Welcome to Something Else, our irregularly recurring column where we, and our guests, discuss a variety of items of interest to the geeky. From gaming mommies to costuming woes and more, we have your interests at heart.
Gaming is something I’ve been doing my whole life. I get a little nostalgic whenever I think about old school Ataris. I have vivid memories of what the very first Final Fantasy game looked like on the original Nintendo. I spent long hours playing strategy games like Nobunaga’s Ambition with my cousins. We won’t even get into how many hours of my life I devoted to games like Age of Empires and Caesar. Suffice it to say, they were numerous.
And then I had kids. Suddenly, my life as a gamer went through a profound shift, and I had to find new ways of feeding my habit.
This change started off with a transitional period. When I was pregnant with my first child, I had some leg issues that required me to spend a lot of time stretching. My memories of lying on my back on my living room floor, foot propped against the wall a, Xbox controller in hand, Knights of the Old Republic on my giant TV screen, are fond ones. I think I spent a lot of the first playthrough of that game looking at the characters and battles from that skewed perspective, but I was multitasking like a boss. Stretching? No problem—I can game while I do that!
Of course, once the baby arrived, things changed quite a bit. Shocking as it may sound, those tiny people don’t have much patience for waiting for food while you’re in the middle of a boss battle, so I had to seek out ways to bend my gaming around my parenting schedule. No mean feat, as any gamer with kids can tell you.
Soon, I found myself frequenting the same gamer forums I’d always loved, but often with a different theme. Other female gamers and I would exchange tips and tricks for things like nursing while gaming. It was new territory for us, but what was great about it was how many of us were arriving at the new frontier at the same time.
I saw more evidence of this when my husband and I got back into playing MMORPGs, courtesy of Star Wars: The Old Republic. My husband and I had eschewed guilds in the past, particularly when we played Lord of the Rings Online. We didn’t feel we could commit to group obligations like raids because of the unpredictable nature of parenthood. Your guildmates depend on you, so having to bail in the middle of a major boss battle because your baby woke up and wants a meal was something we didn’t feel comfortable doing.
When our SWTOR guildmaster approached us about joining, we kind of brushed him off at first, telling him we didn’t think we could commit. Then he told us that he was a parent, as were many of the other members of the guild. They were also a small guild, and they didn’t have requirements like weekly raid quotas, so we decided to give it a whirl.
It was one of the best communities I’ve belonged to as a gamer. Sure, it wasn’t always the most efficient guild in the world. Anyone who’s tried playing with people living in other time zones already knows how much of a feat it can be to get everyone together for a raid, but with a family-focused guild, it became even more of a challenge. It was also fantastic, though, because we weren’t the only ones who’d have to go AFK to put a wandering toddler back to bed or to change a diaper or attend to whatever other needs our kids may have had. Whenever one of us ran into a situation like this, the rest of us had already been there, done that, and understood perfectly.
Once my MMO fever wore off (What can I say? I’ve always been more of a single-player gamer than an MMOer), I returned to gamer forums, having missed the companionship I’d found in them. Being a female gamer has been a rare thing for most of my life, so finding a group of women who shared that interest was a real boon. Not all of us were mothers, but many of us were, and we covered a variety of topics. We’d fangirl and wax poetic over our various pixelated love interests while also exchanging information as to which games were appropriate for the wee ones. We’d talk about the challenges of family life, then segue into a discussion of the moral issues in the Mass Effect series.
My kids are older now—no more babies for me—but they’re still too young to be exposed to most of the games my husband and I love to play. Anything with adult content and language is off limits until the kids are in bed, so the amount of time I have to devote to gaming has diminished a great deal. What hasn’t changed are the relationships I forged with many of my gamer friends. Though a lot of the forums we used are now gone, most of us have connected on Facebook and remain close. I’ve met several of my gamer friends in person and have enjoyed their company greatly. They’ve been there for me during some of the most traumatic and difficult periods of my life, and I’ll never forget their support and the way they lifted my spirits.
Gaming communities sometimes get a bad rap, and while I don’t think it’s always undeserved, it’s only part of the picture. As with anything else, you can’t take a small portion of a group and claim it represents the whole. Gamers are a diverse group of people, far more diverse than many non-gamers suspect, and as with any large group of people, once you find your niche it can be a magical thing.
I have no plans to stop gaming. In fact, I look forward to the day when my kids are old enough to play many of the games I love so passionately. I look forward to introducing them to what is, in my opinion, an important art form, and I also look forward to introducing them to the company of our fellow gamers.