Saturday, September 19, 2015

The New Dad Gamer: So you want to keep your hobby?

Welcome to my new series on parenting! Well, sort of about parenting. Mostly it's about video games, with a smattering of marriage/parenting advice. Or more specifically, how to maintain your hobby (and your sanity) with a new baby in the picture.

Today we're going to talk about relationships and balancing them with video games. There's a bit of introspection involved to, so stay with me.

But first! A personal story:

May 28th, 2015. I'm waiting in line at a Game Stop with a few other Nintendo fans. The reason? Splatoon and Wave 4 Amibo. The Texas heat was relentless, but I didn't mind. All I could think about was spending the summer splatting squid/kids in Inktopolis. 10 am finally rolled around, I got my copy of Splatoon, Pac-Man, and Charizard, and quickly made my way back to the office to start playing. I was beaming!

11 days later my son, Nathan, was born. And although his birth was a surprise to no one, the drastic changes to our lives was quite a shock. Mostly in good ways, but I could do with a bit more sleep. The fatherly instinct to protect my child and care for my wife was strong. I woke up with my wife at every feeding, I learned the art of the swaddle, I even volunteered for exclusive diaper change duty for the first 3 weeks (the entire duration of my paternity leave). I'm not trying to toot my own horn, I'm just trying to get across how much having a child changed me. And even though we were busier than ever with our new little one, I still found time to play Splatoon.

I know I'm not alone when I say that my spouse doesn't play video games. She's not curious about it, she didn't grow up with it, it will never be part of her life like it is mine. Which is totally ok! She's still my best friend and an amazing wife and mother. But our different stances on gaming have, in the past, caused some conflict.

So with a new baby, a sleep deprived wife, and me wanting a little more gaming in my life to help cope with these changes, I knew that the potential for even MORE conflict was on the horizon if I didn't make some quick changes to how I manage my favorite pastime.

Here's how I maintained a great relationship with my wife, staved off neglecting my family, and still worked in the game time I love.

Be honest.

First, be honest with yourself about video games. They're not necessary, and if you sold all of your games and never played again, you'd have more time and money for other things. There, I said it. Now that you know that you don't need them, why do you play video games?

I've played video games my whole life and never even questioned why. It takes some soul searching. What's so satisfying about playing video games? What do I get out of it? For me it has to do with self esteem and a sense of adventure.

Video games make me feel good about myself in a world thats always trying to tear others down. This is one reason why I appreciate Nintendo's approach to voice chat in Splatoon. It's a level playing field where I don't have to listen to someone cussing up a storm on the other end. I win or lose on my own merits, and even if I lose, I can still say I tried my best and it was a good game.

Adventure is pretty self explanatory. I'm a creative type who thrives in new experiences. I do take my fare share of real life adventures, but sometimes I just can't get away either due to resources or time or obligations. Thank God for Zelda in those moments when I need to explore something new.

My answer will be different than yours, but what you come up with will help you find peace with your hobby, and it'll help you talk to your spouse about it. Which brings me to my next point.

Be honest with your spouse. If you married someone who hates video games, you might have trouble. But any reasonable person will understand that it's a hobby which helps you unwind just like working on cars or painting or cooking or hunting.

Be honest about how much it costs, and budget for it. I send my wife an email every couple months or so telling her the games I plan to buy, how much they cost, and what the game it like. This helps her stay in the know about what my hobby is, and if she watches me play she won't feel completely lost. Here's an example of what the email looks like from my most recent one:

Hey babe,

Just want to keep you up to date about games coming out I'd like to pick up. the going rate for video games these days is $60, but sometimes they're cheaper. With all the contract work coming up for me, hopefully I can save up a few buck here and there 😁

September 11th - Super Mario Maker
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Remember Super Mario Bros? well, now you can make your own levels, share them with an online community, and play other people's custom Mario levels! WOO!

November 10th - Rodea: Sky Soldier
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In this game, you play Rodea. Who has the ability to fly. It's an action shooter, and I don't know much else yet, but it looks REALLY FUN!

October 16th - Yoshi's Wolly World
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It's Yoshi! In a new game where everything is made of yarn! ISN'T HE ADORBS?!

December 4th - Xenoblade Chronicles X
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In this expansive Sci-Fi game, you play a crash landed member of the human race, which is on the brink of extinction. Your only hope is to defend your crash landed space craft from a host of unknown creatures looking to make lunch out of you. But thanks to the newly discovered technology that makes robotic exo-suits possible, you're able to make easy work of most of the hostile wildlife. What lies beyond the horizon on this alien planet? Only one way to find out!

TBD 2016 - Star Fox Zero
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In this sequel to a 90s classic Nintendo game, you play as Fox McCloud, leader of your own squadron on a mission to save the galaxy from the evil Andross. You pilot the mighty R-Wing, which is capable of transforming, as you travel from planet to planet ridding them of Andross's minions before the final showdown!

