I’ve been playing video games for as long as I can remember. Honestly, my first memories are of playing Super Mario Bros. on the NES with a little stuffed bear. When I was done playing, I’d take the bear’s paws, put them on the controller, and let him guide Mario through the Mushroom Kingdom. Man, that bear sucked. It’s safe to say video games have shaped my life and who I’ve become in more ways than I can count. But last month, something happened that will change the way I consume and even think about gaming. Last month, I became a dad.

Sometimes cliches are spot-on. The moment my daughter was born a little over a month ago, my entire life changed. My heart felt something it never felt before. It shouldn’t even be called “love” because the feeling runs so much deeper than anything I’ve experienced. Between being absolutely horrified at the thought of providing and taking care a tiny, little, human, and the excitement and joy of raising her with my beautiful girlfriend, I’ve been through every emotion known to man, and even some unknown ones, too! Every day is new. Every day is changing. And I’m loving every second of it.

Austin&Clem2

Learning to play a whole new way!

I wanted to document this journey in some way and share it with my friends, but I didn’t want it to simply be a journal talking about what everyone else talks about.

“My baby is the love of my life. She poops. She eats. She smiles. I want to give her the world. Oh, today she made a different sound! I haven’t slept in months…”

Everyone knows this stuff. What everyone doesn’t know is seeing this new world through a gamer’s eyes. Things are different now, and as someone who plays video games as their main hobby, source of entertainment, and in some ways, a second job, having a child means my gaming habits need to make a change. Some of those changes are tough, but there’s nothing wrong with that. In the end, I just want to be the best dad I can be for my little girl.

Within the first month of being a dad, the biggest change is obviously the volume of games I’ve been able to play and the length of time I get to play them. My daughter is like every other baby (except, you know, the cutest baby ever) and needs constant maintenance between my girlfriend and me. If she’s not eating, she’s pooping, and if she’s not pooping, she’s crying. When she sleeps, it’s like the heavens have opened up, giving us both the chance to get a good 2-3 hour nap before she’s up again.

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Sazh and his son, Dajh, from Final Fantasy XIII

Due to this fact, handheld gaming has taken a huge place in my life. Not only are games on my 3DS, Vita, and iPhone usually developed with the idea that people won’t play for long amounts of time, but I don’t need to be in front of a TV and console to play them. The baby needs to be rocked, and changed, and sometimes we just end up in a chair that she feels right relaxing in. So if I can chip away at Steamworld Dig for a few minutes, or play a song or two in Theatrhythm, I can easily do that. I’m even playing Suikoden II on my Vita, which may seem like a horrible idea, but with Vita’s suspend feature, I never have to worry about losing my save. As soon as the baby needs me, I can shut it down and don’t have to worry about losing my progress. The same goes for the 3DS!

There’s also the harsh reality I have to come to terms with about video games: they cost money — money that needs to go to providing for my child and girlfriend. For nearly the past decade, I’ve been able to take care of my bills and still have enough money left-over to pick up almost any game I wanted. Sure, some would have to fall by the wayside, but from countless indies, to handfuls of AAA titles, I was quick to throw hundreds of dollars away every month to video games. No matter how good the sales are, no matter how awesome some games look, I have to stop spending money. It’s been hard this month, and I know I’m still spending more than I should with all these damn holiday sales, but I’m getting better.

Outside of actual play, right now my biggest goofy-gamer-dad thing I do is play the little girl video game music. I started really early with Nobuo Uematsu’s Final Fantasy soundtracks. She seemed to really enjoy some of the tracks from Final Fantasy VIII like Waltz For The Moon. I’ve also played her a lot of Nintendo soundtracks from Mario to Zelda to Kirby. Kirby’s Epic Yarn, specifically, is a fantastic soundtrack that is cheery, soft, and beautiful. It’s helped lull my daughter to sleep on multiple occasions.

On top of balancing a newborn, a full-time job, and my work on multiple online websites, I also have another very important person to spend time with, my girlfriend, the mommy of my child. She’s always been supportive of my involvement with video games, but the stress of parenthood and real life make it hard to simply shut myself in a room and perfect my Bayonetta 2 skills. There’s been multiple days where time gets away from me and I spend too much time with a game instead of with her, and it shows. I know I need to get my head out of my butt and make sure that my significant other knows she’s just as … no, she’s infinitely more important than trying out Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare just because it’s free (editor’s note: you should still try it out). And hey, as someone who usually sticks to single-player titles, maybe it’s time to really give these local multiplayer games a shot. Mommy needs to have some fun, too. Maybe some of the games in my vault will appeal to the lady.

Austin&Clem3

My Little Lady and I

It’s still really early to notice all the changes, and as my daughter grows up, things will change even more for our family. Games will always hold a place in my heart and home, and while things are definitely changing, I’m excited to see how. While my girlfriend may try turning her into a horror-loving, zombie-slaying, cutie-pie, I’m sure I’ll be shoving cartoons and controllers her way too. We both don’t want to force her into anything, but every parent wants to share their passion with their children in some way. I’ll be happy if I can just play a couple races in Mario Kart with her! We’ll have to see as time rolls on and don’t worry, I plan on keeping you all updated as things change.

Remember, just because some things change doesn’t mean that everything has to. Some people may feel like you have to give up your passion when you have a child, but you really don’t. You just have to work at it, manage your time, and re-prioritize. Take the steps to continue to be happy, because no child wants an unhappy parent. My name is Austin Clark, and I used to be a Gamer. Now I’m a Dad Who Games.