A Guide To Surviving The Arrival Of New Children (With Video Games)

There is nothing in life more important than the birth of new humans. It’s how we keep the species going. But as crucial as it is to our continued domination of this planet’s food chain (suck it, chimps), it can also be a tiring, stressful and emotional time.

But it’s OK. Video games are here to help.

My wife recently gave birth to our second child, and unlike the first – after whose arrival came three months of waking and unrelenting hell – this one was a relative breeze. Experience, classes and calmer heads meant that his first few weeks in the house were a far more bearable time, but helping out most of all was the fact that this time, I was able to play video games.

Looking after a newborn baby is hard work, yo. They don’t sleep right. They need to be fed. They cry all the time. For no reason. They shit their pants. And not regular shit. Weird, demonic, black tar. They vomit all over the place.

In short, until they learn to start sleeping at night, and stop screaming like banshees, your life can be hell.

It’s a hell that video games can really help you get through. Take your mind off the stress, occupy those precious moments of downtime. Which may sound obvious, but when there are new humans around, conditions aren’t normal. You might be up in the middle of the night. You might have your hands full. You might be exhausted, short on faculties.

So your go-to game, or even platform, might be out of the question. Yet as many of us on staff can testify to, playing games can be the only thing that keeps you sane at a time like this. Meaning you need to work around it.

Here are some tips should you be in, about to be or will one day be in the position to try and juggle a fresh human being and a career mode.

The Best & Worst Platforms

For days/weeks after the birth of a new child, you’ll often find your hands full. Usually with said child. They’re cold and clingy, so every time you look down, there they’ll be, lying on your shoulder or clutched to your chest. Comforting for them, maybe, but it makes playing certain systems more difficult than usual.

You’ll also find that when you don’t have them, you’re probably exhausted. And with relatively short periods of downtime.

Console are OK. If you’ve got a kid slung over your shoulders, you can still hold a control pad. If you’re on the couch, you can even raise your legs and rest the baby between your thighs. The only downside to console gaming is that many titles might ask a bit too much time from you; kids can be asleep one minute and screaming/full of poop the next, so you’ve got to be ready to move. Don’t expect to settle in for a ten-hour romp through Skyrim.

Phones and tablets are even better. Most phones can be used one-handed, as can tablets if you put them on your lap or on a table. They might not have the greatest games available, but they’re there in a pinch.

My favourite this time around was the Vita, though, because it was a control pad that I could take anywhere. In the kitchen when I was rocking a kid on my shoulder, in his room when I was feeding him, on the couch if I was lucky enough to get five minutes on the couch. The handheld’s standby mode was also invaluable for those moments when I had to shut my game off right that second and not have to worry about saving. And unlike most games on my phone, the Vita (and PS3) games I was playing had some meat to them.

The Wii U’s own “remote play” features are just as handy, I guess, but I can’t testify since I didn’t really use one during my latest ordeal. Ditto for the 3DS, though with the caveat that any game requiring use of a stylus is going to be rough.

My PC, well…it’s hit and miss. I found that most PC games were off the table because they required some degree of two-handed input, mostly thanks to WASD commands. So mouse-only games were the way to go.

As for Kinect, Move and certain Wii U titles…hahaha…hahahaha….no.

The Best Games

There are two main things to consider here. One is the ease with which you can play a game if your hands are full. The other is how suitable that game is to the timetable you’ll be on for a few weeks. If it can’t be paused, takes hours at a time to finish or needs you to physically move around, forget it.

Other concerns might be your online habits, if applicable – your friends will be asleep at 3 in the morning, so won’t be there to game with – and stuff like volume. If the kid is asleep, they need to sleep, so you’ll need headphones. That also means competitive multiplayer is likely a no-go, as shouting into a microphone is not advisable.

On the PC, you’re looking at games that only use a mouse. SimCity was a good one, at least until I quit, fed up with the AI. Its place was taken by civilisation, which had the added benefit of “turns”, meaning you can start and stop playing at clear, clean breaks. Or, being Civ, at least try.

Which leads me nicely to my absolute favourite new-kid game, the title that saved my sanity almost single-handedly over the past few weeks: Persona 4 Golden.

It’s an epic game that will take you weeks to complete, but is structurally divided into tiny bites. It’s played using only the Vita’s stick and face buttons, meaning no contortions necessary if you’re playing while nursing/feeding. And because it’s entirely text-based, you can play and follow along even if you need to turn the volume off or forgot your headphones.

I cannot stress enough how perfect the game was to these circumstances. Thanks, guys.

What To Avoid

I’ve touched on a few of these already, but here they are again: avoid long, drawn-out games like Skyrim. You won’t have the time or the stamina. Avoid games that need you to be sharp, because again, you might be exhausted. Avoid multiplayer gaming in almost all forms, even MMOs, because you can’t shout, and you can’t be relied upon to finish games or raid dungeons.

Basically, avoid being Michael Fahey.

And that’s about it! Remember: nothing can prepare you for the shock and awe of having a tiny baby in the house. But video games can, when used properly, at least dull the pain.

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