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How to Keep in Touch With Sports Gaming as a Parent

MLB The Show 18

How to Keep in Touch With Sports Gaming as a Parent

Given that I’ve spent the past few months missing in action here at Operation Sports, it’s difficult to ignore the humor in my return topic: How to keep in touch with sports gaming as a new parent. Writing a primer on how to follow through with things while my previous piece was punctuated by a promised follow-up article that remains unfinished? That’s rich. But it does beg the question: Why did I never finish that follow-up article about slider in NBA 2K MyLeague?

Because fatherhood. That’s why.

Oh, I had every intention of finishing the concept that I had toyed around with for months. Hell, the first part even came after the birth of my son. This perhaps gave way to some undeserved sense of accomplishment — “okay, I can handle this,” I thought to myself, massaging a resistance that lived within me to hang on to as much of my pre-fatherhood life as I could. I even purchased a new sports game the week after my son was born!

Fast forward a few months, and here we are. My original article sits unaccompanied (at this point, I’m going to start over with NBA 2K20) and the game that was purchased the week after my son was born (MLB The Show 18 — yes, ’18 not ’19 — if you’re curious) has been collecting dust ever since I returned to work later that same week.

So what have I learned? A lot, actually.

You Will Have No Choice But To Play Fewer Video Games

This first point sounds obvious, but it cannot be overemphasized: your screen time will dramatically decrease. As it turns out, babies require a lot of attention. Who knew? This will mean a lot of different things in the long run, but one thing to remember is that less overall time with video games also means you’ll have to be more choosey on not just what game you play, but also which specific game modes you play within a given game. Before my son was born, I played a lot of WWE and NBA 2K. Since becoming a parent, I’ve focused all my sports gaming on my favorite sports game: NBA 2K.

Which means that WWE 2K and MLB The Show had to go bye-bye — for now. In fact, this isn’t a goodbye, it’s more of a see you later. I saw what was in front of me and realized I had no other choice to make. The only thing left was to decide which games were most important to me right now and, for me, that choice was easy. It may not be for you, but it’s one you should be prepared to make, because…

You Won’t Have Time For All The Modes All Of The Time

After cutting down my list, from the sports world I was left with just NBA 2K. I haven’t even bothered messing with MyPlayer lately. As a new parent, I simply don’t have the required grind time available to get my rating up to a level where I’d feel comfortable competing.

See, another thing you learn quickly is to value your kid-free time. The problem is, at least early on in the process, you don’t get a lot of sustained alone time. What you do get is sporadic and limited in scope. What this means is less time for eight-hour marathon sessions, to be replaced by multiple quick one-or-two-hour sessions.

Those quick sessions are enough to play a game or two. Or maybe start a franchise and sim a few seasons. Those are things I can play and complete and feel like I’m having a lot of fun. But if my spare time morphed into a laser-focus on MyPlayer grinding, then game time quickly becomes stress time for two reasons:

  1. It gets to feel like work at a certain point.
  2. No matter how hard I grind, my MyPlayer will still be way behind the pack.

I made the tough call to say goodbye to MyPlayer. I do miss it, but what I don’t miss is the never-ending feeling of always being behind, which has led to me having more fun while playing.

Remember This Is Supposed To Be Fun Not Frustrating

Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned over the past few months with respect to video games in general is to keep it stress free. This isn’t an issue for casual video game fans, but for hardcore gamers who are borderline obsessed, gaming can be stressful at times. It could be online cheesing, glitchy single-player gameplay, or a grind-focused career mode where you always feel 100 steps behind the next guy. Whatever the case, sometimes, the negative can feel heavier than the positive.

As a parent, it’s best to avoid that altogether. You’re already tired and stressed enough from everyday life. Video games should serve as an escape — a way to relax and have some fun. If you get to that all-too-familiar rage point where you have the urge to throw the controller against the wall, don’t. Shut down the game and give something else a try. If you allow yourself to get too worked up, you aren’t having fun anymore, and you might eventually reach the point where you’re so frustrated that you no longer want to play.

And that’s not what this is about. This is about how to have fun gaming as a parent, so focus on having fun!

It’s Okay To Make Time For Gaming

Being a parent is the greatest thing in the world, but it can sometimes feel like the most stressful, overwhelming job you’ll ever have. You’ll need video games to keep your sanity. After eight-plus hours at the office and four hours of a screaming child, sometimes you just want to shoot a virtual ball through a virtual hoop. And that’s fine! Depending on how your home setup is, if you’re fortunate enough to know in advance when you’re going to have some personal time, make sure to leave some time for gaming. Maybe it’s just a quick 30 minutes as you have to pay some bills online and want to read a book as well. Or maybe it’s a full two hours as you really just want to zone out and decompress. Whatever it is, make time for it. You deserve it.

