Parenting & Other Life Stories

Gamer Mom

The goal is to be the best mom I can be, and part of that means awareness and knowledge; I want to be involved or at least knowledgeable. I have no desire to smother my children, but I want to be aware to avoid being caught off guard when I can. In this technological age where forms of social media are the norm it follows that I need to update my lack of understanding about these forms of socialization. The challenges presented by social media are growing everyday: sexting, online harassment, cyberbullying, online social isolation, and etcetera.

With that in mind I will never forget the look on my husband’s face when I said to him, “I played World of Warcraft last night.” It was an expression somewhere between complete surprise and mild horror, followed by a brief flash of certainty that I’d finally gone insane. To clarify, neither of us are gamers.

Be that as it may, we do own a WII and a Game Cube, but both are dust collecting pieces of room décor. Years ago we had some over-the-top intense races on Mario Cart; competition and entertainment were the driving factors. As a further review of my game history I enjoyed Comidor 64, I’ve beaten Mario Brothers, loved Donkey Kong, tried my hand at Sonic the Hedgehog, I still play Tetris on Game Boy, but my all-time favourite remains Pac Man for Atari. However, let’s be honest, this doesn’t add up to gamer material, nor can it be classed in the same category.

“The gamers say we’re ‘Retro’ which I think means ‘Old but cool.” – Wreck it Ralph

That said, what is a gamer? I reached out to my Facebook community with this question, and the same key points seemed to come up: financial investment, time investment, conversation topic, continuous play, interest in game develop, and watching games (basically eat, sleep, and breathe games). Generally speaking, the main factor that tied these points together was an “all consuming” component. Personally, I would add that there is an element of devotion, skill, and competition, as well as pleasure seeking in gaming as a form of entertainment and socializing. However, in continuing my research I discovered that the term gamer is a term of debate because it is more like an umbrella term that encompasses casual/recreational gamers, hard-core gamers, and true gamers. First, the casual gamer is the largest category of gamers. They play when it is convenient, and they usually play sports, role play, or first person shooter games. The second category, the hard-core gamer, dedicates all free-time to playing, and talks about playing. This is the player that likes to win, and beat the game. This group is described as having a respect for the gaming industry. Finally, there is the true gamer. This group dedicates time to play. They play for fun (game and social), and use playing to relax. This group will play a game again after they have beat it.

Until recently my knowledge of online gaming consisted of simply knowing that it exists, and some people love it. I was aware that World of Warcraft, W.o.W., wasn’t the only game out there, but I didn’t know anything beyond that. Furthermore, if there is a category of people who are prejudiced against gaming you could have hit me with that label. Not that I looked down my nose at anyone, well perhaps a little, having had those friends who raced home after work to finish a “quest” or couldn’t come out for drinks because of a “raid.” For me, it was something of my own ignorance at the time, but it remains something that I won’t ever completely understand. However, I do realize now that there is a commitment required, there is a social community involved, there are goals/objectives, and rules.

In my pursuit to educate myself, I found myself completely overwhelmed as I sat in front of the screen trying to figure out the complex environment that I had just birthed my Blood Elf, Oakautumn, into. I was shocked by the…hmmm…well by all of it.

Be that as it may, what lead me here? First, I had been searching for some time for a new and interesting activity that I could do after the children went to bed. Television is a re-run let-down, plus it can be very mind numbing. Who wants to do housework all evening? Not me. Some nights I don’t want to read. Anyway, it was while I was reading Rosalind Wiseman’s book, Masterminds & Wingmen, that the seed was planted in my mind. She states some very enlightening things about the role gaming plays in what she calls “boy world.” Some of these things interested me, and shed light on gaming in new ways. A layer of ignorance was peeled back. Second, the more I thought about gaming and boy world, the more I began to feel that I needed to educate myself. Given that I am raising boys who, at the ages of 2 and 5, love their Leapfrogs and I-pad to the point that I already have to set time limits for their game time, it follows that one day there is a good chance they will immerse themselves in online gaming, and I know nothing about it. As it stands right now, it would be an area where I would be unable to support them, help them, or understand on any level what is going on.

All that said, on some level it is a crafty excuse to play video games. If I am being honest, I love sitting with my boys and playing Leapfrog games. I am also excited that they are reaching the ages where we can have a family game night with the WII and Game Cube. It is a great bonding experience, and something that we can enjoy together for a while (and let’s be honest again, it is a little easier on me then playing wrestle mania). Anyway, I further surmised that a bit of knowledge involving the online world won’t go amiss.

My initial feeling of being overwhelmed occurred when I did a google search for online games. Lots of options. I looked at W.o.W., and I looked at Diablo 3. I decided Diablo 3 wasn’t for me, at least not yet, and I decided that I needed help breaking into this culture because I had no idea where to start. I reached out to a family member who I remembered as a gamer growing up, John Lethbridge, to ask if there was an online game he would recommend. Here is part of what he told me:

“That’s quite an open-ended request. So, let’s start at the beginning; what sort of game are you looking for? There’s a huge variety of games that support online play in various ways, and they each have a required time investment for a play session. In MMOs (massively multiplayer online games), i.e. World of Warcraft (W.o.W.), the time investment starts out light but gets steep very quickly because there is a character level system that you have to climb, and each level takes longer than the last. It’s fun, but does take time.

Other games, like Diablo 3, have an online component, but the game streamlines towards the action and less towards the socialisation.

Another consideration is what you want out of the experience. Is it primarily social? Is it just playing with others? Is it roleplaying/escape? (Yes, the last one sounds a bit funny, but it is valid, and not to be felt weird about).

On top of that there’s the monthly subscription hook. Are you willing to cough up $15/month to play a game you’ve already bought? If not, then either something free-to-play, or a game that has online play, but not necessarily a focus on the social aspect. To the side of that, is the free-to-play crowd which usually offers the core of the game, but with in-game micro-transactions to make money off of you as a player.

As an afterthought, Elder Scrolls Online is a fantasy R.P.G. (roleplaying game) for both XBox and PS4. It’s also got no subscription once paid for, so that might be exactly what you’re after.”

Everything considered I found this to be helpful information, but I also felt like it was another demonstration of my own naivety at the world of online gaming. Interestingly, it is important to note that in addition to trying to break into the online world of gaming, I only broke into the world of social media in late December, 2015 when I opened up my first Facebook account! I am truly riding out a big learning curve here.

In any event, I already knew that I was not looking for a first person shooter game, or a sports game. I like R.P.G. and at some point will try Elder Scrolls. By the time I had received a response to my email I had already downloaded W.o.W. I am now slowly making my way through Dalaran with Oakautumn, and as previously mentioned Oakautumn is a Blood Elf. She is a hunter with glowing green eyes, red hair, pointy pierced ears, and she is tall and slender.

My plan is to continue climbing the character level system with Oakautumn, and perhaps try creating a different race of character like a Night Elf and try a different realm. I play when convenient, and for entertainment. I am enjoying what I am learning as well. Maybe I will never reach the title of Gamer Mom, but I am happy being a Gamer Aware Mom.

“Awareness is like the sun. When it shines on things, they are transformed.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

By Shari Marshall – 2016