Why Won't My Parents Play Games With Me?

Why won't my father game with me?

It's a question I am sure is echoed within the gaming community in varying forms: why won't my mother play with me, why won't my parents game with me? Variations on the same heart-rending sentiment that to some like myself serve as an overwhelming source of sadness as adulthood continues to creep in. As I continue to carve out a path for myself as a games writer, looking to turn my lifelong hobby into a self-sustaining career, I am reminded with every new achievement of my childhood, when gaming wasn't only my most passionate endeavour, but the activity that formed a stalwart bond between my father and me.

The man was the original hardcore gamer of the family: building PCs, dabbling in every form of new technology released into the wild and revelling in gadgetry and electronic advancements long before I was born. And everything he did with them from my earliest memory included me. He turned down the volume for me and let me loose with Duke. While he was slaying cacodemons, I sat behind him on my parents' bed cheering him on.

We spent our time sharing joypads and categorising shareware, searching through manuals for that elusive word to break through copy protection, and truly enjoying each other's company. We may have had differing opinions and goals with the games we either played together or took turns with, but we were always sharing the games we loved.

But that's changed. Today, his love of tech remains, but as I rumble through each new FPS or roll the dice in solo digital board games, Dad is content to occasionally spectate, but not to join in. I'll ask him to join me for a game of Gazillionaire, a game neither of us could ever conquer, but had the time of our lives trying, and it's rare he can even hear me over the music roaring from his noise-cancelling headphones.

I've resigned myself to the harsh truths of adulthood: Dad just isn't too interested anymore. He's still purchasing the occasional game and borrowing my Steam account for annotated bursts of Rage or Hard Reset, but never with me. And my mother, beyond the occasional casual game, was never interested to begin with.

I know I can't be alone. How many gamers yearn for acceptance of their favourite pastime, even if only an allowance or approval to enjoy the medium? Everyone has not been gifted with the childhood I was, where I was encouraged to delve into video games, media, or any entertainment I fancied rather than being forced into "gender-appropriate" activities. Perhaps this is what saddens me the most with this entire issue: I had the means as a child to enjoy gaming with — at least — my father for the rest of my life.

So what happened? I hate to think my own actions as a selfish child set the cogs in motion. After deliberating over the issue far longer than I would have liked to, I've come up with four reasons might be the cause of my father's overall withdrawal from gaming with me as well as other parents' refusal to even start.

Perceived Usability Issues

My father has expressed concerns that consoles and their corresponding controllers are too difficult to use, after having only been comfortable with the vanilla NES, Genesis and PlayStation. I can only surmise that others subscribe to the same method of thinking. The 360's controller, while similar to the gamepads I grew up with, seems a bit daunting for someone who has only truly used a mouse for shooters and similar outings for most of their life. At this stage in a parent's life it can be difficult to want to convert if they want to at all.

I can understand the hesitation, after sticking with the precision and ease of the mouse for so many years, especially when it comes to shooters as your favourite genre, which if my Dad's wide collection of them for the PC are any indication, he's a proud connoisseur of. Too many buttons. Too many controls to memorise. Too many ways to manipulate the camera. All my life I took to evolving with consoles and controller input methods, and if you've stuck to only one your entire gaming career, I can understand the hesitance of wanting to switch, especially when disabilities and physical impedances (such as Dad's muscular dystrophy) come into play with motion-controlled endeavours such as the PlayStation Move or Kinect.

Games Are Too Difficult Or Complicated

It might be second nature to most of us learning how to create in Minecraft or paradigm shifting in Final Fantasy XIII-2, but for some older gamers, namely parents, it can be an endeavour to learn all of the gameplay essentials needed to perform competently. Gaming is constantly evolving and despite the comprehensive tutorials and methods with which you can learn how to play most titles within the space of a few minutes to an hour, it can be overwhelming to those who can't be bothered to spare the time or thought.

Given the choice between watching a movie or learning a new skillset as a parent, it seems obvious which one most would go with. This makes the case for simple flick-gaming and touch-to-play mobile titles, and thus you have games such as Angry Birds and Cut the Rope, accessible to anyone.

