Friday, March 2, 2012

Gaming with a Newborn

Well, I'm back from outer space, and I come here to see you with that sad look upon your face.

But be sad no longer, as I have survived having my first child! Woo hoo!

Of course the Dad has it a lot easier than the Mom, and we are only two months into his life, but still I think it is safe to say I am a survivor.

The whole pregnancy and getting ready for the baby is the reason I give for letting this blog fall off the map.  I'm not sure if it is a good excuse, but it is an excuse nonetheless. 

Regardless, even though I'm only two months in I can already tell a change in my lifestyle, and most notably my gaming habits.  That shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, but I'm here to say it's not as bad as you might think.

I have a good friend who just had his 3rd and 4th kid (twins!) and I remember when he had his first, he gave up gaming altogether.  He was never that big a gamer to begin with, but still, that prospect of giving up my favorite hobby scared me a little. 

So then my own little bundle of joy came, and I was able to take about a month off work to help my wife take care of the baby.  All that time off, at home would be the perfect time to get some gaming done, but I decided to follow the lead of my friend and quit cold turkey.

And perhaps, maybe I'm just addicted, but I went a good two weeks without turning on a game console at all.  But after a few nights of staying up late with the kid, with him laying on my chest, going in and out of sleep, and me with nothing to do but stare at a dark room and a blank TV screen I thought, "Hey I should be able to do SOME kind of gaming."

This is where things have changed.  Before my son was born, I was playing Madworld.  Madworld is a Wii game where you use gesture controls to kill your opponents, and rip off their limbs.  The kid is a month old and I'm not that concerned about picking up subliminal messages, so the content of Madworld wasn't what made me think twice.  It was the motion controls.  I couldn't be swinging my arms around on the couch with a fragile little baby on me.  So ironically, the "family friendly" Wii will get virtually no playtime while he is in this delicate state. 

This made me go through different video game genre's as to what would be safest to play around a baby.  I'm not a big FPS player, so striking that off the list was fairly painless.  FPS games require too high reaction time to play while not disturbing a sleeping kiddo.  The flip side of this was it also meant most action games were out as well.  Shadows of the Damned was another game I was currently in the middle of before the birth.  While it uses a standard controller, I use too much of my body to play it while in sticky situations.  So sadly that was out.

To make a long story short I realized my best option, was the Japanese RPG.  Most of the time you only press one button, and you can travel around a wide open area at leisure.  Of course there are all kinds of JRPGs, but for the most part this assessment holds true.

I decided to go into my archive of games I have bought but never played.  There sitting in the middle, nearly glowing with it's bright beautiful golden yellow cover box was Persona 4.

I'm a HUGE Shin Megami Tensei fan, and Persona fan, but for some reason I was never able to get into Persona 4.  Well all that has changed in just a month.  Without getting into a review, Persona 4 is hands down the best Persona game.  It flows so much more like a natural narrative than Persona 3 and the characters are all so well fleshed out that you really feel that connection.  Persona 3 was a great game (until the out of nowhere horrible ending) but most of the time I felt like I was going through the motions of a game.  Persona 4 felt like an actual story unfolding like a great novel.  I loved it.  And I guess that was kind of a review.

And more importantly, it was easy as hell to play with a sleeping baby on my chest.  I think it also helped add to the feeling of the game, that I usually only got to play from about Midnight to 3 am in the morning (while the Wife gets some much needed rest).  The game world revolves around this place called the Midnight Channel.  A channel that takes you away from real world responsibilities.  There is some kind of metaphor or life imitating art in there somewhere I'm sure. 

The real benefit was, when my son wakes up from his slumber with a roaring wail, I can easily put the controller down, get his bottle, rock him, change his diaper or do whatever needs to be done until he is happy or asleep (preferably both), then I just pick up in the game where I left off.  Any other type of game would result in an immediate "Game Over" as soon as the baby was awake.

A benefit for the baby, is a lot of the times, as I played, he would be wide awake and just watch the screen mesmerized.  Persona 4 especially has lots of big splashes of bright colors and fantastic music, so the effect isn't much different than Baby Einstein.  And I don't know about you, but I would much rather play Persona than watch

Then about a week ago I finally beat Persona 4.  Oh no!  What now?  I figured another JRPG was the way to go, and lo and behold Final Fantasy XIII-2 came out.

I didn't care for Final Fantasy XIII that much.  I had the same problems with it that everyone did, but as I played the demo for XIII-2 I loved the new "Pokemon" mechanic where you can fight and train monsters to fight with you in battle.  Having that extra character in battle to buffer you while choosing what Paradigm you want makes a WORLD of difference. 

The game is no Persona 4, but it is a really fun game.  Also the improved HD resolution and even more vibrant colors really make my son happy. 

Developmentally, he has gotten older and has become more aware of his surroundings, and one of his favorite things to do now is be rocked while I stand up and play Final Fantasy.  He just watches the screen and coos and laughs while I do my thing.  It is actually a rewarding experience.  Although I know he has no idea what is going on, and is interpreting what he sees and "colors are pretty and voices are funny", just knowing he is getting joy out of the same thing that I'm having fun playing is a fun feeling to experience. 

And as he gets older and starts to appreciate games more and more, I know I will have a good time sharing that with him.  And eventually, our experiences playing the game will be similar.

Now comes my second point with having a baby and gaming.  This probably goes without saying, but money becomes a lot tighter with a baby in the home.  Meaning I can no longer buy every new game that comes out on release day.  This has been a killer, because while normally I would have picked up Soul Calibur V along with FFXIII-2, I now have no idea when I will be able to pick up SCV.  When it hits the bargain bin most likely.  And in the next month Mass Effect 3, Street Fighter X Tekken, and Hyperdimension Neptunia mkII all come out.  But for the foreseeable future my game of choice will be Final Fantasy XIII-2.  That is what I have invested in until I beat it, and then I can think about the next game.  I can no longer plan ahead my gaming purchases.  Play what I have until completion, and then get a new game.

Really this is a much more healthily way to live, as I've mentioned, I had Persona 4 sitting in my closet untouched since it came out.  A game I payed full price for, where I could have easily walked to Gamestop and bought one for $10 by the time I actually got to play it.

But at the same time it means when I get a game now, I want it to last.

This is why I'm going to say something that is probably blasphemous to a lot of people, but DLC is the future, and now I fully embrace it.

Lets face it, a lot of gamers, like myself are getting older.  If not just having kids, but marriage, or just work gets in the way of gaming.  It's sad but true.  DLC is the best way to keep the life of a $60 purchase going.  Of course DLC costs money too (usually), but a few bucks here for a few more days of gameplay is well worth it instead of dropping another $60.

Final Fantasy XIII-2 already has two DLC episodes out with the promise of a lot more in the near future.  While I'm not even close to beating the game, some people say the ending just leads into needing to be wrapped up in DLC.  Works for me.

I beat Disgaea 4 a month after it came out, and it makes me happy to know that there are now two extra episodes that I can play when I go back to it.  And eventually when I get Mass Effect 3, I know it will be supported with DLC episodes as well.

As a new gaming father, DLC that was once an evil word to me, now sounds like a saving grace. 

So, yes, parenthood will change how you approach your hobbies, but you don't have to eradicate them.  One thing I've learned in life is that with any new situation you only need to adjust to it, not change who you are.  If you change who you are completely, you won't be happy.  And being unhappy is no way to raise a child into the world.

And instead of ending this article with the usually hot fictional babe, I'll be obnoxious and end it with a picture of my totally nonfictional babe: