Before I was out of diapers, I was playing video games. What I lacked in bowel control I made up for in joystick control. Video games hooked me on high scores, new adventures, and having all your base are belong to me.
Reflecting now, I can see how my gaming mindset has been shaped by platforming and role-playing games. I value precision and challenge from my platforming time with Mario, Samus, and Mega Man. Final Fantasy games drove me to desire perfection. I had to have every armor, secret, and defeat every boss. I could not simply play the game, but I had to experience everything the game has to offer.
When I became a dad, I dreamed of one day sharing my video game passion with my children. I have explored what video games would be good to start with. What games we can play together. Only now are my children getting to a point where they can play games with me. Only problem is I cannot handle it.
My daughter and I sat playing Stardew Valley. I invited her to explore the game with me. She was not able to read when we began, so I directed and narrated for her. Slowly she learned how to use the mouse and began being my clicker. It was sublime to share that time in a game she and I both enjoyed.
The more I played, the more the pressure to complete everything in a “day” consumed me. While I wanted to turn the farm into a money making machine, she wanted to try milking everything. When I say everything, I mean everything. She milked trees, chickens, dirt, rocks, buildings, people, crops, but not the cows. Her errant clicking became nails on a chalkboard. I became lucky to make it outside of the farm in the day as it repetitive milking stopped progress. Each time she cackled at the hilarious character milking a rock. Time began to slow, in game and out.
In that agonizing moment, I felt the tug of the dark side. She is killing the game it whispered to me. You will never be able to complete all the tasks now. All of your 50+ hours are now in vain. Grandfather will visit the virtual farm in the 3rd year and be so disappointed. The light side countered with how happy she was playing with me. Celebrate your precious time with her. It is not often that she begs to play with you. Do I have to sacrifice all of my games, progress, and hours leveling up for her? Half of me wants to scream “YES! That is what being a parent is!” While the other half counters with “your work, effort, energy, and enjoyment matter too.”
I was at a crossroads. I wanted the best of both worlds, joyful play and a complete game. An idea dawned on me. I offered to let her do any and all she wanted, as long as she did not go to bed in the game. Sneakily, I would ensure she would not save the game and then I would be able to go play it “correctly”. She completely ignored the farm, got on the bus and ventured out into the desert. She discovered new caves. Then when she was done, I turned it off. I patted myself on the back for great move.
Only problem is she can read now. She also knows about saving games and the implications of not doing so. Her dad had just thrown all her work in the trash. She called me out for what I had just done. All I had to fall back on was that I said we would not save when she began playing. The words sounded hollow now that they were out of the confines of my head.
I failed in that moment. I preserved my save, but I had ruined hers. Not a proud dad moment. But one I must live with, ask forgiveness for, and learn from. I now work on the farm at night, trying to make it self-sufficient with the dream of passing it on to her to do with as she pleases. Maybe that will redeem me. When I do pass on the farm, I know she will milk it for all it is worth.