Here is my dilemma. It’s nice, I think, to approach supporter posts with a desire to be more personal, more intimate, to shine the light on ourselves a little more brightly. Or to be even more self-indulgent than ever, if you’d prefer to think of it that way. So when considering what to write about in my weekly supporter column, I like to think about what’s going on in my life, pick a lens to look through. Except, four weeks ago my first son was born, and good grief, who wants to hear about that?
Oh my goodness, how many more games-journalists-becoming-parents can the internet cope with? And who is it for? People without kids are likely far less interested to read about an experience they don’t relate to. People who don’t want kids and never intend to have them can feel marginalised, excluded. People who want kids and haven’t yet, or those who want them and cannot have them, can find the whole topic misery-inducing. (My wife and I were trying for three years before ours came along, and I can testify that it’s really shit.) And people with kids already went through it, roll their eyes at the naivety of it, or don’t want to be reminded of it. Can the internet hold another, “How I game with my kid in my arm” article, without keeling over and just collapsing on the floor?
Let’s find out!
Just kidding. But I’ll eat this cake too, in talking about the phenomenon a bit more. What’s become apparent, over the last few weeks, is just how many people in RPS’s audience are parents, and how it’s actually a subject that perhaps merits more discussion. (I stress, discussion, rather than just anecdotes, which I definitely will write anyway.) I think it is, in fact, perhaps a neglected demographic of our audience! No, I really do.
It’s ghastly to write, and more ghastly to read, but becoming a parent changes how you see certain things. Let me put it a slightly less nauseating way: it rewires your brain against your will. And before it happens, it’s impossible to believe it’s real, not just some schmaltzy crap awful people say once they’re toting their JoJo Maman Bebe yak-cloth K’Tan carrier sling. When it happens, it’s helpless failure to withstand.
A few years back, when that Dead Island trailer came out, everyone was throwing their hats in the air and celebrating something that appeared both grotesque and mature, schlocky yet affecting. As the events played out backward, the awful realisation of the death of a child became apparent, and it achieved a sense of gravity. (One the game, which was ace fun, absolutely did not merit.) What splendid stuff, people thought. Then someone I know, who’d recently had their first kid, said they thought it was awful. They thought it was cruel, lazy and manipulative. It killed a child to achieve its aims, and having just had one, it was unbearable. And I thought, honestly, “Don’t be ridiculous.” Oh good grief, I can see what he meant now. Argh.
This clearly has implications beyond trailers. Is it going to affect the games I play? Is my brain under the control of an evil baby-ray, that causes me to become more puritanical, or perhaps just more sensitive, such that I have less potential for fun? Or to put it more blunty: AM I DOOMED?
Are those who want to have children all doomed? Doomed to become hand-waving worry-worts, tsking at entertainment about which we’d once have been blasé? Or are they the ones whose eyes are open?!
Oh, gosh, what awful stuff.
Well, I can report so far that it’s not affected my ability to sit back and enjoy burning down a village of red-suited Karatians, failing to recognise the utter horror of what I’m doing as they run around engulfed in flames, screaming their final desperate, terrified words. I hit the target, scored the point! Phew!
But then I think about that famous opening of The Last Of Us, which made me sniffle when I first played it, and wonder if I could put myself through it ever again. Would I be in pieces, unable to contemplate carrying on? Or whether the boring cover-shooting blah between the cutscenes would remain my real issue with it all.
Then I start panicking about what I’ll do when my boy is old enough to play games. Right now he can barely see colours, let alone the horror I’m inflicting on the people of Far Cry’s island, so things are safe. But what will I do? Close the door and forbid him to come in when daddy’s at work? Frantically task-switch to Lego Hunger Games or whatever series has by then been plastically realised? Will a significant proportion of my gaming become some forbidden secret I do when he’s not looking?
And what do I let him play? What are my feelings about violence, even cartoon violence? I’ve no idea! I’ve merrily never needed to know until now! And what if all the other kids in nursery school are playing GTA VI, and he’s getting bullied for not knowing how to murder a hooker? How will I possibly balance what he’s going to absorb from the world around me, and what I laughably think I can control reaching him? What if he gets to play the games on Jimmy’s Oculus Facebookrift house anyway, and then laughs at me when he gets home? WHAT ARE MY OPINIONS ABOUT THIS?
Oh heavens, is it too late to put the kid back? What have I done to my gaming life?
Or will it actually be brilliant? Will I be playing Lego Star Wars VI-VIII co-op with him, as we bond and high-five, before heading out to the woods to thrown rocks in a stream? Will he be a child genius who helps me solve tricky Hexcells puzzles? Will videogames be directly beamed into our minds, as we build epic castles in Minecraft II together?
I’ve no idea.
None at all.
This article was funded by the RPS Supporter program.