So, be honest with your spouse about why you play, what you play, and how much it costs. I promise keeping them in the dark is a bad move if you want to play games and stay married.

A Good Time For Game Time.

The concept in my mind of paternity leave was closer to a vacation than 3 weeks of chores. It was a bit of a rude awakening, but I was a dad now. And my #1 priority was making sure my wife was cared for and my son was still alive at the end of the day. I was honest with my wife about gaming before our son was born, which helped a little, but trying to navigate her moods around opportune game time was tricky. Here are my findings.

TRY to limit yourself to an hour a day. I know with some games, an hour gets you through the title screen, but maybe big sprawling epic RPGs aren't the best fit for new dads. But you know what is? Super Mario 3D World, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Pikmin 3, Mario Kart 8, Super Mario Maker... These games are easy to jump in for a bit, and pause if need be.

Now Splatoon was a bit tricky because although it's great for short bursts, you cannot pause an online match. I made the decision early on with Splatoon that I wasn't going to take it too seriously, and if I had to leave an online match to help my family, so be it. It's not worth arguing over.

Need a bit more play time? I don't recommend this as a permanent solution, but gaming while everyone is asleep works for that little extra boost if you feel like you're neglecting you hobby. However, losing sleep is no joke when you have a new kid, so limit yourself.

Going back to work opens up new opportunities for game time. The Wii U allows you to play most games on the gamepad exclusively, eliminating the need for a TV. So, bring your game to work! But please don't lose your job. limit your play to break time ONLY. Who knows? You might even start up a Smash Bros league with your peers!

Now that we're in some sort of "normalcy" in our family again, My wife will take Nathan to all sorts of things. She has a Moms group that meets on Saturdays, so I usually fire up the Wii U then. Or sometimes Nathan still wakes up at night to feed, then goes right back to sleep. If it's early in the morning, I might get in a few rounds of Smash before the day officially starts.

In all of this, communication is key. If your spouse is upset because they think you're spending too much time playing video games, remember that it's just a video game. Investing in your marriage should be your #1 priority. And chances are, if your spouse is upset at you, it's because you've been unknowingly neglecting them. You'll see me on Twitter taking days off from everything just to spend time with my wife. Even on important days for the gaming community like launch day for Super Mario Maker. She knew it was important to me because I communicated it to her, so she especially appreciated me focusing on her that day instead. And you know what? She encouraged me to play my game as long as I wanted the next day, and not one argument was had between us.

So it is possible to have a kid, a marriage, and a hobby. You just need to be honest with yourself about all of it.

Got any specific questions about relationships? Or maybe you have a similar story? I'd love to chat with you in the comments below!


  1. Wow Dan, telling it how it is. I absolutely agree with you that you have to communicate with your wife about what you enjoy doing and she will absolutely support what you love to do. I am blessed to have my wife and kids as you are! Games become a part of you and by letting your wife know how much you enjoy them, it makes everything better. Video games do take you to another world where you feel good about accomplishing things like conquering a tough level or building up a character to be super tough...n u just feel good about it! I am blessed to share the love of gaming with my wife and we play most of our video games together! Our son joins in and plays with us on the mario games and it's a whole other adventure. We watch gamers stream instead of watching the messed up stuff that's on tv nowadays. Man, I'm just blessed. Wait til your son gets a little older man, you're going to have some fun! We've all been making mario maker courses as a family for the past week and it's been super fun. Thanks for the good read bro.

    1. Yeah! I'm super excited to play video games with Nathan someday. Sounds like you have a beautiful family too. Congrats for that!

      I think sometimes communicating can be hard. Especially since video games are just now coming out of being a socially unacceptable hobby.

  2. Nice article! I did/do have this notion that I will go into a hibernation away from video games until our son is old enough to play. I did get Mario Maker and it is dreamlike. I played it during our newborn's naps last weekend. Haven't had a chance to pick it up since, but not for lack of wanting to!

    1. It's hard to find time for sure. I went for a while without touching a game, but it was hard to stay away. I'm SUPER excited to play with my son someday!!!

  3. Congratulations to you and your wife!! Babies are the best! I've always heard that communication is most important in an marriage and that it's good to be on the same page. I consider myself lucky to be in the same sentence...sometimes the same word on the page with my husband, lol! I really like the email system you and your wife have! An occasional email to my hubs can come in handy since I am a little forgetful with game news/releases.
    My hobby is obviously gaming, but I also love to collect nail polish! It's not always easy to find time to sit down and paint my nails with 2 kids, but I'm working on finding that time. Thanks for the great advice and congrats again!!

    1. Thanks! And congrats to yall too!

      It's true. Sometimes communication can be challenging (especially for an introvert like myself) But we're always working at it. And that makes all the difference.

  4. The virtual world indeed is sometimes very promising when it comes to providing people a platform to voice out without their identity being given out. gamecube roms

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