Monday, April 7, 2014

By Jamaal Ryan

The last year has encapsulated a series of some of the biggest transitions in my life. I graduated from Kean University with a Masters in Social Work. I began writing on this blog. I acquired my license to practice social work in the state of New Jersey. I got a job in my field. I moved in with my then girlfriend; now I’m engaged.

This is my adulthood.

Just at the end of last year, I dog sat a chihuahua named Moni, my first experience ever looking after an animal. I placed her bed in my room as I played Assassins Creed IV, periodically tucked her in to help protect her from the brutal cold winter we had, petted her and gave her attention when she begged for it, and fed and walked her as any pet owner should. It was a relatively basic task with minimal sacrifice of my free time playing and writing about video games.

That won’t be the case once I become a father.

Moni needed love and care. But she didn’t cry. She didn’t vomit. She didn’t turn into a shit monster. She didn’t throw temper tantrums. She didn’t ask me a million questions thinking that I knew everything in the world. She didn’t ask me to help her with her homework. She didn’t make me think of creative ways to make her birthdays and holidays special. She didn’t make me feel as if I failed her as a parent. She didn’t scream “I HATE YOU!” She didn’t make me rearrange my schedule so that I could attend an after school event to watch her. She didn’t make me worry every time she went out. She didn’t become troublesome to the point that my (future) wife and I had to brainstorm parental decisions. She didn’t make me proud. And she wasn’t the most important thing to me.

Parenthood doesn’t sound like adopting additional responsibilities, it sounds like a completely different lifestyle. At 25, I have a very tight and dedicated lifestyle. I work. I go to the gym. I come home and spend time with my fiancée. I read up on what’s new with the game’s industry, and if I find something interesting, I’ll write about it. Then I take some time to play. That’s quite a bit to pack between 6am and 11pm, and thinking of factoring the responsibility of parenthood is daunting.

Ben Kuchera, Opinions Editor over a Polygon, wrote an excellent piece discussing his perspective on parenthood and the value of free time. I figured I’d pay close attention to what he has to say since this mother fucker has FIVE KIDS.

As a gamer that owns all major platforms, I like to consume as many titles as I possibly can. Having four to six hour game sessions on the weekends accelerates that process. Infamous Second Son? Sure. Mercenary Kings? Yup. Outlast? Why not, I have time. But I imagine parenthood changes this. The lifestyle hardly leaves much room for sinking into your comfortable gaming chair for hours and hours on end. You have to prioritize. And long winded multiplayer matches when the baby starts crying? Forget about it.

But Ben echoes the words that my social work professor strongly advised us to do, take care of ourselves. But more specifically, allow time for gaming. Gaming to us is a much more meaningful pass time than simply coming home to binge watch television. It preserves our identity, it’s therapeutic, and it massages our mental capacity so that we can address equally and, in the case of parenthood, more important matters fully (or better) prepared. Strangely enough, planning time for and actually playing video games ideally becomes more important as a parent.

I personally struggle with – yet very much look forward to – the notion of becoming a parent because I’d have to budget the currency that I highly value the most, time. I’m still young, and my fiancée and I aren’t nearly financially stable enough to afford caring for a child. Until then, I’ll periodically ponder what it’s like having two passions in my life. 

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