Parenting and videogaming: a delicate balance

Go 8-Bit's Steve McNeil on how to be a good parent, whilst fitting in a need to play videogames...

Parents: what do you love more – your children or video games?

“Don’t make me choose!” you scream through the tears, as I twiddle my moustache, stroke an evil-looking cat, and cackle like a cartoon witch.

I won’t make you choose, obviously. This is just a hastily-thrown together beginning to an article about how gamers can still find time to indulge their habit after having kids. It’s something I’m trying to find a solution to myself. Even as I wrote that sub-par opening, I had to stop for ten minutes because my daughter insisted that rather than do my job, we instead work together to push a selection of colourful shapes into a spherical plastic elephant.

If you have kids, hopefully this article will help you find a way to fit more gaming into your week. If you don’t have kids, you’re probably too busy listening to Stormzy and playing with your fidget spinner to read this anyway, so no biggie.

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At home

If you’re the one at home looking after a little one each day, you might despair at how you’ll ever find the time to play videogames. One word: Naps. The moment they nap, surround them with pillows so they can’t fall off whatever they fell asleep on, whip out your controller and get some proper console gaming in. Don’t be tempted to do things like load the dishwasher or check emails during this window of opportunity. Gaming requires your full attention, but you can do those sorts of tasks while they’re awake – just slap on Cbeebies.

If you can squeeze 90 minutes of gaming in per-nap-time, that’s 10.5 hours a week, right there. And you can still tell everyone how hard it is to look after kids because for the rest of the time you’ll be covered in milk, poo, and fuzzy felts. Of course, your child won’t have naps forever but, once they start going straight through, focus less on speaking/counting skills, and more on teaching them how to hold and use a Dualshock 4.

The second best time to play games is after bedtime. Hopefully, you’ve chosen a life partner who is as obsessed with games as you are but, if you’re stuck with someone who hates joy, they might unreasonably expect you to spend time with them once the kids are in bed.

Regardless, with a bit of careful negotiation, you can hopefully agree to at least alternate nights of ‘quality time’ (them) and ‘actual quality time’ (games). Let’s call it another 90 minutes then, 3 times a week, so you still have time for a good night’s sleep if the kid starts screaming at 3am – that’s another 4.5 hours a week! Plus, if you can convince your partner to tag team on bath/story/bed routines alternate nights, you can easily bag yourself another hour, 3 times a week, on the nights they’re doing that stuff. That’s 7.5 hours of evening joy.

Hey, we’re up to 18 hours of gaming without excessively neglecting anyone you love! Yes. We. Can.

At work

If you’re not staying at home looking after your kids, benefiting from all those lovely gaming naps, fear not – you have… commuting! Commuting is no longer a bad thing that means earlier alarms and smelly people, it’s an opportunity for handheld gaming! Invest in a PS Vita or Nintendo Switch and embrace public transport. If you do 30 minutes each way, that’s an hour a day, five days a week!

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And we’ve not even talked lunch breaks. Sure, some jobs now seem to expect employees to work through lunch, nibbling on a supermarket sandwich whilst typing emails with your free hand but screw that – take the hour you deserve, locate the nearest park/shopping centre/bus shelter (ideally something undercover if possible because British Weather), and make that your go-to place. Bring a packed lunch to work so you don’t have to waste time queuing/buying anything and, factoring in travel to/from your new mega-rad games hangout, that’s another 45 minutes a day – 3.75 hours in total. Plus, the money you save from making your own meals can go towards more games. Really, you’re actually making money, guys. Just make sure your packed lunch only involves non-greasy foods that can be quickly tossed into your mouth with minimal faff, to maximise game time.

That’s a delicious 8.75 hours and, of course, that 7.5 hours of evening shenanigans from the ‘at home’ section is available to you too – congratulations: even with a full time job you’ve got over 16 hours of gaming fun a week.

Okay, that’s the basics. Now let’s take a look at the main advanced strategy available to parents who game: necessaries.

Poos are the parenting equivalent of mini-breaks. An understanding partner will accept that when you go to the toilet, you’ll be gone for longer than you used to be, because it’s the only place you can escape the unending chaos of parenthood. If your partner is less sympathetic, just pretend you’ve got IBS. There are probably some off-the-shelf tablets you can leave displayed ostentatiously on a shelf to bolster your defense.

Whilst you won’t be able to make much of a dent in an RPG in your toilet sessions, a bit of bite-sized smartphone gaming is perfectly achievable. You can probably justify two ten-minute visits a day – one of which can be at the day job if you’re working. Whilst that might not seem a lot, twenty minutes, seven times a day, gives you 2 hours and 20 minutes of on-the-job gaming. Living in the future, people.

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The other advanced strategy available to you is errands. If someone needs to pop to B&Q to buy a lightbulb, make sure that’s you. Half an hour of gaming in a car park can easily be blamed on ‘dreadful traffic’ and, if you’re an efficient shopper, maybe even longer. Better yet, get several future errands done in a single journey, leave the stuff hidden in your car boot, and you can then pretend to go on those errands at a later date but use the time 100% for gaming. Of course, this one drifts pretty firmly into outright lying to your partner, so your mileage/guilt may vary.

If you implement all the above, you could easily be looking at the best part of 20 hours of gaming a week. And, actually, given you’ll still be doing the thing you love, you’re likely to have a more positive relationship with your partner and children as you feel less like you’re having to compromise. I mean, I say that, but really all of this is just an excuse to play more games, isn’t it?

On which note, if you’ve got any more pro tips, please leave them in the comments. This article’s really just a starting point for new parents but I’m sure there are things I’ve not thought of yet, and I’d always like to have more time for playing games because games are ace. Oh, and if you know my wife, don’t show her this article. Thank you.