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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gaming and fatherhood: finding a balance

Thinks it’s hard to game and be a father? Here’s a few tips from one who’s made it work

As a gamer it's easy to get lost for hours in an epic RPG or engaging FPS. These hours were easy to come by as a single youth and got more challenging with a girlfriend, but were still attainable even into marriage but now a new challenge; kids. These are not baby, in a crib feed me age nor are they let's play together age kids but the on-between. Age 2+ who are mobile and learning but not interested in gaming structure. What's a gaming dad to do, and no, playing M rated games in front of them is not an option nor is missing out on this special age where learning and parental engagement is so important. A gaming father needs to be involved heavily with their kids, period, so how to achieve the hours of gaming time from our youth? Here are five tips from one who's managed to game without taking away from the joys of fatherhood:

Not every option requires zero child involvement. In fact with some new gaming devices the young and not ready for a controller can engage with old pops and learn while doing it.
  • Budget Time – Easier said than done but it’s critical to find time which does not take away from family to game. After the kids are asleep is a choice but don’t neglect the wife, house work, etc. This turns into late night gaming which needs a balance with sleep. Finding 1-2 hours in the evening is doable but not every night. Think 1-3 days a week. Another twist will help you and your spouse recharge. Watch the kids for 2-4 hours alone on a weekend, give mom that alone time to do whatever she wants. This allows for bonding with kids and some payback for when mom spends her time with the kids. Each parent gets time alone with kids, special time, while the other gets recharge time or gaming hours in this instance. 
  • Demos – Quick to download, quick to play and usually each is under an hour. Download often knowing there is no time commit to finishing a full game and still get that gaming fix. Due to the quick nature of these demo’s time can actually be fit in throughout the day and evening. 
  • Involve the kids – Don’t turn the little ones into gold mining, level building beast of burden but rather look for titles that will appeal to them, to their mother also. Get Kinect and move around. Since no hand held control is needed the kiddies can get into the jump around action of a game like Kinect Adventures. This is also a bonding time with the kids are you’re sharing an active activity. Point out colors, shapes, engage with your children. Don’t sit and play while dictating what’s what, but make it active for them and mom should did this also and give a bit more slack when playing your games. Family game night is not all about board games anymore so try something different. 
  • Go Portable – Be it on the latest smart phone, DS or PSP gaming on the game allows gaming dads to un-camp from in front of the ol’ HD. Get the kids into an art activity, help them while playing some mobile games. Also great way to take breaks at work (short ones folks) and to kill time while running errands. Finding a game that sync’s with a console counterpart is clutch. 
  • Less is more, there is no finish – Ever spent 80+ hours on a game? Forget about those days as a father … as an engaged father. Don’t expect to spend anywhere near this time gaming and expect your kids to know who you are. Pick the games you play carefully, see what their average finish time is and determine if it’s attainable. Games lead to divorce for a reason so remember why you got married, had kids in the first place. Games will always be there, kids grow so pick your time investments wisely and don’t be upset if you never finish.
Gaming is a great escape, a great distraction and hobby to have if, like anything has been done in moderation. As a father you want to be involved with your family so hopefully these few tips will help with that gaming fix while maintaining good family balance.

What tips do you have? What helps fathers out there game while keeping the family healthy and what are some pitfalls of too much gaming?

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