Parents Who Game: Millennial’s Aberration Or Foreseeable Future?

Get off your computer or I’ll take it away! I didn’t buy you a phone so you could stare at games all day! Games are nothing but violence and profanity. You won’t be spending time doing that while you’re under my roof!

If you’re aged between 20 and 40, these phrases have most likely played a significant role in your childhood. I can’t say I felt this way all the time; I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family where my parents spent time playing Warblade, Zuma, and Need For Speed. Even my grandpa has his favorite arcades, and he could spend hours playing chess against the PC when we first got it! However, none of my friends had the same situation at home. Most of them didn’t even own their own PC, and didn’t have any idea what a game crack was – for a 9-year-old me, that was something that could break a friendship. I was not a forgiving child when it came to (not) mastering wonders of technology.

Naturally, I was the apple that didn’t end up falling far from the tree. I had sporadic absences from the gaming world, due to either not having enough time for it, or spending too much time at certain points. As someone with history in competitive gaming and streaming, while being a parent, too, I couldn’t help but wonder: what kind of parent am I going to be when it comes to gaming?

A few years back, when I was at the beginning of my passion project called streaming (I can’t call it a career, since I never quite managed to turn it into one), I didn’t know anyone else who was a streamer. Over time, as Twitch and other streaming platforms were starting to gain popularity, I started meeting more people who were interested in pursuing the dream of becoming a professional streamer.

As I was meeting all those people through Twitch chat and other gaming hangout places, I realized that an astounding number of those people were parents themselves. In only a few short years, a whole community of parents-who-enjoy-gaming-but-struggle-to-find-time has been created, and I found myself fitting right into it.

When I think about this phenomenon, I realize it didn’t happen overnight. Those first generations of PC, Playstation and even gameboy players were bound to have offspring, at least some of them. Also, the technology has become so much more advanced, it gave those passionate people what they needed: beast-mode computers, phones that can do incredible things, and streams – where they can meet people who share their interests.

Today, as a 25-year-old with a toddler, and an insatiable hunger for games (and other digital goods, for that matter), I’m looking around and I’m beginning to comprehend that I’m not alone. There are millions of people just like me, with very little time, too much to do, and a desire to jump into their favorite pixely world whenever there’s a good opportunity for it.

Parents who game are (largely thanks for the gaming boom in 2000’s) no longer a myth, or a group of no-good outcasts shamed by the rest of the world. It was easy to do that when there were only a dozen, or a hundred, or a few thousand of them. The tides have shifted, though, and people are starting to think twice before telling their parent friends about how all games are violent trash that shouldn’t have been invented in the first place. For all they know, that friend could be jumping on their Xbox when the kids go to bed, straight into their fantasy full of people who aren’t that much different.

As a Twitch streamer, I’ve come to realize that even the chat communities have divided into smaller groups. There are plenty of streams providing content enjoyed by kids, teenagers, young adults, trolls, and even very old people (one of the most pleasant corners of Twitch, if you ask me – don’t shy away from admiring their sophisticated way of discussing gaming world. It’s adorable.) Not every channel is all about being toxic, judgmental and full of spam. In fact, very few of them are – this is mostly prejudice coming from the outside world.

To my surprise (and great satisfaction), parenting communities have started to emerge on Twitch even in the gaming world. This doesn’t mean a person has to have a child to be able to chat, or interact in any other way: it’s simply a group of people:

  1. In which most people probably have kids, or in the process of preparation for family life
  2. Who are eager to discuss real-life topics (including parenthood) in a very polite manner. (By polite, I mean not eye-rolling whenever someone mentions kids, and leaving the discussion never to return again.)
  3. Who are understanding when it comes to the streamer’s life (who is usually a parent, gathering like-minded people in their chat) and who aren’t disappointed by breaks and shorter streams because they need to tend to their children

Apart from the mentioned traits, there’s a specific group of people present in every parent/gamer chat: the ones who are not parents, may not want to be, possibly not at all in the same age group, but who are ever so loving and full of positive energy that they’re loved by everyone.

My chat has all those kinds of people. And the moment I realized that I’m not alone, and that my stream has a particular character I should embrace instead of being ashamed of it, I decided that I belong on Twitch just as much as I did a few years back – if not more.

The world is a different place now. With everything that’s been going on lately, I firmly believe that many (parents or not) will (re)discover or continue to enjoy gaming world. I also believe that we’re coming to an era in which the traditional “all games are full of violence, they turn kids into mindless zombies, and everyone who games as an adult should get another job instead” attitude is old-fashioned, false, and even offensive.

Parents who game know the difference between good and bad games. They know which content promotes violence, and which improves their kids’ cognitive skills and reflexes.

They know better than to ban a device completely, knowing it will create a craving that will likely be satisfied behind their back.

Those parents aim to teach their kids values of responsible Internet use, limited screen time, and smart choosing of content they engage with.

Parents who game will have a much more involved role in their kids’ lives. They are not there simply to create and enforce rules about games and devices. They also have fun with their kids, online as well as offline.

Those people allow their kids to responsibly learn about the world we live in, so they aren’t considered uneducated and clumsy when it comes to basic technology.

Unfortunately, kids who haven’t had much to do with computers while they friends had some amount of it, are the ones finding it hard to perform online and PC-based tasks given at school. To most of them, screen time is to be approached with extreme caution (even distrust and eagerness to get away from it).

Before we get into the topic of how badly the kids all around the world have been impacted (health, social, and education-wise), I’m just going to add I’ve taken it all into consideration. It is not up to children to learn the balance – the responsibility is ours as parents. I am boldly stating that every parent who bans 100% of technology, games, and any digital form of entertainment whatsoever, is not motivated to take on this new parenting task thrown at us in the 21st century. The time has come to teach our kids to be responsible – not to ban everything while they’re under our roof, because that’s easier at the moment. We are not doing our kids any favors by doing so.

What are your thoughts on parents who are involved in gaming? What’s your opinion on their parenting methods? Let me know in the comments!

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