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Evolution of a Gamer Episode 2: Evolution of a Father (Classic EoG)

Back when I wrote for, I wrote this series, Evolution of a Gamer. With the site now defunct, it has disappeared from the internet. This was one of my favorite series of articles to write, where I teach my kids about video games and learn a little bit about real life myself in the process. I've decided to resurrect the series, because I've still had plenty of life lessons with my kids, but want new readers to be able to catch up. Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting the previous articles to get you up to speed. Without further ado, here's Episode 2! Only about 20 more before we catch up!

Dads have come a long way, but we have a long way to go, too. Ryan Johnson learns another lesson through teaching his son about gaming.

Dads have changed a lot through the years. I recently had a conversation with some friends of mine in their 80s: commenting on how Dad worked and that was it. Dad would occasionally go out to the pub after work when he wanted to, because he wanted to. Nothing negative was said; he wasn’t a drunk, it was just how it was for them.

I have a children’s book I will not show my son until he becomes a father himself. Simply entitled “Daddies,” it appears to be from the early 50s or even earlier. In that simple art style from that era, it talks about the fun things you do with Daddies: how they will take you to the store to buy an animal, but Mommy will help take care of it. How you let Daddy get home and sit and have his pipe and newspaper and not bother him for a while before he chooses to engage with you. This book is written for a beginner reader, and written in a light “lalala, this is the way the world works” yet very serious tone. Sure, Dads do fun stuff in this book, but there is a lot of propaganda putting Mom in her place and recognizing Daddy as the One in the household. I found this book at a yard sale, and was so appalled at it that I had to get it to show my son when he matures so he can see how far fathers have come and how important it is to have the modern outlook of parents.

I’ve got to admit, I’m still greedy when it comes to my video games. It’s my hobby, I’m getting him into my hobby,’s MY stuff. When my son first started gaming, he wanted to play with my portable Nintendo DS. I envisioned slobber...drops to the floor...flushing...and was worried. My wonderful wife helped me get over those fears, and while my DS may have picky shoulder buttons now, it still works, and my son’s joy in the games is worth it all. I still had a problem with memory, though. A game can suck away a large part of your life. As much as I enjoy my games, I take a bit of pride in the clock hours displayed on my save files.

My son had gotten into my New Super Mario Bros. cartridge, as well as my wife’s copy of Nintendogs. I watched him like a hawk, but one day he came to me wanting “the doggy back” when he had in fact sent it off to the pound permanently, or whatever you do in that game. Doggy is GONE. Mommy’s doggy that she put a lot of time into back in the day. Mommy isn’t worried, it’s just a game, but that day when he deleted my perfect Mario save was hard for me. If it had been perfected but not beaten yet, I may have gotten upset, but I know that it’s a simple, fun game. Part of the joy is getting through the game, so it’s not too bad to do it again. I patiently teach my son what NOT to hit on the main menu and continue.

Fast forward to this last weekend. My boy picks up the DS when I’m not looking, and flicks it on. But Mario isn’t in there. It’s my recently Goozex-received copy of Final Fantasy III. For any parents linking to this site who don’t know games, Final Fantasy is a deeply story-driven experience, with a lot of technical aspects. It’s like reading and controlling a good book that takes you 80 hours to read, whilst micro-managing a group of adventurers. Menu based combat rounds off the list of “things that I think a four-year-old won’t like.” The hairs on the back of my neck bristle. I’m 10 hours in. Imagine getting a quarter of the way through a book, coming to a climactic part of it, then being forced to read the entire beginning of the book over again before getting to see what happens: this is my fate if my son deletes this memory. My greed and possessiveness started itching. I sat down with him and tried to show him what it was about; all he wanted to do was make the little man move around. I show him some fun little things, like hidden rooms where he had to walk through “the blackness” to get to them. He thought that was cool, and I figured, “hey, here’s another way for us to work together on something.”
So we go on a two-hour drive. I bring my machine with me because I figure I might have a bit of down time, like on the way home with my kid sleeping in the back seat and if my wife needs to pick up one thing in a store or something. We’re driving down the road, and my son says, “Daddy, how do I get to the blackness?”
Uh-oh. He found the DS. Final Fantasy III is in it. I’m driving. I have NO CONTROL OF THE SITUATION.

Me: “Ummm...son? If you close it up, I’ll help you find it later.”

Him: “Daddy! I made it out of the castle!”

Oh no. He’s where he can access the save/delete menu. Me: “Just set it down for now, buddy. We’ll have fun with it later!”

The battle music starts. He could potentially kill my characters, or find some interesting way to accidentally save my party at a point I can no longer get anywhere. As these thoughts race through my mind, I suddenly hear something: The Final Fantasy Fanfare!

“DADDY! I GOT HIM!” My four-year-old son had just defeated a random battle on my Final Fantasy game using his logic to figure out what he should do with the stylus and touch screen! My fear suddenly turned into a swelling pride.

We go on to the next day, me a little less worried, when he comes up to me asking how to get into “the blackness” again. Hands me the DS, and I recognize that he has found his way into a secret room I didn't even know existed.

A fool I am for first off, thinking he would delete it, second, thinking he was incapable of it, but third and most important, worrying that something as trivial as a game save was worth fussing over. Dads are evolving. They are no longer the loner, plugging through life. I am so glad to live in this generation where I get to interact with my offspring in such ways. I am learning to let go of my pride and see what my son needs to be happy. I am more happy to be able to learn that we as Dads still have a long way to go. As I continue this series of articles, I genuinely think: who’s gonna have more lessons in these articles, me, or him?

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