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How parenthood has altered my view of gaming

Posted on 5th May 2017 at 14:07 by Rick Lane with 30 comments

How parenthood has altered my view of gaming How parenthood has altered my view of gaming.

As some of you may know, I became a father for the first time just under a year ago. At the time I was concerned with a lot of different things. Would I be a good dad? How much was my life going to change? Could I cope with things like sleep deprivation, an inconsolable baby, and cleaning up nappies that resemble the Tough Mudder racecourse?

But perhaps my biggest concern was, would I still be able to do my job? I love working for bit-tech and as a games journalist in general, criticising new games, interviewing developers, trying to conjure up daft, overlong similes like a comedian in a joke contest with the Grim Reaper. But games writing is extremely time-intensive, and while I was earning enough to support myself, providing for a family was another matter.

Almost a year in, and so far everything is going well. I haven’t accidentally dropped or swallowed the baby. We’re not homeless or destitute, and I’m not falling asleep at my keyboard in the afternoons. If anything, it’s made me better at my job than I was before (your view may differ, of course). I’m more efficient and driven than I was before.

Yet while I’m managing to balance family life with work, some things have certainly changed regarding how I view, play, and enjoy games. Some of these I anticipated, but others have surprised me, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to share them with you, and see if any of you feel the same or differently.

How parenthood has altered my view of gaming How parenthood has altered my view of gaming.

The most obvious factor in my consumption of games these days is time. Whereas before I could structure my job more or less how I pleased, now I have to work according to a much stricter schedule. Before my daughter was born, I worried about how I’d balance family life with reviewing games, because a lot of modern games are very long. In fact, any game that has a running time of under eight hours is considered short. If you think about it, that’s the equivalent of a full day’s work. A forty hour RPG can take up to a week to review, and these days it’s entirely possible for several of those to be released a month, alongside dozens, perhaps hundreds of other games.

I’m not complaining, I love playing open-world games and big, absorbing RPGs. I’m just pointing out the reality of how long it takes to review them. Luckily, as it turns out, game length isn’t as much of a problem as I feared it would be. I have to be selective about which games I review to some extent, but I can find ways to squeeze the hours in if I need to.

How parenthood has altered my view of gaming How parenthood has altered my view of gaming.

What I don’t have time for these days is filler. Cookie-cutter content, repetitive side missions, fetch-three-things quests, collectibles, all that stuff I ignore. Strangely, I’ve found this to be a liberating experience. It makes RPGs and open-world games a lot pacier, as you’re only focussing on the stuff that’s important rather than helping every other random civilian find their missing dog.

Consequently, I feel much more like a hero, and not a weaponised handyman. It also helps me to judge how well-made an RPG or an open-world game is, because if I find myself being drawn away from the main quest by interesting side-missions or entertaining systems, I know the game is doing something right.

So size isn’t too much of a problem, because I can mitigate it in various ways. By comparison, I really struggle with getting stuck because of difficulty. It’s one thing to waste time doing samey tasks, quite another to waste it doing exactly the same thing over and over for the sake of some arbitrary challenge. I play games to explore their worlds and enjoy their systems, not to be tested within an inch of a breakdown. Real life is challenging enough right now, and I don’t need games adding to that. This doesn’t mean I will automatically dismiss a game because it is hard, but it really needs to justify that difficulty to hold my attention. Dark Souls I’d play because it is all about learning and discovery. But something like Darkest Dungeon, which is two parts punishment to one part luck? No thanks.

How parenthood has altered my view of gaming How parenthood has altered my view of gaming.

If I do fancy something a bit more testing, I’ll seek it out in multiplayer. Not only is playing against humans more enjoyably challenging than an AI, multiplayer games are also much better at compartmentalising that challenge into a smaller timeframe. If you’re killed in a multiplayer match, you’re usually back in the action within seconds, and that life offers a clean slate, an entirely different sequence of events. Even if you lose the match, often you’re provided with some small reward regardless. On the other hand, being killed in a single-player FPS or a rogue-like is obstructive to progress and can be quite costly.

In fact, I generally play more multiplayer games for recreation nowadays. Previously, I was never much of a multiplayer person, but it’s quick and convenient and easy to fit in. Oddly, though, the situation is reversed with cooperative games. When I was a student, my favourite game was Left4Dead. I played hours upon hours of it with friends both online and offline. Now, though, finding three other friends to play with requires a week’s prior notification, and even then there’s a chance that unanticipated baby-related duties will suddenly come calling.

How parenthood has altered my view of gaming How parenthood has altered my view of gaming.

