New dad diaries: the death of gaming

, | Game diaries

The irony is that the death of gaming came immediately after one of the biggest gaming booms ever.

My wife’s pregnancy was, not to put too fine a point on it, hell on earth. We had just recovered from the shock and awe of finding out that we were having twins when she was hit with an unrelenting wave of nausea that lasted four months.

Four. Months.

Think about that for a second. Take your worst hangover, multiply it by 120, and then imagine choking down meals for the benefit of your unborn children even though the thought of food makes you violently ill. Whoever coined the phrase “morning sickness” should be shot. Or, at least, sued for false advertising.

No sooner had the nausea started to wane than the searing, roiling heartburn kicked in, making her next four months an absolute treat. Add in the other trials of pregnancy — joint pain, back pain, constant bathroom breaks, lugging the babies on board up to our third-floor apartment — and you can understand why all she wanted to do was sleep. Each evening, she would wait until I got home and stay up just long enough to ensure that she didn’t wake up bright-eyed and bushy tailed in the middle of the night. She would crawl off to bed around 7 p.m. and try to escape the horror her life had become in the arms of a restless, fitful slumber. On the weekends, she would try to stay unconscious for as long as possible, only rising when she could no longer stand feeling like an invalid.

All of which left me with a lot of alone time. So what’s a gamer to do?

After the jump, feast, famine, life, and death.

My wife and I like each other’s company, and we spend a good deal of time together. Unfortunately, she’s never been much of a gamer, outside of an occasional Snood fix and a passion for the first two Guitar Hero and Rock Band titles. (A passion that was almost completely destroyed by the removal of all competitive modes in Rock Band 3. Thanks a heap, Harmonix.)

But she has always understood my love for games, even on a few occasions when I acted like an ass after she tried to talk to me during a closing cutscene (“Now I’m going to have to beat the final boss again!”). So I’ve always enjoyed a modest amount of gaming time each week.

But in the wake of her pregnancy woes, I was gaming more than I had in years. I was gaming nearly as much as I had when I was a bachelor, when staying up until 4:00 a.m. on a Tuesday seemed like a great idea. I would have done anything — anything — to give my wife some relief from the burden she had to bear. And I missed her; her need for sleep meant that we saw each other for about 90 minutes a day during the work week and always at the point when she felt her worst. But I can’t say that the additional time for gaming wasn’t an excellent consolation prize.

Those months were packed with both the old and the new: King’s Bounty: The Legend, Final Fantasy XIII, Guardians of Graxia, X-Men Legends, Fall from Heaven II, Risk: Factions, Din’s Curse, God of War III, Heroes of Might and Magic V, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, various Rock Bands, and hour after hour after hour of Pinball FX 2. In honor of the impending release of Tron: Legacy, I even dug out a copy of Monolith’s Tron 2.0 that I had scored from a clearance shelf five or six years ago.

I didn’t finish it. I didn’t see Tron: Legacy either.

Arriving five weeks early in mid-December, my son and daughter put an end to all leisure activities. Prematurity is common for twins, but their timing put them on the line between “everything’s fine” and “cause for concern.” There was nothing to do in the neonatal ICU except jump at every squawk of the heart and oxygen monitors, but my DS Lite stayed in my bag. Advance Wars doesn’t have the same appeal when you’re staring at the air tubes and IV needles jabbed into your four-pound children. When my wife and I returned home each night, exhausted and hungry, I would game out of habit. I would click listlessly through Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers, playing only the easiest AI opponents so that I didn’t have to think too much.

After a relatively brief stay at the hospital — a.k.a. the longest 13 days of my life — my little boy and girl were finally able to come home. As they settled into their new digs, we staggered into our new schedule of feeding them every two hours. I don’t know what the first days of parenting are like for those with a single child, but twins bring madness and mayhem. The chaos stems from a simple paradox: you have two babies that each need your undivided attention. In this environment, gaming doesn’t stand a chance. It tips its hat, breathes its last, and shuffles off this mortal coil.

Or so it seems.

The truth is that gaming is not so much dead in my household as it is on life support. In between the diapers and the baths, the smiles and the screams, the stories and the songs, there are moments of peace. Minutes of silence. Opportunities to reflect, to ponder, and to give thanks for my wife and the two miracles that have come into my life.

And then it’s on like Donkey Kong.

Up next: protips for new parents; or why babies don’t play role-playing games

Justin Fletcher has written for Computer Games Magazine, MASSIVE Magazine, and tech enthusiast website Envy News. He has also guest blogged at Flash of Steel.