I did not consciously plan to become a parent when I did. I was 19 years old when I discovered that I was pregnant and being both gifted and cocky, I was quite certain that I could totally handle it. I was, after all, smarter than almost everyone I knew. How hard could it be?
As I’m sure you can glean from that previous paragraph, young people are AMAZINGLY stupid. Because of MY choices when I was younger, I put nothing past the stupidity of a young adult. NOTHING.
At 19, with the exception of being completely obsessed with the Magnavox Odyssey 2 in the late 1970’s as a small child, I had virtually no experience with video games. No one in my friend group really played them and they simply weren’t a part of my world. Out of sight, out of mind, I suppose. Not to mention, the idea that “girls don’t play games” was totally still a thing. 😛
At some point, working at my retail job while pregnant became too difficult, so I was home a lot. My now ex-husband really wanted a Super Nintendo, but I told him that it was a waste of money. So he bought one anyway and said that it was for me so that I’d have something to do while I was bored at home. Pretty sure the first words out of my mouth were something along the lines of, “What the hell am I going to do with a Super Nintendo? I don’t play video games!” I was pretty pissed off about it, but the money was spent, so I wasn’t about to let his purchase go to waste. And it WAS true that I was bored at home a lot. It came bundled with a copy of Super Mario World, so I popped that in and tried video games again for the first time since I was probably 7 or 8 years old.
I completely fell in love. Head over heels, madly, deeply, and utterly in love.
Honestly, I’m not really sure what it was about that game that hooked me the way it did. I soon started regularly visiting Blockbuster Video and renting Super Nintendo games. I rented anything that looked interesting or was based on an existing IP that I enjoyed. So I played many different genres including platforming, fighting, racing, and action. That was how I discovered Final Fantasy and Japanese role-playing games. The box of Final Fantasy III (actually VI) looked interesting. I lost it. I had to pay a lost item fee, but it was worth it. That game still resides in my list of top 3 games of all time.
Playing role-playing games was easy while Nico was a baby. However, once he got a little older, he definitely wanted to do what Mommy was doing. At some point, I picked up an original Sony PlayStation, which was another truly excellent console in terms of JRPG’s. Think Wild ARMs, Final Fantasy VII, Legend of Dragoon… But I digress… Toddler Nico was now big enough and coordinated enough to hold a controller on his own. So I picked up games like Crash Bandicoot, Glover, and Spyro the Dragon. At around the same time, I started flirting with the manager of the game store. So when I’d score a free demo or something, Nico thought I was SO COOL because I knew the man in the game store. (Don’t worry, I wasn’t trying to use my feminine wiles to get free shit. We’ve now been married for over 13 years!)
Even though these games I bought were single player experiences, Nico always had to have me around. “Mom, did you see that? Did you see what I did? Mom! Mom!” He still does this to me today. He also needed me to read the text so he’d always know what was going on. Of course, sometimes he’d exclaim exasperatedly, “Oh my god, Mom, so much talking!” He still complains about that today, too, but he reads everything himself. 😛
Our first multi-player experiences involved a fighting game and racing/platforming. I am NOT a competitive gamer. I hate fighting people. I much prefer working together toward a common goal, but in the 1990’s, there weren’t a lot of cooperative games for consoles, so if I wanted to actually play something with Nico, it was going to be competitive. First we played Killer Instinct on the Super NES. This is the only fighting game I ever got any good at and I consistently kicked his ass. He hated that. So we didn’t play it much. I suppose I should have let him win once in awhile, but that’s just not in my nature. I bought a Sega Dreamcast and picked up Sonic Adventure. The multiplayer in the Sonic Adventure games is a combination of racing and platforming. Nico proceeded to consistently kick MY ass, but at least we had something we BOTH enjoyed playing. (I didn’t mind losing. Especially to him.)
The Dreamcast would prove to be a great place for us to game together. Sonic Adventure 2 was even better than the first one and there was even a level that I could beat him once in awhile! Green Forest! And then came Phantasy Star Online. This game (along with Diablo II) is probably what began my slow descent into the world of MMO’s, since it was like an MMO lite. (I started playing EverQuest not long after this.)
When the first Kingdom Hearts game released on the Sony PlayStation 2 in Japan, I bought an import copy and we played the game together. He did most of the gameplay stuff while I read and tried to translate the text. Considering that I had almost no Japanese knowledge at the time, I’m surprised that we actually managed to beat it. Too bad there were no achievements back then, though! We never changed out our original keyblade! We had no idea you could… XD
Nico and I continued to play games separately and together. When he was around 10 or 11, we taught him how to play EverQuest and got him his own computer, account, and everything. Unlike me, he didn’t jump into every MMO that released, but when World of Warcraft came out, we all jumped into that. Now we all play Final Fantasy XIV.
As a teenager, Nico continued to play just about any game I put in front of him. Since even his solo gaming involved me as a spectator, I pretty much let him play any game he was interested in. I always enjoyed watching him play games like Assassin’s Creed or Metal Gear Solid because I could just enjoy what was going on in the game without getting frustrated about making some kind of bullshit perfect jump or something.
I did have a couple of rules besides the obvious make-sure-your-homework-is-done rule. Rule #1: No Grand Theft Auto games. Rule #2: If you’re going to play a FPS game like Halo or something online, no voice chat. He was, after all, still a child. And while I was okay with him playing M-Rated games because he and I would actually talk about the games, I couldn’t control the multitudes of man-children who like to shout racial and gender slurs over XBOX Live. I also didn’t want him exposed to games that were specifically about being bad. Not yet, anyway. I knew he’d encounter that stuff eventually, but it was important to me that he not encounter it until he was old enough to really process the ramifications of, say, picking up a hooker in your car, paying her for sex, then running her over and stealing her money.
I finally relented on Grand Theft Auto games when GTA IV came out. As a high school teenager, I felt that he was old enough to play it and understand why I DIDN’T want him playing these games when he was younger. It’s no secret that I’m a feminist and I raised my son to be one, as well. I think the no voice chat rule just kinda phased out eventually. I don’t remember ever making a decision about it. He eventually just became an adult and he could do/play whatever he wanted.
There’s a College Humor skit called “N00b Boyfriend” that I find hilariously funny because although I’m not THAT bad, I imagine I would be somewhat like the parents in that skit. I’m not nearly as douche-y, but I guarantee that I’d be grilling any of Nico’s dates about Horde vs. Alliance or whether or not they invert the Y-axis on a controller. Horde and yes, in case you’re wondering, but as long as his date was actually able to answer my questions, I’d be happy.
As a gamer mom, I’ve tried my best to make sure he always has all the gear he needs to be a gamer son. Within reason, of course! I don’t just buy him everything. He’s a college graduate and a grown man now, after all. But with student loans and all that, sometimes it’s hard to keep up with this hobby. So I help when I can. Besides… Who else can I talk to about video games? He and I share a bond and a history that partially developed through gaming. I honestly hope that we can keep playing games together until I’m dead and gone. Eventually, it may be that I’ll be playing with HIS kids instead of him. I’m cool with that. As long as I can keep playing…