Plenty of my friends have had babies, so I knew what to expect. The woman goes into labour. There is the physical pain. You rub the back and say ‘there there’. You watch the little lump of flesh flop out like a wriggling trout. You shed the tears, you kiss the baby on the forehead. You take the photographs, you take the baby home. The baby sleeps for sixteen hours a day.
And then you play the videogames.
All of my friends who played video games said this would happen. But it didn’t. At least, not the way I thought it would.
For the birth of my very first wee baby, I decided to take a whole month off from my day job of editing Kotaku Australia. I wanted to forget about work, I wanted to just be with my son. I wanted to learn to be a parent.
But also, I thought. There would be videogames. I was promised videogames.
Adult life — even an adult life like mine where one spends their working days writing about and discussing videogames — can be a life remarkably devoid of video games. I imagined that my month off would be different. A mini nirvana: a paradise spliced with with nappy changes, interspersed with peaceful gazes and baby talk. And copious amounts of gaming.
But that didn’t happen. I took a month off work and I didn’t play any video games.
I’m still not completely sure why.
You might suggest it was some sort of pre-occupation with my new-born son — a need to remain focused and undistracted — and you might be right. But I think it would be arrogant to assume that my friends — who spent a vast majority of their paternity leave perfecting their times on Trials Evolution, or collecting all the secret packages in GTA IV — love their children less than me. That would be entirely unfair. And it would be unfair to suggest these people are irresponsible parents when I know for an absolute fact they are not.
You might suggest I needed a holiday from gaming. That might be more accurate. But I would often daydream of the games I wanted to play later when my newborn baby went to sleep, yet when the time came I would always convince myself that something else was more important. The decision was barely conscious, no real thought was involved, I just did something else: watched television, read a book, messed around on Facebook. I did almost everything you could imagine, except play video games.
Well that’s lie. A white lie. I did play one video game, almost exclusively, and that game was Rayman: Jungle Run. I happen to think that Rayman: Jungle Run is a very well put together game, but that’s not the reason why I played it over every other video game I could have played instead.
It was the function of the game that was important, I think. And by that I mean the specific gap in my life that Rayman: Jungle Run plugged; the hole it filled. Increasingly that is becoming more important to me than the quality of the game itself. I’ve stopped asking, “how good is this game?” I’ve started to ask myself, “how does this game fit into my life?”
I wanted to continue playing The Walking Dead. That was the game I daydreamed about, but it was never the game I ultimately ended up playing. I played the games I felt made sense at that specific time. While my wife was breast-feeding, minutes away from the inevitable, impending nappy change, I picked up my tablet and played Rayman: Jungle Run. Not because I wanted to; because it was the only thing that really made sense in that moment. No investment, zero consequences — completely manageable and transient.
Is this a new thing? Will my gaming habits change? Have they already changed? An entire month. At home. No video games? Terrifying.
But in a weird way, liberating.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.