Five months ago, I let you all know about how my life as a gamer has changed with the birth of my first child. Now that it’s been half a year and I’ve been watching my daughter, grow up, guess what? I’m still playing video games. What’s changed? Well, a lot of what I talked about in my last piece still stands true–time and money for games has certainly dwindled–but now I have a much clearer understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

I have a full-time job that has absolutely nothing to do with video games, and it’s slowly becoming the one part of my life that is absolutely soul-crushing. It was great when I started… now? Not so much. But my girlfriend, Alison, and I are planning on buying a house soon, so that means I have to stick with it. The money isn’t amazing, but it’s steady, reliable, and about right for my skillset. And buying a house means that buying video games has become a math problem no genius can solve.

Get 'em while they're young!

Get ’em while they’re young!

Budgeting is something I hate doing, but sometimes it’s necessary. I’ve lived most of my life pretty comfortably. I know how to save and I don’t spend more than I make. Before, it was easy to drop $200+ on the games I wanted in any particular month. After some bills, there wasn’t much I needed money for. Now, we have a lot we need money for. We’re constantly buying new things to provide for the little one. They grow up faster than you can imagine. My 6-month-old daughter, Clementine, is already wearing clothes for 12-year-olds. In fact, where I used to spend $200 on games in a month, I now spend that same amount in one day buying her brand new clothes that I hope will fit her for at least a couple months.

I’m trying my best to spend only $100 a month on games, and so far it’s going pretty well. Some months I’ve gone a little over, but I’ve balanced it by staying under in other months. It’s actually pretty funny how meticulous I’ve become in looking over each week’s releases, creating a pro/con chart in my head to decide what titles will actually make the cut.

What games make the cut? Well, throughout the last few months some of the games I’ve spent the most time with include Final Fantasy Type-0, Bloodborne, Broken Age, Life is Strange, Mortal Kombat, The Witcher 3, and Suikoden 2. It’s easy to see I’ve got a thing for RPGs. Thanks to their deep systems, epic stories, and huge time investment required, RPGs can be perfect for those of us hoping to get the most bang for our buck. The only downside: some are so long that with my limited amount of play time, the experiences can overstay their welcome. Suikoden II is unanimously one of the greatest PS1 JRPGs you can find and here I am, starting to lose my interest in it after two months of the same thing over and over.

They grow up quick.

They grow up quick.

The other set of games focuses on my efforts to try and incorporate Alison into my gaming experiences. She loved playing TellTale’s The Walking Dead–mainly because she loves zombies–so I thought the point and click style of Broken Age or Life is Strange would be a smooth transition for her. She just started Broken Age and seems to like it; after playing a little bit of Vella’s story she told me, “I like it. It sort of reminds me of The Hunger Games so far.” I’m excited for her to check out Shay’s side. Life is Strange is a little different. When it comes to this game, she enjoys watching me play just to take in the story and characters. The last game, Mortal Kombat, is obvious. When we get frustrated  we can beat the crap out of each other! Plus, Jason Vorhees as a playable character is a big plus for her.

And that’s really been the most important thing I’ve realized over the past few months. Having a baby will instantly bond a couple in ways that parents only understand (sorry, Will), but it’s also one of the toughest challenges a couple can ever go through. When you notice that the two of you haven’t spent a day alone with each other in over a month, it’s easy to feel like some of the love has lost its magic. You both put so much love into your child that you can’t forget to continue to nurture your relationship with your significant other as well. Over the past few months, every single game I’ve bought, I’ve thought about Alison and what she might think of it. If there’s absolutely nothing she’d be interested in, I usually pass it up. She’s not the gamer I am, but I want to share my passion with her if it’s ever possible.

The real truth is that six months into parenthood, I haven’t been playing games anywhere close to the amount I used to. I’m okay with that. I come home from work and instantly play with Clementine who’s rolling around, laughing, and growing up before my eyes. I spend more free time with my beautiful girlfriend by doing more things that we have an equal investment in. I like games way more than she does, so it’s not fair to constantly drag her along to try out something new. Instead, we’ll grab a couple beers and watch the Blackhawks play. Or we’ll go take a walk. Or make a pizza together. And it’s pretty great! Here’s a revelation for you all: I’ve learned that parenthood isn’t just about nurturing a child, but it’s also about nurturing the relationship with the other parent.

We don't normally dress up but when we do...

We don’t normally dress up but when we do…

Alison, if you read this, I love you, babe.