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May 27, 2012

Gamer Mom

I've been thinking for a couple of days that I should write something about Gamer Mom. OK, backtracking a little for non-gamers and people whose gaming is confined to games that are primarily for entertainment. There is a genre of games that are really about handling a hard-to-discuss topic through the medium of gaming. Most of them I find a bit shallow, but I think this one is rather good. This is a game about family breakdown and personal obsessions. I haven't won it yet (you win by persuading your family to join you in a game of 'World of Warcraft', which sounds like an odd sort of victory to me, but there you go) but I've spent some time trying. I find the actual time spent playing distressing; anyone who's ever spent any time in any sort of human relationships will recognise a lot of the responses.

A commenter ('mechtroid') on the excellent gaming blog Rock, Paper, Shotgun, checked out the source code and discovered a massive easter egg; the comments include the author's story of how he came to write the game based on his personal family experiences. He's (no surprises here) a videogame-monologuing Aspie who struggles to engage his family in the things that interest him.

I had two major insights from playing the game and reading the backstory. The first harked back to the parenting course we did last year, Webster Stratton Incredible Years. One of the first things the course teaches is 'special time', which is short, daily, and (critical this) child-led. Now, with Jonathan we had to put some restrictions around gaming, so that he could not choose, every day, to play games on the iPad while we watched. But even so we allowed some of that. The author of this game, despite now being in his 20s, never got enough 'special time' with either of his parents. He's still living with them, and he still doesn't.

The second is that we're all gamers round here; and my family were all gamers too. I'm sure there are lots of ways in which our family is odd, but we have this; playing games together is just part of what you do if you're a family. Eating meals together without electronic devices at the table, too, but I think that's another story.

Posted by Alison Scott at May 27, 2012 11:00 AM


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