Speaking of which, one pet-hate I’ve gained since becoming a dad is for games that don’t cater for the fact that you might suddenly have to depart them. I frequently see players complaining that they can’t skip cutscenes in certain games, but I would like more games to let me to pause them. This goes double for games with interactive dialogue like Mass Effect. When I reviewed Andromeda, several times I had to leave to answer the door or deal with a baby thing, and I’d come back to find a choice staring me in the face, with no context for what was said leading up to it.

One final note on the subject of convenience. Every game should support a 'Save and Quit' function. Every single one. If you’re game is a rogue-like or structured around permadeath, fine. But I shouldn’t have to restart the whole damned thing because I feel tired or need to do something else. It’s also useful to have a game automatically save when you quit it, because there’s always a chance I might forget, especially when I haven’t had a proper night’s sleep for days or weeks on end.

That’s more or less how my priorities have shifted in the last ten months. I don’t have time for games that ply me with superfluous filler, but I have lots of time for games that let me cease playing them without having to answer three riddles. Now I’d like to open the floor to you. If you’re a parent or guardian or owner of a particularly needy dog, how has that changed the way you view or play games? Leave an answer in the comments (provided you have the time).

30 Comments

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David 5th May 2017, 14:23 Quote
I'd agree that I became less tolerant of games with samey, repetitive tasks - The Witcher 2 and Far Cry 3 were little more than hippy simulators up to a point -wandering around the woodland, looking for plants and flowers - collect three of these, two of these and five of those, rub em together and make a satchel for carrying more stuff to rub together.

Belated congrats on the arrival of your noob, Rick. :)
Yadda 5th May 2017, 14:42 Quote
Intense driving sims and multiplayer FPS is the way forward for the time-constrained gamer.

No stretched-out wishy-washy grandiosity, just pure concentration.

An hour on either and you need a break (or at least I do, but I am old).
Wakka 5th May 2017, 14:49 Quote
We all go through this once we get to a certain age/point in life. It was only a few years ago I could come home from work, get straight on the PC and either shut the world out with an RPG or find a mate on Steam for a game of Battlefield/L4D/Whatever... till I could be bothered to make a sandwich/order Domino's.

Now I have to come home and make sure there's stuff in for dinner, double check if the wife has made plans for us to go out (or have friends over...), put the previous nights clothes wash away, make sure the rubbish is out if it's a bin day, go through the bank accounts to make sure all the bills are paid/can be paid, help the grandmother with her printer (again), do the washing up after dinner, reply to work emails, sort lunch out for the following day and shower/bath myself... And try and get 6-7 hours sleep.

I just don't have the time any more to properly lose myself in the game when it's not the weekend anymore, and neither do any of my friends - As Rich says, to get 3-4 people on at the same time requires weeks of planning and re-structuring of schedules - it's ridiculous!
DbD 5th May 2017, 15:21 Quote
As a family man who likes multiplayer games, I now really appreciate games that I can play in 20 minutes and then go (e.g. Wot, Overwatch, CS:Go etc). Any game that requires me to commit to 1 hour+ is just not going to happen very often.

That said I do find slots to play 1h+, but any game that needs to played longer for I also appreciate if I can do it in my own time scales - games that don't *need* me to commit a lot of hours a week to be competitive (e.g. I quickly gave up on Rust when most servers reset every few weeks and in that time you've got to go from stick to rocket launcher by grinding).

Oh, and kids eventually move on from nappies to fully capable gaming partners :) The challenge is then is keeping up. At least you can spout lots of "when I were a lad games were hard, we had 500ms of lag and we were glad!"
nimbu 5th May 2017, 15:31 Quote
Not a Parent, but certainly after getting married, getting a dog and moving into a senior position has effected my gaming time. Though my compensation has been to sleep less. Im averaging 5 hours or less at the moment!
adidan 5th May 2017, 15:56 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by David
wandering around the woodland, looking for plants and flowers - collect three of these, two of these and five of those, rub em together and make a satchel for carrying more stuff to rub together.
Yeah Dave, why do it on the PC when you spend half your day in your local woods rubbing away anyway.

Agree on the 'save & quit', that should be in every game, even if it's not a wee bairn that needs attending to. Handy for when the other half requires your attention immediately and any delay will cause thundestorms to form.
somidiot 5th May 2017, 20:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by adidan
Quote:
Originally Posted by David
wandering around the woodland, looking for plants and flowers - collect three of these, two of these and five of those, rub em together and make a satchel for carrying more stuff to rub together.
Yeah Dave, why do it on the PC when you spend half your day in your local woods rubbing away anyway.

