- [In this GameSetWatch opinion piece, we're delighted to welcome veteran game zine writer Mister Raroo, who mailed us because he wanted to talk about how games figure into your life when... your life changes. And we really appreciate his honesty in documenting a change that is affecting so many long-time 'hardcore' gamers.]

On Becoming An “Adult”

I don’t think I really became a bona-fide “adult” until a couple years ago when I hit 30. Sure, I’d been living what would appear to be an adult life long before that. I was married, working full time, paying rent on time, and generally being a responsible member of the community.

But, at the same time, I wasn’t taking things too seriously. My days basically consisted of going to work during the day, spending time with my wife in the evening, and playing videogames late into the night. I bought so many games that the clerks at my local Gamestop not only knew me by name, but could usually guess what new release I was walking into the store to buy and have it ready for me before I even got to the counter.

I wasn’t really giving any deep thought to becoming more financially responsible, having kids, or doing much beyond living in the present. I was happy and I wasn’t in a rush for things to change. In a lot of ways, I was being selfish. In that sense, I don’t think I was really an “adult.” But at the time, I feared true adulthood would mean sacrificing the lifestyle I was accustomed to, and in terms of videogames, I thought it would spell the end of that hobby.

Yet for some reason, I started changing my outlook around the time I turned 30. Maybe it was the fact that 30 sounded “old,” or maybe it was just coincidental and everything simply came together for me at that period in my life. Whatever the reason, I started thinking about buying a home, starting a family, and doing more with my expendable income than spending it on videogame after videogame.

I went though a huge personal transformation, something many individuals in my peer group are currently facing. It is this change in my life, moving away from being just a self-centered consumer and focusing instead on living beyond the current moment, that I consider the point in which I became an “adult.”

In just a couple years my wife and I welcomed a son into our lives, bought our first home, and began putting any extra money we had into personal savings, retirement plans, and college savings plans. It turns out, however, that my fear of giving up my gaming hobby was unfounded.

I’m still very much enjoying videogames, though my habits have changed quite a bit. That said, I’m happy to report that it is definitely possible for one to enjoy games while still being a genuine “adult."

- Overcome By Fear

I have a friend who is currently an expectant father. He, too, is experiencing many of the emotions I had also felt regarding giving up one’s beloved hobbies. Recently my friend expressed his concern to me that he’d no longer be able to play video games once the baby arrives. I think the fears he has about becoming a parent are very common to anyone in that position, regardless of what their specific interests are.

Gamers worry about not being able to play video games, just like golfers might worry about not having time for golf or authors might worry about not having time to write. No matter your pleasure or passion, I think everyone goes through a phase where they worry that the baby on the horizon will throw a wrench in their plans. Any first-time expectant parent knows their lives will be different once the baby arrives, but nobody can be prepared for what life as a new parent is like until they are in the thick of it.

Becoming a parent is an exciting and wonderful thing, but unless you’re a deadbeat, it will certainly change your life forever. When my wife was pregnant, I started thinking about all the things that would be different once the baby arrived.

Any plans we made would now have to be altered to include the baby, and we would have to give up some parts of our lifestyle. No longer would we be able to sleep in as long as we wanted on the weekends, for example. Heck, sleeping in general would likely be something that we’d sacrifice once we had a newborn in our home. It didn’t help that I was assaulted with horror stories from just about everyone I knew.

They’d tell me that once I became a father, I wouldn’t have the time or money to spend on frivolous hobbies. Their words would haunt me and make me feel sad whenever I played videogames. I felt as if I was spending time with an old friend I knew had only a short time left to live. “Well, I guess this is it,” I’d think as I ran Mario though his paces. “It’s been nice knowing you, good buddy.”

I felt guilty and selfish that I was so worried about having to give up my gamer lifestyle, but it had been my favorite hobby since I was a kid and I couldn’t imagine a life without video games. Still, I bit the bullet and prepared myself for what I figured was the inevitable.

In Search of Proof

When my son Kazuo was born, I was a changed man. From the first time I first laid eyes on Kaz, it was true love. I was overcome with happiness and was excited about the new and interesting experiences that fatherhood would bring. But, all the same, I still had lingering regrets that my life as a gamer was over.

While my wife was pregnant, I had shared my fears with her and she just smiled and sweetly assured me that it was unrealistic to think that I would have to give up my video game hobby. Parents still have lives of their own, of course. But, at the same time, she was quick to point out that my habits would definitely have to change. To me, that sounded like she was saying, “You’re right. You won’t be able to play videogames when you’re a father.”

Almost laughably, I went out of my way to prove to myself that I could still enjoy videogames as a new dad. I brought my Nintendo DS to the hospital and tried to find any spare moment to play it. Whenever Kaz was asleep, out came the DS and I told myself, “Hey, no problem! I can still play games like I used to!”

