“We should play more games together…”
I leave the statement hanging in the air as Natasha, my chosen life partner and mother of our child, stares at me, almost blankly.
“Yeah. Okay,” she says.
But I know that tone. It’s the tone she uses when she wants to acknowledge she’s heard me, but will immediately discount anything I’ve said.
It’s not that Natasha doesn’t enjoy gaming. She’s a massive old school SEGA fan, being quite partial to Sonic the Hedgehog and she has often noted how pretty a lot of the games I play are, with particular reference to Skyrim, the Uncharted games or the likes of Witcher: Wild Hunt and Dying Light.
Recently she’s been casting her critical eye over the LEGO games, since I’ve started exploring them with our 3 year old. I know she’s only making sure that I’m allowing the right kind of game in front of our daughter (so no Mortal Kombat X!) but I want to try and encourage Mum to play with Daughter, specifically when it comes to video gaming.
Well, because Grace asked me why Mummy doesn’t play with her.
Cue the sad music right?
But Mum DOES play with Grace – all the time. There’s dressing up games, baking games, reading, writing and arithmetic games. They talk about colours and shapes, days of the week, months of the year, anything and everything that a normal parent does to entertain and inform their little ones about the world around them.
But the closest Natasha gets to playing a video game with our daughter is when she lets Grace have a look at Solitaire or Candy Crush. Grace is entertained for a little while but is always desperate to use her special controller and really get stuck in.
So I tried, a couple of evenings ago, to get Natasha playing some Dying Light. I asked if we could record the game footage – I thought it would be hilarious to share it with the world – alas she wasn’t best pleased with the notion of the Internet laughing along at her gaming shortcomings.
Instead we spent half an hour with her at the controls as she struggled with even the most basic movement and camera angle manipulation, let alone consciously or even competently getting from Point A to Point B. We stayed in a safe zone within the game and she looked out over the vistas of Harran’s Old Town, once again noticing how pretty the game is; especially now we’ve got the Enhanced Edition.
We laughed. Not me at her, but together. We talked about how much our daughter is fascinated with video games and again I reminded her of the benefits of introducing little kids to gaming as a hobby. We discussed how more and more women and girls were getting into gaming and that not everything was all guns and explosions.
Through it all Natasha remembered she loves gaming. Her fiery passion for a certain little blue speeding hedgehog or the adventures of Lara Croft, Tomb Raider hadn’t dwindled to nothing. They were merely placed on the back burner as life took over, with the requisite refocusing of time and energy to being the best Mum she can be, while maintaining her chosen career path.
Then, only yesterday, Natasha joined Grace for a little Batman and Robin action via LEGO Batman 2. I sat in silence as our 3 year old excitedly explained everything she knew how to do and marvelled at the giddiness of mother and daughter enjoying some cooperative screen time. Later, after laying our precious little bundle of awesome down to sleep for the night, Natasha told me she was going downstairs to play some more.
So remember fellow Gamer Dads and those of you who, like me, have understanding partners who are more than happy for you to hog the screen. Remember to move over and let your loved ones take their turn.
Take a back seat, give them centre stage and watch them soar.