Agree on the 'save & quit', that should be in every game, even if it's not a wee bairn that needs attending to. Handy for when the other half requires your attention immediately and any delay will cause thundestorms to form.

Well put and agreed.
David 5th May 2017, 22:00 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by adidan
Yeah Dave, why do it on the PC when you spend half your day in your local woods rubbing away anyway.


You said you wouldn't tell!
adidan 6th May 2017, 08:36 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by David


You said you wouldn't tell!
Paradigm Shifter 7th May 2017, 05:49 Quote
Agree with others on 'Save and Quit'. Games that are checkpoint only (sadly common due to console games) are a royal pain too. To be honest, it's the only bit of the Final Fantasy games I wish they'd change; save points. Five at once, then nothing for ages and ages.
Bindibadgi 7th May 2017, 07:41 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yadda
Intense driving sims and multiplayer FPS is the way forward for the time-constrained gamer.

No stretched-out wishy-washy grandiosity, just pure concentration.

An hour on either and you need a break (or at least I do, but I am old).

Disagree thoroughly. If you don't play every minute on multiplayer you get your ass handed to you. Plus I'm old enough that I'm tired of people after a day at work and with the kids. I don't want multiplayer, I just want a nice single player experience I can take at my own pace in small snippets.
GeorgeK 7th May 2017, 08:27 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
Disagree thoroughly. If you don't play every minute on multiplayer you get your ass handed to you. Plus I'm old enough that I'm tired of people after a day at work and with the kids. I don't want multiplayer, I just want a nice single player experience I can take at my own pace in small snippets.

Same. The other thing that I have found is that games that can be paused are a godsend when you have kids and as such I've not played any multiplayer games since my daughter was born at all. That and games where you can dip in for 20 or 30 minutes are also great. With multiplayer if you tried that you might spend half that time sat in lobbies waiting for matches to start...
Corky42 7th May 2017, 09:39 Quote
This parenthood stuff seems awful, especially if it means less time gaming, i guess telling a new born to change its own nappies, cook its own dinner, and if they want booze and fags they'll have to go to the shop themselves is frowned upon these days. ;) :D
David 7th May 2017, 10:06 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
I don't want multiplayer, I just want a nice single player experience I can take at my own pace in small snippets.

This. So much.

I don't miss multiplayer at all - too much of the experience is marred by bickering tw@ts and adolescent asshats. Unfortunately, the big titles gravitated towards the bickering asshats, at the expense of the single player experience. Conflict breeds profit.

Not all bad though - this led me to discover some quality smaller indie games that have far out-stripped the amount of time I spent on any of the AAA titles.
sandys 7th May 2017, 10:52 Quote
Modern Consoles are more convenient for parenthood, they keep themselves updated, and you can power down and resume at any time, in any game whether it has save/quit or not they are also Quick to jump into when you have a small window, my PC gaming reduced loads since.
Bindibadgi 7th May 2017, 11:58 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by David
This. So much.

I don't miss multiplayer at all - too much of the experience is marred by bickering tw@ts and adolescent asshats.

This is my default assumption when someone says 'internet multiplayer'. And when someone says 'local multiplayer' I'm sad because I no longer 18 playing Goldeneye.
adidan 7th May 2017, 12:56 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by David
I don't miss multiplayer at all - too much of the experience is marred by bickering tw@ts and adolescent asshats.
* Must resist urge to say it's calmed down since you left the multiplayer interweb *

Agree though, other people are the only real negative of online gaming be they foul mouthed kids (beit age or mentality) or hackers.

I do delve in now and then, GTAV was my last and before that BF3 so it really is sporadic as it does need you to know you have a good whack of uninterrupted time available. Once i've stopped with one MP title that's me done though, not been in MP for about a year.
mi1ez 7th May 2017, 23:53 Quote
Tangent - Is there a higher res version of that first image?
Yadda 8th May 2017, 00:59 Quote
I tend not to communicate much, or take much notice of ingame chat, during multiplayer. For example, in BF4, I'll only say something if my patch is being overrun, or to type "GG" at the end of a round. That's about it.

I do miss playing in a team though, where you can make proper use of good comms and everything's a lot less random.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
Disagree thoroughly. If you don't play every minute on multiplayer you get your ass handed to you. Plus I'm old enough that I'm tired of people after a day at work and with the kids. I don't want multiplayer, I just want a nice single player experience I can take at my own pace in small snippets.

I manage ok on a handful of hours a week, sometimes less. I don't spread those few hours between many games though. Usually just one or two. For the last few years it's been mainly BF (3 and then moved to 4). With regards to people, I just view them as I would any AI team-mate or enemy, just (usually) considerably smarter and therefore less annoying and more satisfying to play with/against, win or lose.

