Gaming is an exceedingly important part of my life and my history. One of the only ways I can chronologically relate to my memories is by bringing up what particular game I was playing then and on what system, that’s how integral gaming is to my sense of self.
So naturally when it fell to me to mold and shape another tiny (and extremely malleable) human being into the image of my choice, introducing her to games as early as possible was one of my primary goals.
There are lots of stories about parents who are too busy or too uninvolved to be present in their children’s lives, and so count on various media sources as babysitters. Without throwing stones in glass houses (please god I just want to go to the bathroom by myself please god just once that’s all I ask HERE ENJOY SOME ELMO), I am here to tell you that doing this is not NEARLY as much fun as treating your weester like a wind-up toy and watching her just go to town.
Y’all, seriously. Playing games with her is the most fun I’ve had since drunken bouts of twelve-man Great Dalmuti in college.
Here is a thing I have learned that may be helpful for game devs: when you are two and a half, you are incredibly impatient. If a game doesn’t load quickly enough or — and this is important — have something flashy and/or interesting (in a perfect world, interesting AND flashy) on the loading screen, she is DONE. This level of patience is measured in a matter of seconds; it doesn’t matter how much fun I think she’s going to have with something, she absolutely will not wait for it. So a helpful parenting tip: if you have a slow-loading game you think your weester will enjoy, LOAD IT UP BEFORE YOU GET THE KID’S ATTENTION.
One of the most fascinating things I’ve learned playing games with my kid is that while she’s not at a point yet to really get involved storylines, she LOVES grindy shit. Click combat is her very favorite thing, and firing a shotgun at Collectors in ME2 (our femShep is a Vanguard, of course) makes her laugh and laugh like the tiniest loon.
The novelty of being able to control something she’s watching on screen still hasn’t worn off for her, and I don’t know if it ever will; just running around in Skyrim is enough to entertain her for hours (as long as she doesn’t accidentally make that left turn into OH MY GOD THAT IS A DRAGONville). Being part of her general delight is something magic and awesome all on its own: this is a tiny person with her own thoughts and opinions (even though most of those thoughts are ELMO ELMO ELMO ELMO), who is sharing something I love with me — and turning it into something that she loves, too.
Since I hope that she’ll keep loving this thing that I love, I owe it to her and to other girls like her to make sure that the binary world is one in which she feels safe and welcomed. I know I’m still working on that, and I probably will be my whole life — but I’m pretty sure it will all be worth it the first time she sits down to play Munchkin with me or absolutely owns me in the face on Super Mario XXI or Jedi Academy IX or argues the moral merits of various choices in BioWare’s latest Sophie’s Choice Epic RPG.
That’s what “raising a gamer” means to me: it’s not enough to have a kid who plays games. I want my kids to be able to engage with this medium and its various communities thoughtfully and interestedly, and use take the lessons they learn there to other places in their lives.