and gaming has certainly changed for me in just those few short weeks. Still, day by day, I’m figuring out how gaming will fit into my new life.

Burning the Midnight Oil

The first noticeable change with a new baby in the house is a serious decrease in personal free time. Having a baby changes how you spend every minute. It changes how you eat, sleep, and even dress. It seems like my wife and I have to do everything in shifts so that one of use can always be at the ready. Because of this, I don’t tend to have much time to game during normal human waking hours. This makes the late night and early morning hours my prime gaming time. Of course, late night feedings can cut into that time occasionally, but it is also nice for my wife to get a few hours of sleep without worrying about the baby because I’m awake gaming and able to listen for his cries.

What You Hear is What You Get

As a father, I know that I’m going to have to regulate what types of games I play in front of my boy, and what types of games I allow him to play. But since I figured that babies don’t notice much, there wouldn’t  be much need to worry about what I was playing while he was with me. The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that even if my boy couldn’t see what was on the screen, he could certainly hear what was going on. For that reason, I invested in some good wireless headphones (a pair of Turtle Beach X3’s). This way, I could play what I wanted and not worry about my son hearing too much digital death and violence. Of course, there are some games that I’m not worried about him hearing because they have a happier more upbeat audio-scape.

Expect the Unexpected

Now more than ever, my gaming habits and schedules are in a state of constant flux. I have to be flexible and willing to put the controller down with a few seconds notice. Sometimes, with a little improvisation I can hold my son and play some games at the same time. Other times, he needs my undivided attention. Sometimes I’m in an online game and I have to leave because my son needs me. The bottom line is that my son is my priority and I’m continually looking for ways to help fit my gaming into his schedule. What works for us this week might not work for us next week. I need to keep myself flexible enough, and be creative with my gaming.

I’d like to keep posting on this topic as things change and I learn new things about parenting and gaming. I’d also like to hear from some of our readers/users/listeners. If you have any suggestions, ideas, problems, or questions please post them here as comments or email them to me at [email protected]. I’ll take your comments and work them into later posts. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Game on!

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  • I found myself in the exact same situation when my daughter was born. No more daytime gaming – now it’s only when the baby and wife are in bed but that’s cool with me.

    I often have to pop the pad down while online and go and see to my daughter – what’s the worst that will happen? I might lose an online game – not really much comparison!!

    It’s just a case of fittting gaming in really – I enjoy it so much it’s worth the effort to squeeze whatever time I can spare to get some in (espcially on Killzone 2 at the mo!!)

  • I was so happy when my son started to figure out how to work the remotes on his VSmile. Eventually he was jumping on the Wii (by around 3 years old). Now he’s jamming on Rock Band. My wife and I believe in making gaming a part of our family life. Every Friday we meet up and play some games in the gameroom. We use it as a means of rewarding him for a job well done and it means I get to play a whole bunch as long as he’s there with me and we bond and talk through the game It makes the time quality time with my son.

  • I was so excited when my son understood the concept of a remote. We had him on the V-Smile by 2 years old and the Wii by 3. By 4 he’s jammin’ base guitar on Rock Band on the PS3. Our family plays video games together every Friday Night. It’s a chance for us to bond and throughout the week we play a game or two and it’s quality time because he’s there with me.

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  • This advice is really going to help, thanks.

  • Cailleachna

    My 7 month old daughter is fascinated with the pretty moving pictures and will watch, enthralled, no matter what we are playing. She likes the noises on Peggle and tries to get in on the action with Flower, grabbing the sixaxis pad and leaning left and right (though I don’t think she’s even close to working out that her actions affect what’s happening on the screen!)
    Even when she was tiny, we kept anything with lots of screaming and gunfire for her naptimes, and as her focus got better we started keeping her away from child-unfriendly visuals. Tell me more about this V-Smile thing, because I was wondering how to start training her in the noble art of gaming…