Involve Your Kid At An Early Age

Not just in the video game, but the actual sport itself. After my son was born in August, I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a little more than a week at home with him before going back to work. Unfortunately, there are no NBA games in August. But lucky for us, NBA TV was in the middle of a Classic Games series where they picked one featured team each day, and on that day, they would show nothing but classic games involving that day’s team. This was especially clutch during the up-all-night feeding and crying sessions. Having some basketball on as background noise kept me focused, but it also introduced my son to basketball from the jump.

He’s barely nine months old, so I know he doesn’t actually understand the game just yet. It’s probably more about the sounds and moving colors, but he does perk up when it’s on the television. This has translated to virtual basketball as well. It’s something with which he’s familiar, which allows me some extra non-fussy time for me to get a few extra minutes of play time.

And if you’re really trying to sweeten the deal, let him have his own controller. Whether it’s a current one you use with a drained battery, or an old broken controller you’ve yet to throw away, hand it over and let him go to town. He can entertain himself while also slowly familiarizing himself with the video game world.

What about all of you video game parents out there? How did you balance gaming with your responsibilities as a new parent? Let us know in the comments below.

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  1. Great read!* I have two young kids* as well and can relate.* *For me, jumping into quicker game modes was my immediate fix.* Right now, I'm playing MLB The Show 19, an d no longer focus on playing 162 games in a franchise season or building a RTTS player from the ground up.* Instead, I've hopped into quicker game modes such as "Moments" missions and "Road to October".* Both game modes can be played fairly quickly and don't require a huge time investment.* More importantly, you can break away from these game modes quickly and not feel guilty about turning off your PS4 (or keeping it running) if fatherly duties call.
    Another thing I have done to maximize my gaming time is divide my PlayStation systems up between upstairs (PS2/PS3) and downstairs (PS4) of my home.* Having two gaming areas comes in handy when my kids or wife want to watch TV and I feel like gaming for a little bit.* My end goal is to have a single setup upstairs for everything.* If you don't have an area for multiple setups, look into adding games on your PC or even iOS/Android device as well.* I've gotten my oldest into video games and tablet app stores have a ton of addicting games for kids.
    My last piece of advice for parents who enjoy sports gaming is to learn to "come to terms" with your current situation.* When my wife and I had our first child, I tried my hardest to squeeze the same amount of gaming hours out as before.* This led to some late nights and when you have newborn child, a full-time job and other things on your plate, it honestly is not worth it.* Fast forward to last year when my wife and I had our second child, my gaming hours declined to the point where there were some weeks I didn't even turn on my PlayStation.* Its a weird feeling and something that you eventually find peace in as you are starting to value time with your kids, sleep, etc. instead of a new yearly sports title.**
    This is real right here. My daughter is turning 2 in a month and the last two years have been an adventure in video gaming. It gets better. As they get older and a little more independent, you find more time to sneak away and game.
    I've given up on sports game for now because the time commitment doesn't make sense for me. Plus, it's very difficult to know for sure if I have an hour to game. As independent as she might be now, she's still going to randomly cry for no reason and I have to (and want to) be there for her. Combine that with my biggest fear in gaming being that it's the 4th quarter and the game suddenly shuts down, I'd be panicking if I'm playing with her while my (very important) game is on pause. What if the power goes out!
    There's still joy to be had in the games out there. And if the there's in-game saves, then you're set. I'm actually looking forward to getting back into sports games soon again. I just don't think I'll be doing any of the MyPlayer stuff for a long time. Maybe not till she's old enough to want to create her own player.
    I understand you're talking about 'free time' but you'll never get the time back with your child(ren), value them above all else.  Or sit in front of a computer and have serious regrets later on.  Your choice.  I choose the former and it's not even close.
    Great article and well said Dave, you will never get this time back with your young children, one day they will be adults and you'll wonder where the time went. Got a 20 month old here, and I found the best approach is no gaming while she is awake. Hence most of my gaming is from 7-9pm on days where I can be bothered. Sometimes even gaming seems too much.
    Yup it's tough...I got 3 small kids under 8 yrs old and really buying the Switch is the only way I've really been able to game.  It's portable, I can game in the living room and still be engaged with the family in the evening.  Plus with the Switch on a stand I'm not "taking over" the TV with my video games.  
    Here's hoping more sports games come to the Switch.  
    Great post. When my kiddo was born 19 months ago, my online sports buddies said, "see you in two years." They weren't wrong.
    I'm finding - as most said here - quick hit modes are best, and/or action/adventure games that could be picked up/put down 15 min at a time.
    Most importantly - likewise echoed here - the time spent with your little lad/lass at this age is priceless. It means so much to them, and you'll miss it if you don't invest in it.
    I spent too much time as a kid holed up playing video games by myself. I won't do that to my kid.

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