Time Constraints

Between running a household, paying taxes and the stress of raising children, there's little time for personal entertainment. And when there is time, the media of choice is usually pick-up-and-put-down sources of entertainment such as a book, movie, or TV show that takes precedence over the ordeal of starting up a game and becoming engrossed. Parents with older children who are still in the household can be so wrapped up in their own tasks and to-do lists that even a game they might enjoy takes a backseat to what needs to be done. At the end of the day when it's time to relax, after having possibly cleaned house, prepared a meal, ensured bills were paid and watched over one or more children, passive entertainment seems the way to go.

"Gaming's For Kids"

Parents who may have cultivated their children's interest in the hobby from birth may have finally grown out of it, or have harboured the (vastly incorrect) suspicion that video games are still just child's play. As ignorant a point of view it seems, it's a widespread, popular belief and while some may not vocally communicate it, there's no doubt in my mind that some parents, even the ones that enjoy tech and gadgets themselves, feel that somehow gaming is contributing to keeping their offspring from growing up or entering the "adult" world, and refusing to play will somehow combat this.

"If you're going to be such a downer because you lost a round, I'm not going to play with you any more." My father often made these empty threats when I behaved in such a manner. I didn't care. All my young mind could process was the fact that I was losing. Me, the Mario Tennis champ of the household. It was humiliating. So much that I didn't notice the hurt that briefly crossed my father's face when I threw the controller into the cushions of our sofa, screamed like a banshee and/or selfish brat, and ran to my bedroom. Sore loser indeed.

My father's words that day still echo throughout memories of my adolescence and even now, as an adult, when I realise that he has in a way made good on what I originally wrote off as an empty threat. He really doesn't game with me any more.

But when I look at the reasons listed above, I think I understand. In any case, time waits for no one. Maybe my father will want to play again soon. Despite the sadness that stems from his not being at my side like in my childhood, I'm just grateful that he is still in my life; that we have the opportunity to play together. And I'd rather not waste it.

Brittany Vincent is a freelancer who routinely eviscerates virtual opponents and tempts fate by approaching wayward Zoloms. You can peruse her archived work at PfhortheWin.com.

Top image: Kirill__M/Shutterstock.


    How about this:
    To scared to get your ass handed to you by your own son/daughter in every
    game they play, so you don't get involved because your highscore is less superior that your kid's

    I have to ask why my kids won't play games with me. All my boys want to do is play football, cricket, tennis and golf. Needless to say my dad find it ridiculously funny.....life really does come full circle to bite your own arse.

    This is an excellent article if I don't say so myself.

    And also a little terrifying. Having grown up with fond memories of my old man bringing home a rented Master System (the ugly chunky moroon monstrosity) and staying up late to play Rastan and Wonderboy. Now he wouldn't even watch a game in any form. Nowadays I get my daughters involved in gaming but finding I'm having less and less time for it myself. I don't want to fade out of the scene. But all your reasons up there are very spot on.

    Again. Excellent article.

    My mother plays video games. Usually if she'd not playing she's watching and will try and help out.
    She must be an anomaly

    I have very good friend with two young sons. When we go over for drinks, they always harass me to play games with them. They recently got an Xbox after playing with mine at my place. Their father is a bit of a fitness junkie and not interested in games. I hate to disappoint the boys by not playing with them, but I've recently noticed that their father is getting somewhat grumpy and disaffected that they want to monopolise my time and that we speak a common language he doesn't understand. I've never seen him game with them, he's just not interested. His lack of interest is souring his relationship with his children. I just wish he'd play with them and pretend he enjoys it for their sake. I know his sons adore him and would love for him to play Halo Reach with them. It's sad.

      Also, I might point out that I am actually 4 years older than my friend. So it's not an age-relative thing. I purchased my first console (Xbox) less than a year ago and only play for a handful of hours a week so I am by no means a hardcore gamer. I just like to try different things.

        i had the same relationship with my father. Always wanted to play games with him but he was never interested in my hobby. Used to say it was a waste of time and stupid. When ever my uncle came over he used to always have a few games of golden eye, Mario cart, BF2, CS, San Francisco rush etc. in the end my dad an i don't have much in common and don't spend time together however my uncle and i get on like a house on fire.

    I would have loved if either of my parents had've played games with me as a kid. I remember I used to ask them all the time, but they never would (I can't complain too much though, they were good parents, just weren't into games). I gave up asking them once I got a bit older.

