Crispy Gamer

GamerParenting: What Is a GamerParent?

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Got kids? Do you miss having free time? Sleep? Do you wish you could spend more of your time playing games? Do you "make time" for games, rather than your spouse, when your kids are asleep? Are you planning ahead to introduce your child to the retro games and other favorites from your youth?

Here?s where I?m supposed to finish the joke with something like: Well, you just might be a GamerParent.

The truth is, there?s no "might" about it. The world is changing and doing so rapidly. One generation is slipping toward retirement, Generation X is pushing 40, and the average age of a gamer has soared to age 30. To the Boomers and most of Generation X, videogames are a mystery -- or they?re something remembered as a time-waster for children. They have no idea how cinematic and complex gaming has become. As the next generation comes along and has kids, they?re going to understand games better and we can stop all these stupid arguments about media violence and whether M-rated games adversely affect the kids. My point? If you?re a GamerParent, you?re not only in good company -- you?re in growing company. I didn?t get there first, but I saw it coming when few others did. Since then, over the past four years, I?ve seen newspaper journalists go from skepticism about the benefits of videogames to acceptance of that idea; I?ve seen the ESRB get more game-friendly; and I?ve seen competition in the form of WhatTheyPlay.com and CommonSense Media.org. Four years ago a column about parenting and gaming didn?t exist -- almost all the major magazines and sites rejected the idea. Now I?m at Crispy Gamer writing about the topic. If you?ll indulge me, let's look at how it all began.

Back in 1999 I was doing news for the now defunct CNet GameCenter Web site when . . . Columbine happened. While reporting on the piece I kept noticing that any mention of videogames was negative, inaccurate and inflammatory. Then, exactly a year later to the day, my first child was born. Yes, I celebrate April 20 (it?s also Hitler?s birthday, as if that date wasn?t infamous enough) as "Maggie?s Birthday."

Four years ago I pitched a "GamerDad" column and got nowhere. Nobody seemed to think it was a good idea -- a marketable idea -- until I met a few gamers with kids. GamerDad.com was born soon after (Father?s Day 2003) and I?m going on five years of advocacy.

I struggled for a while, gathered a small but passionate audience, a few contributors (including Dave Long of this site), and met the skeptics head-on. My message is pro-gaming, it?s pro-parenting, and it is non-judgmental. It culminated in 2005 when a major wire service (the AP) called me "the pioneer of the Gamerparent revolution!" and in 2007 when I performed my "GamingWithChildren" (based on my blog of the same name) speech in front of a crowded room at the Penny Arcade Expo.

So, there I am. I?m just trying to establish my bona fides here. I don?t think parental advocacy is something you brag about. The only difference between me and other experts is that I?m actually a gamer. I understand games and the people who play them.

Are you the kind of GamerParent who shields their kids from anything offensive? Are you the kind who lets 10-year olds play M-rated games? Are you the kind who doesn?t think about it? The kind surrounded by non-gamers who fear the hobby? -- if your answer is yes to any of those questions then I don?t judge you. All I care about is that you make your decisions after thinking about it and reasoning it out for yourself.

I can help you do that.

We?ll also talk about violence issues, news, games you might have missed, reasons beyond the ESRB to avoid certain games -- hey, I am famous for recommending Halo 2 and 3 to teenagers you know!

All of this is just an introduction, really. My first GamerParenting column was my Family Games of 2007 award show. Don?t worry if you missed it, viewership has been down across the board for all award shows lately, but do return every two weeks for more about the wild world of GamerParenting. You guys know your sh*t -- you?re not like the PTA groups I talk to -- you?re gamerparents. Visit my blog and come on back in two weeks for more!