Of course, I should’ve been using those spare moments to catch up on sleep, and before long I was exhausted. But that didn’t stop my efforts. After we brought Kaz home, I’d grab the Xbox 360 controller and play some games the moment he fell asleep.

I’ve never been the type of person that put playing videogames ahead of spending time with family (even before fatherhood I usually only played games after my wife was asleep), and I certainly never played while Kaz was awake, but I definitely denied myself a great deal of much-needed sleep in exchange for the “proof” that I had the ability to still play games as a dad. In short, I was being an idiot, but I was worried that if I didn’t find ways to fit gaming into my days, I’d lose that part of my life forever.

-Getting Realistic and Finding a Happy Medium

I love being a dad and I felt it was the right fit for me from the moment Kaz was born and I held him in my arms. In spite of the fact that I was unrealistically trying to wedge gaming into my life as a new parent, I was most of all enjoying all the new experiences that came with fatherhood.

At the same time, the first month was absolutely crazy and my wife and I were constantly in survival mode. Even the few minutes here and there I was initially able to find for gaming quickly vanished and soon I was scrambling just to make it through each day. It seemed like Kaz needed a diaper change almost immediately after we got finished putting on the last one. In addition, the little guy was constantly hungry and didn’t seem to want to sleep unless it was at the most inconvenient time possible!

It got to the point where we were so exhausted we couldn’t think straight, and any spare moment was dedicated to closing our eyes and attempting to catch a few winks, if only for a couple minutes at a time. My wife and I even started arguing more frequently, which we rarely do. Heck, she even swore at me, with the “f” word, no less, which is a huge deal for a woman with a high aversion to profanity! It goes without saying that I was much too tired to worry about the gaming I wasn’t doing, and I figured my hobby was gone forever.

It turns out, I was being overdramatic. Things became surprisingly easier as my son got just a couple months older. That’s not to say that being a parent is a cakewalk, but we went from being in frazzled survival mode to having a more stable and manageable routine.

The newborn phase was exceptionally difficult, but before long Kaz got in tune with the patterns of life in his new family. He needed his diaper changed less often, didn’t want to eat on a constant basis, and actually started sleeping for more than an hour or two at a time. It seemed like when we weren’t looking, my wife and I suddenly had a little bit of room to breathe.

That meant that not only could we catch up on sleep, but from time to time I could actually sit down and play games without sacrificing time spent with my family. I was able to play video games again in a way that was realistic and responsible.

I’ve assured my expectant father friend that he need not worry. He won’t have to give up his favorite hobbies once he becomes a father. He will have to make some changes, though. No longer do I have spare income to buy games like I used to. The bulk of the money I used to spend on games is now going to pay for our mortgage, college savings, groceries, gas, and all the other things that come with being a homeowner and parent.

In short, I have “adult” expenses that account for the majority of my paycheck. When it comes to buying new games, I budget well ahead of time, wait until the games hit bargain bins, or even just rent instead of buy. In addition, being a parent means I can’t play video games on a whim like I used to.

Most of my gaming comes during my commutes to and from work (don’t worry, I take public transportation!), during my lunch break, and right before bed. I’ve also “found” time by spending less time on the Internet, not watching live TV, and generally being more efficient in how I plan my day. Smart use of my time means I not only get to enjoy the full benefits of being a father and husband, but I have ample spare time left to play video games.

In retrospect, it was silly of me to be so worried that being an “adult” meant I wouldn’t be able to play videogames. I believe that part of my maturation into what I consider to be real adulthood came in the form of learning to juggle all the new “adult” responsibilities I’ve taken on with the hobbies I’ve always held dear, most notably gaming.

Thinking back to when I was growing up, my parents kept up with their hobbies just the same as I do now. My mom has always been an avid reader whereas my dad loves jogging, and I can vividly remember both of them pursuing their favorite pastimes on a daily basis while still keeping up with their parental and familial duties. I’m sure Kaz has already become accustomed to seeing me play videogames, but he’s also used to me giving him baths, getting him dressed for daycare, and reading to him.

And, as he grows older, I have a feeling Kaz and I will share many fun times playing video games together. My priorities may have shifted and both the free time and money I have to spend on gaming has decreased, but I’m happy to report that I can enjoy playing videogames while still tacking the new challenges and adventures that my life as an actual “adult” has brought.

[Mister Raroo is a happy husband, proud father, full-time public library employee, and active gamer. He has contributed writing to The Gamer’s Quarter, Gaslampball.com, the now-defunct Pocket Games magazine, and his favorite gaming website of all time, Sector: Neo Geo Pocket . He and his wife have also self-published their own gaming fanzine, Game Time With Mister Raroo. He currently lives in El Cajon, CA with his family and many pets. You may reach Mister Raroo at mister.raroo@gmail.com.]