I suppose I treat it a bit like I would treat a game like chess. Familiar board, familiar pieces, but the game's so complex and challenging that there's always something that keeps me going back.
Wakka 8th May 2017, 09:35 Quote
It's all about the turn-based games when you know you can be interrupted at any point/at random.

That's why X-Com 2 and FFX HD are the 2 games I've been playing most recently.
goldstar0011 8th May 2017, 10:48 Quote
Since moving in with my girlfriend and becoming a dad, despite being very free in how I use my time I find it hard to get into gaming, I've a decent gaming PC and xbone in the living room but I worry about the time commitment on a number of games, I'm dying to play Alien Isolation, but you have to find save points, do I have time??!!

Currently playing DoW 2 which is handy, play a battle, win or lose, then go do some adult tasks.

I would happily accept save on exit or at least more regular save points.

I miss gaming every day but I've accepted my adult life is different and better in most ways, I don't miss using an entire weekend to game (like the girlfriends lad just did and then moaned about having done nothing)
David 8th May 2017, 13:13 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mi1ez
Tangent - Is there a higher res version of that first image?

Google Image Search is your friend ;)

Clicky
adidan 8th May 2017, 13:55 Quote
Dave, your're breaking my screen width man!
Bindibadgi 8th May 2017, 14:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yadda
I don't spread those few hours between many games though. Usually just one or two.

This is where I differ. I want a story experience with some action. I have to go from game to game to game. Playing the same game feels like marriage sex: it's comfortable. You're not discovering new experiences.
David 8th May 2017, 15:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by adidan
Dave, your're breaking my screen width man!

Yeah, the forum image resizer is borked - it looks like it works when you first post it, but reverts size wow shortly afterwards.
Yadda 8th May 2017, 15:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
This is where I differ. I want a story experience with some action. I have to go from game to game to game. Playing the same game feels like marriage sex: it's comfortable. You're not discovering new experiences.

Fair enough, everyone's different. Personally, I like being challenged - "pitting my wits" as it were, and I bore quickly of "story games".

High-intesity bite-sized gaming suits me well, and online FPS and (half-decent) driving sims deliver that hit, for me at least. Nothing too "hardcore" mind, such as twitch shooters like UT, or sims like iRacing for example. I don't have the time to invest to become good enough to compete.

BF4 is just about right, though: hard enough to be challenging but varied enough that you can be successful without running headlong into the opposition for headshots all the time. And there's something very enjoyable about competing in 64 player online battles. Sometimes things get so hectic that I can't help chuckling to myself at some of the absolutely bats**t crazy scenes that unfold. :D
silk186 8th May 2017, 15:43 Quote
I also want something with a story. I don't mind gaming after everyone is bed, but it needs to be a really good game of I stop playing after 20 minutes. I used to play everything. I tried Mafia 3 the other night and turned it off have way through the first big battle, the game play simply didn't feel tight enough. I tried Yooka-Laylee when it first came out, it looks great but I'm going to wait for the next patch before I really get into it. Just Cause 3 is almost good enough but hasn't really pulled me in. Grand Theft Auto V, South Park, Far Cry, SUPERHOT, Ori... these are all game that pulled me in. I used to be a heavy JRPG player but I don't have time for the grind any more.

Game play needs to feel responsive and rewarding.
Xir 9th May 2017, 07:40 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
I just want a nice single player experience I can take at my own pace in small snippets.
Same here, and then save :D
Quote:
Originally Posted by DbD
Oh, and kids eventually move on from nappies to fully capable gaming partners :) The challenge is then is keeping up.
My "big one" managed to control direction with the left hand, and jump/grab with the right at the same time for the first time last month....I'm actually proud! ;)
Now we can move on from Kirby to serious Mario!
Porkins' Wingman 9th May 2017, 10:18 Quote
Becoming a parent was what pushed me to buy a Wii U. Off-TV gameplay was my only realistic way of getting away with gaming. Using up the only TV in the house to play games would have been shoving it down my gf's throat, but playing it on a gamepad was discrete enough for her to not pay it much attention most of the time.

Now, with off-TV play and Sleep Mode, the Switch is even better. I can enter and exit games in a second, take it with me around the house etc. I've wanted something like this for ages.
Jezcentral 10th May 2017, 14:43 Quote
Also, headphones. I don't have loudspeakers, but wearing headphones mean I can't listen out for cries. That means I have the headphones perched precariously over one ear and not the other. Not the most comfortable way to listen to games, especially when the sound location is important.
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