Dear Pink Hair Girl,
I’m a loving husband and proud father of two kids, 5 and 7. I get a little bit of time to play video games with my son (my daughter doesn’t seem interested in video games), but playing around them means the games are all age-appropriate. Only after they go to bed, and if somehow everything else that needs to get done is done, I have an hour or two to myself. That’s when I bring out Call of Duty. My problem is that I only have that little bit of time to play, and I don’t get much practice. The younger people playing talk about how they play all night long and sleep all day, so of course their ability to play the game is better than mine. I enjoy all the elements of the game, but feel like I can’t keep up with other players, and it’s killing half the fun of it. I know I could switch to games that aren’t multiplayer, but it’s not the same. There is no time for me to get better at it, obviously. Talking about it with the other players or even admitting that I’m married, just brings on a bunch of abuse. I’m out of ideas. Any suggestions for enjoying the game?
Some people would be surprised to hear that you even find the one or two hours at night to play. But it sounds like gaming is something you really enjoy on your own, and even with your children. You’ve made it a priority to use what little free time you have to unwind with an FPS, so naturally finding nothing but clans full of punk kids is frustrating. It’s hard to enjoy something while others are ruining what would otherwise be fun for you. Luckily, I’ve got some advice for how to make the best of your time with it.
Don’t Take the Hit - You may or may not find the people in-game surprisingly inflammatory. I don’t know how accustomed you are to this concept, but it’s general knowledge among gamers that online gaming is full of assholes. There are pre-teen assholes, the teenage assholes, the 20-something assholes, etc. The most verbally abusive cultures are said to be the ones who play first person shooters. (Though they exist everywhere, there just seems to be a concentration of rage gamers there). Your best bet? Hit the mute button. Just don’t let it bother you. Letting asshole-ridden events roll off your back is the fastest way to get back to just enjoying the game. Especially since you don’t have time to waste being mad at a video game. If someone starts making the game less enjoyable, distance yourself from them as fast as possible. I know, you’re probably thinking this means you’ll have to mute most the people playing. Don’t worry, there is other advice.
It’s Not Just Because You’re Out of Practice - This will either make you feel better or worse, and I’m sorry. The fact that you only have an hour here and there to practice is not necessarily why you’re not able to keep up with other players in the game. The reaction times and manual dexterity of people in their teens and early 20s is generally higher than that of older adults, and in most FPS games, those twitch response reflexes are what give you an edge. You physically cannot compete with their reaction time. You’re comparing your own skills with those of people who compete outside your league. That’s never going to feel rewarding. But not all hope is lost, there are people out there who feel your pain.
There Are Lots of Gamers in Your Shoes - Believe it or not, you’re part of a generation of dads who are facing the same problem. You love gaming, but don’t have the time to devote to it like you used to. There are a few communities out there where gamers such as yourself form groups and clans to play together, some even host local community events, or have game nights where they invite their kids to play along. I highly suggest visiting both TheOlderGamers and 2old2play. There you can introduce yourself in the forums and ask around to see if any groups are recruiting, maybe start your own! Even if you’re not a web forum sort of guy, you can at least find a group to play with who are in the same boat as you. And if you want to feel a little more up to speed with the community, 2old2play even has a podcast you can listen to during your commute. In any case, the internet is your friend. Search for groups in your age range or who play with similar time restrictions, then join them during their sessions. This is great not only for playing within your abilities, but it’s also a nice way to form a sense of being part of the gamer community.
A Note about Playing with Your Daughter
It’s entirely possible that her personality just doesn’t lend itself to playing video games, as you suggest. But it’s very common for young girls to feel alienated from video games by accident. You didn’t elaborate about that point, but just in case, I wanted to bring it up. Has your daughter ever seen a girl playing video games? Or have you ever invited her to play without her older brother there? Maybe she thinks of it as a boy-ish activity. Maybe her older brother, who’s older and has a physical and mental advantage over her, doesn’t understand that he has to let her win sometimes. Making her feel comfortable with gaming will broaden your family’s playtime activities since you do it with your son. To try this, give her a sense of being able to own some gaming space, and make it non-competitive. Find some time to play, just the two of you. Invite a female role model to join in the gaming to help her know it’s an ‘everybody’ activity. Sit her on your lap and help her to play on a DS. It may even help her to adapt or feel more comfortable in higher technology environments later when she’s older. If after trying these she still resists, then yeah, maybe video games aren’t her thing.
Hopefully this guides you to a place where you find a solid and rewarding balance to make gaming as fun as you can make it, without jerkhats weighing you down. You don’t have time for all that nonsense. And the communities mentioned above might even help you connect with other parents, enabling you to make multiplayer gaming a welcome place for your kids instead of risking it with game-lounge roulette. Good luck and good gaming!
Pink Hair Girl