Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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New England Gamer
February 2012

Born to Play

So, I'm going to be a father.

This isn't news to me, in case you're wondering. My wife is about halfway through her pregnancy but it's still helpful to me sometimes to spell it out (literally in this case) so that I can feel the true weight of the statement. In a few months I will be responsible not even for a child, but an infant: a creature of near infinite vulnerability.

Granted, I'm not too worried about the actual caring part. Writing about games is not my day job. I do personal care by day and my wife and I are both multi-year veterans of the childcare industry. I've been responsible for children ranging in ages from six weeks to five years and while I've never been privy to the frustration of a screaming baby that I didn't get to leave at the end of the day, I know I'm not going to be the clichéd sitcom Dad horrified at the prospect of a dirty diaper. (Seriously, what's the big deal?)

Even if the little things are within the realm of my confidence though, there are still all those messy big things that I imagine every parent worries about. Not even just the ever present question of "how are we going to afford this" but rather issues of belief and ideals. Should I pass on my religion? Should I try and instill the same political values that I hold or let them form their own? Should I let them watch the Star Wars prequels or shield them from the horrors of the world?

Video games falls into this area for me.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I love video games. I don't spend almost every free moment playing, writing and reading about them because they're a small part of my life. Keeping that in mind it feels a bit hypocritical to consider putting limits on the amount of video games that we're going to allow our little girl (if the ultrasound can be trusted) to play. I've literally been playing games since I was a four years old. I'm the guy who couldn't be bothered to leave the house because I was too busy playing games. Who am I to tell a child, even if it is mine, that they shouldn't be playing video games?

I'm a father, or at least I will be, and unlike myself twenty years ago I'm experienced enough now to know that video games aren't the end-all-be-all that I thought they were as a child. I understand now why my Dad tried so hard at times to get me off my butt and why Mom was always willing to drive me to just about any activity I wanted to try, even if it wound up being a bust.

My wife and I have decided that we're not going to let our child play video games all that much as she grows up; at least not at first. Granted, we could wind up like so many of the parents I see in GameStop, looking at video games like some a new pacifier to plug their kids mouths now that they're older. I know for a fact that there is a part of me that would love to connect with my child in this way. My father and I don't have a lot of common interests and I'd love for that to be different for my baby and me. I'd love to speak the same cultural language and not feel like there's a wall between us as I often did with him.

At the same time, I want her to know that there are joys to be found that don't require a controller. Video games, as much as they've influenced me positively, have also been a crutch in my life. I've use them to avoid experimenting and taking risks. I don't want that to be the case for her. I want her to be stronger than I was growing up and realize that video games are, at their core, just entertainment. They should be there for fun. As a way to enjoy rainy days, not avoid problems. Not as a way to avoid life.

It is inevitable that my child will be exposed to video games. When you're born into a house that currently contains ten gaming consoles, four handhelds and two gaming PCs as well as a parent who can legitimately put "freelance games journalist" on his resume, there's not much getting around them. However, when the day does come for her to take up the controller though, we'll shoot for a little more moderation. There will be room for games, but I also want there to be room for other things so that she can find her own passion in places my game obsessed brain might not have thought to look.

Heaven knows what I'll do if she decides to play sports, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Read more by Stewart Shearer

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