© 2010 Gav Ross
These can all be dealt with through proper time management, but nothing can quite prepare you for the impact becoming a parent has on your gaming downtime.
Suddenly, there’s a small human to be responsible for and, as all new parents would agree, it’s a taxing time to say the least. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t keep playing games some of the time while looking after a newborn.
The title of this article obviously doesn’t allude to playing games with your baby – they’re not going to help you get through to level 50 of Horde mode in Gears 2 when they don’t have the capacity to stop dribbling over themselves yet; it is meant to be more of an insight into what you could be taking into consideration while still trying to fit an hour or two of gaming in here and there when a screaming bundle of joy arrives.
Here are a few expert tips that just might help if a tot shows up in your life.
Be Prepared To Pause … A Lot
There are rare times when he/she has had a good feed and might sleep longer than usual, but most of the time you’ll be getting up often, even if it’s just to check that the baby is still blanketed properly (and, y’know, breathing).
Then, if you’re a late night gamer such as myself and you happen to be placed on 2am bottle feed duties, there are also the times you’ll need to be getting up mid-game for a quick nappy change or bottle warm-up all the while doing your best not to let the kid’s cries wake your poor, sleep-deprived partner as she tries to sleep for more than an hour.
KIQS (Keep It Quiet, Stupid)
This probably goes without saying: babies don’t like loud noises. I know…shocking. Their ear drums aren’t quite ready for the sound of piercing bullets or explosive gas tanks emitted by your surround sound system.
When playing in the company of a little one, be sure to keep the volume down to around the ‘slightly audible’ level – enough to be able to hear speech during cut-scenes but not much higher.
And before you smugly think ‘oh it’s ok I wear headphones’, forget it – you can’t wear headphones because you won’t hear the baby crying in its bassinet. Ha!
Forget About Wearing A Headset
Your Xbox Live friends don’t need to hear the sound of milk burps coming through your mic as you sit the kid in your lap and watch for any signs of forthcoming spew. They really don’t need to hear the baby’s goo goo noises or the parent’s stupid noises back at the baby either.
And they really, really don’t need to hear the inexplicable exclamations of glee that come out of your mouth when the baby suddenly lets off some pent-up gas or does an award-winning poo that you’ve been anxiously waiting for.
Overall, you’ll find that when sitting with bubs and playing a game you won’t want to talk to anyone anyway. And let’s face it, your chat party will probably be full of 20-year-olds who don’t understand what it’s like to be at this point in your life and they may say something offensive, but that’s ok because you have parental love in your heart.
Watch The Content
This is a tricky one. Most sane people would tell you it doesn’t matter if a baby under 6 or so months old is sitting with you watching objectionable content. They have no idea what they’re looking at and I’m not sure their sight even extends more than 30cm at such as young age.
But you never know and it’s this niggling doubt that makes you think maybe you shouldn’t let the baby see anything inappropriate at all, just in case.
I can recall one time – when the kid was about 8 weeks old – I was playing Dante’s Inferno and heartily decapitating and ripping the bodies of hellish creatures apart. While I sat there engrossed in my bloodlust and the young one was in my lap, I looked down momentarily to see that his eyes were transfixed on the screen. I don’t just mean a regular stare, either.
It was as if he was so engrossed by what he was seeing that he was subconsciously cataloguing the images into a deep, dark recess in the back of his mind, preparing to revisit them at a later stage of development that might in turn call for the need of a psychologist.
Sure, he was almost certainly just focusing on the bright and pretty colours, but one can’t be too careful. Be a responsible parent and leave the games containing disembowelments and cries of tortured pain out of the kid’s sight, at least until they’re 8.
Attempt To Find Games You Can Play With One Hand
What games can you play with one hand, I hear you ask? It sounds stupid at first, but it isn’t until you’re placed in the position of only having one hand free that you’re able to deduce what gaming does and doesn’t work.
If the baby is in your lap or cradled in one arm you can usually have both hands free. It might not be the most comfortable of positions for the baby but, hey, they’ll sleep anywhere when they’re tired enough, right?
When it comes to bottle feed time you have to become more adaptive. I’ve found that with the baby placed on top of a cushion on your own legs – which you should prop up and bend at the knees so that your feet are sitting on something like a coffee table or extra chair – you can hold the bottle with just one hand and the baby is stable.
I played through several hours of Final Fantasy XIII just like this. Of course, you have to be fairly nimble to be able to properly paradigm-shift and time your attacks, but it’s a rewarding way to play that game and having one arm tied up doesn’t hinder your progress in the slightest once you get used to it.
Most RPGs only require the pressing of one button or the movement of one stick at a time, so it’s a good genre to play while feeding. And yes, there is also the option of just not playing at all while the baby is feeding and paying actual full attention to it.
That’s all well and good but, trust me, after nightly bottle feeds that sometimes go for marathon times of half an hour or more, you’ll find yourself getting bored very quickly.
Feeds in the middle of the night are coined by parenting books as ‘dream feeds’ – the baby has its eyes shut most of the time and is essentially still half asleep. And if he’s asleep he doesn’t know whether I’m looking at him or, say, upgrading skills for my character in Final Fantasy’s crystarium.
As long as he’s getting his milk and not falling off my lap he doesn’t care. In fact, I think he’d be proud his Dad is doing something productive during this time.
I’m sure most mothers would frown upon this, but I’m pretty sure they don’t spend each and every breastfeed staring lovingly at their child the entire time without the occasional flick through a magazine or text message to a friend. Gaming and feeding at the same time is simply smart multitasking.
I’ll be fair and note that when it comes to burping once the feed has finished it is better to pause the game and actually use two hands and help them get the wind out of their insides. I mean, honestly, let’s be responsible about this.
Each and every new gaming parent will no doubt find their own strategies and tricks to cope with what is a gloriously fun time in one’s life. Not all of the tips above may apply (or even help), but perhaps just one of them will.
As anyone will tell you – enjoy a balanced lifestyle and don’t game more than necessary. Enjoy sitting occasionally with your new pal in life and think of gaming with them nearby as a sort of bonding experience.
This introduction to gaming at such an early age could be a benefit and something that you enjoy together in future years. And, let’s be honest, the sooner they’re old enough to be used for farming achievements out of terrible kiddy and movie tie-in games, the better.
© 2010 Gav Ross
Filed under: Console gaming, Editorial, GameBanter, Parental Gaming, Xbox 360, Xbox Community Network Tagged: | Achievements, Dante's Inferno, family gaming, Final Fantasy XIII, gamer parents, gaming with kids, Gears of War 2, parental gaming, PS3, Xbox 360, xbox live