    I can see the problem being a combination of all of the points above. We do have the occasional game of Wii Sports at Christmas time now, though. Anyway, great article!

    This makes me feel a bit lucky to be in a family who have all at one point expressed interest in playing video games. For a few years my mum and I would sit down together to play all the PS1 Tomb Raider games, even though they were a singleplayer experience, we'd take turns through levels or if one of us died too much.

    My sister and I have played a lot of Eye Toy and Wii games together - I tried to teach her how to play Bioshock because she was interested in the concept, but that didn't work out too well, so we stuck with games like Fable. She likes the story more than anything else so she'll occasionally come and watch me play anyway.

    My dad and I spend a lot of time playing open world sandboxes like GTA or Saints Row together. We don't make much mission progression in it, but we muck about and that's a lot of fun.

    To me its not so much about playing the game with the person (although running around in GTA with dad is always great) but simply having them be there. More often than not dad and I sit in on each other playing games - I watch him play CoD or cricket and he watches me play...well, everything else. And that's good enough for me, honestly.

    My dad and I used to play Doom on PS1. I now play games with my kids. It's great for them to know dad likes what they like, it gets us on the same level. The Lego games are gold, absolute gold.

    Rather than speculate, why don't you simply ask him?

    I dont game with my kids cause i make them cry.. i screen cheat and turn thier controllers off when they aren't looking..
    After thinking about it why wont my kids play games with me?? :'(

    My parents play games....mostly party games but still.... My dad has always liked them just never had the time to play. As soon as my 50 year old mum found out about Beatles rock band she bought a ps3 and we used to play online together (we live 700 km from each other) and recently I showed her assassins creed and saboteur as she loves France and Italy and thought their worlds were amazing... Wished they had been around when she was a kid.

    Maybe it's because while you kids are playing games I'm at work earning money.

    My mother plays casual games (sometimes facebook games...) but my father is adamant that he'd rather do "pragmatic things like mow the lawn and talk about the weather"....

    You can the stimulating conversations we have, like jabbing forks in my eyes.

      "You can imagine the stimulating conversations we have, like jabbing forks in my eyes."

      Edit: This seriously need an edit button so bad.

    For me as i got older my parents and various other family members stopped playing games with me.

    I can still remember playing S.C.A.R.S with my step dad when i first got it on ps1 and halo with my biological father on my uncles xbox (that was when i really got into console gaming)

    These days neither of my parents are intrested in playing video games with me. My dad still plays with motorbikes with me and on occasion the car.

    But my unlc Juice still plays COD with me, infact he's the only reason i play cod on pc anymore.

    Being probably close to the same age category as your father (nearly 40 here), I am going to offer another suggeston:

    Video games today are REALLY BORING.

    Kids today probably don't realize it, but there was a time when nearly every year video games actually got *better*. Graphics got better. Gameplay got better. People were innovating. Hell, entire new genres were invented.

    Delivering gaming to the masses via console systems has really stiffled innovation. Hell, we are still running games on what... a 5 or 6 year old platform? Think of everything that's happened in the last 5 or 6 years and how much things have changed within that time span.

    Then realize that we are STILL playing cover based team shooters with different skins and sound effects. Hurrah for gaming.

    I wouldn't want to play that kind of crap with people either at this stage...

      Just turned 44. I'd take Halo: Reach over Pong any day. :-)

      Completely disagree. My son and I got hooked on Halo: CE. For Halo 2 we went to the midnight launch event and then played until 4am. Ever since, Halo launch day is gaming day in our family. These days we usually wait until after work on launch day and play late into the night. For Halo: Reach we got 2 copies as he has his own xbox and screen now he is at Uni. His mates still come over and play a lot, and during the summer holidays on many occasions I joined in with him and 2 of his mates playing Reach with 4 large screens and consoles crammed into the lounge room. In a team slayer game, I usually get from 2 to 15 kills out of the 50 (average 10), and he can get anywhere from 12 to 29 (average 18) so there's no arguments about who is better. We also played Portal 2 co-op together.

      Personally, I just got into Deus Ex: Human Revolution and found it amazing as I hadn't done that style of game before. So definitely not boring.

    My parents never played games with me....but when I was younger they would wait until I went to bed and played Crash Bandicoot all night...jerks! haha

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