Having become a father just shy of four years ago, the time I get to play games has been somewhat reduced today, compared to my responsibility-free younger years. However, I still save a few hours throughout the week for my favourite hobby, and have just recently introduced my son to the delights of Nintendo’s catalogue of games on the Wii U. Seeing his face light up as he completes a level in Super Mario 3D World reminds me of when I played a game for the first time, and the sense of wonder and joy that gaming brings.
I still remember the day my dad bought a games system, when I was a young lad, that had tennis, squash and football built in. It might have been a Grandstand system, but I’m not 100% certain. The sense of interacting with the simplistic bat and ball on the screen was mind blowing at the time, and ever since, gaming has been an enjoyable part of my life. Many more systems took their place below our TV over the years, from the humble ZX Spectrum with its vast roster of games like Chuckie Egg 2, Jet Set Willy, and the superb Where Time Stood Still and The Great Escape; to my college years where me and my mates spent many happy days and nights playing Kick Off 2 and Sensible Soccer on the Amiga, through a haze of drunken escapades and project deadlines. When I started working I had a bit more disposable income so could afford to buy more games, as well as my first console which was the original PlayStation. Games like Metal Gear Solid and Resident Evil really broke the mould of what games could be, and created whole new genres of their own. When Sony launched the PS2, I bought the console on launch day, and that generation gave birth to the open world genre on consoles, thanks to the release of Grand Theft Auto III. Rockstar blew me away with a huge open world to explore, changing weather, and so many different things to see and do. It was around this time that I bought my first Nintendo console, the GameCube, which introduced me to Super Mario and Zelda. I was amazed by the creativity and pure fun factor that Nintendo brought to their games. Ever since buying a GameCube, I’ve always bought a Nintendo console to complement my Sony console, and for family gaming fun, Nintendo can’t be beaten.
With the arrival of my son, my gaming habits have had to change. I no longer have countless hours to spend playing epic games like Fallout 3 on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Instead, my gaming time is in the late evening, for a couple of hours if I’m lucky. I don’t get on every night, as I have TV shows and films I like to watch too, that eat into my time; but I try to get on when I can. While I work through the week, I try to play single player games, with the weekends spent playing multiplayer games like Battlefield 4 or FIFA with my mates into the wee small hours. It doesn’t work out all the time, as sometimes – like all children – my son wakes up through the night, so I’ve had to help get him back to sleep, or take him away so the missus can catch up on some shut eye. I still remember when I was playing Journey on the PS3 a couple of years back, and the wee fella woke up and wasn’t for going back to sleep, so I took him down to the living room. He saw Journey on the TV and was so enthralled by the mysterious world and the strange character with the huge scarf trailing behind him, that he turned to me with a big smile on his face and said simply ‘wow’, which sums up the game nicely!
In the past year my son has shown a keen interest in gaming, mainly through the Mario series, although he has been obsessed by the Pikmin since I downloaded the Pikmin 3 demo, and subsequently the full game itself. He’s just beginning to get to grips with controlling the characters with the pad, but can negotiate some of the earlier levels in Super Mario 3D World, and make the top 5 position in Mario Kart 8 single player. He also loves the music levels in Rayman Legends, and has made me play the Castle Rock level countless times to the point where I can finish the level with the prowess of a blindfolded Jedi! While gaming has been good for him, we do try to limit his time playing games, and with tech in general. I don’t think it’s too healthy to leave your child to grow up in a purely digital world.
I was highly amused the other day there, when my son raided my Wii U game collection and removed Rayman Legends, Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario 3D World along with a few other favourite games of his. He then proceeded to line them up in his DVD collection beside the likes of Toy Story and Cars, and I don’t think it will be long before the console is claimed as well! So it looks like I have passed on the gaming torch to my son, but my own torch is still burning bright. Becoming a dad doesn’t necessarily mean the death of your gaming life, but it’s rebirth through playing with your child, and showing them the joy that gaming can bring.