Tuesday 14 January 2014

Why I won't buy a Wii U

A recent episode of Adam Sessler's 'Sessler's Something' addressed the question of if the Wii U can be salvaged. He indicated that the core first party Nintendo titles have failed to stir up a interest for the console, and in part blamed the clunky controllers for the Wii U's failure. I'm not a Nintendo hater, I own a Wii and have an NES and SNES in my collection. But I'm not interested in buying the Wii U. Here's why, for me, the Wii U has failed.

1) Crappy hardware.

Graphics aren't everything, and as a fan of retro gaming I will be right up on the front lines defending the gameplay > graphics argument. And yes, historically many Nintendo consoles have been the under powered option - but also the market leader. But the difference in technical ability between the Wii U and the Xbox One / PS4 is extreme - to the point that many developers have completely lost interest in developing for the Wii U altogether.

Here's the thing, as a PC gamer (and a new father with limited cash) I'm likely to only own one console this generation. I own a PS3 for two reasons - 1) to play the cross platform console titles that don't see a PC release, and 2) to play games which PC release will be hugely delayed and I want to get on the hype train now. If developers aren't releasing those games on the Wii U then there is very little reason for me to own the system. I will happily give up the Nintendo exclusive titles to play the likes of GTA 5 right now.

This brings me to my next point....

2) Nostalgia gaming.

Nintendo is relying very heavily on its legacy IP's (Mario, Zelda, etc...) to sell the system. This just doesn't do it for me. Now don't get me wrong, I get nostalgia gaming and I get exploiting established franchises. I've bought Baldur's Gate a total of 4 times since 1998 (the original 5 CD release, the Baldur's Gate 1 & 2 twin pack which came out c.2005, the release, and the Enhanced Edition), and I revisit that game every couple of years for a play through. Nostalgia gaming works. I get it.

But Nintendo's reliance on it's core franchises doesn't push me towards the Wii U for a couple of reasons;

1) In the early 90s New Zealand was firmly Sega territory, and in the late 90s and early 2000s it was PlayStation. The first time I played a Nintendo console wasn't until 1999 when a friend picked up a Nintendo 64 - and the only game I really played was 007 Golden Eye. I didn't see an NES or SNES until a few years ago. I didn't grow up with Nintendo, and I simply don't have any nostalgia or brand loyalty for the old Nintendo characters. That's not too say the games are necessarily bad. But simply announcing a new Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Pikmin or Metroid title simply isn't going to get me hyped into buying any console. And I have absolutely no interest in playing re-releases like Wind Waker HD.

2) While the games themselves are for the most part fairly good, they mostly cover genres for which the market is very well saturated. I can get very good platformers, racing games and action RPGs on Steam or right now, sometimes for as little as a couple of dollars per title. Without any emotional or nostalgic attachment to the Nintendo characters or franchises there simply isn't much drive for me to choose a core Nintendo title over any of the many available alternatives. I'm not prepared to pay NZ$469.99 for the Wii U console, plus NZ$108 per game, just so I can have the privilege of playing as Mario when I can get my platformer fix right now on my PC with something like They Bleed Pixels for as little as $10.

And, to be really honest, some (certainly not all, but some) of the games in the Nintendo core franchises are over rated. Example - One of the first games I got when I bought my Wii was The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. This was the first Zelda game I ever played, and I just don't get the hype. It's not a bad game, I guess, but it is a very very average action RPG. It felt very linear, dated, and kind of dumbed down. Just a very hollow overall experience. Maybe Twilight Princess was just a bad title to be introduced to the Zelda universe. But the game felt like it was more interested in exploiting nostalgia rather than presenting a cutting edge gameplay experience. 'Hey remember this sound effect from the 80s?'. 'Remember this boomerang weapon?'. 'Remember fishing? That was cool right?'. 

In the end there are just so many action RPG's, wRPG's and cRPG's out there that just blow Twilight Princess away in terms of gameplay, complexity and immersion that I just can't justify buying a new console to play a middle-of-the-road title like Zelda.

If Nintendo was to branch out into some new and innovative IP's then I could get on board with the Wii U. The Wii U gamepad is just begging for the right game to come along that utilises its full potential. The touchscreen essentially allows for unlimited button configurations and data presentation optons. How about about a good solid space combat sim similar to X-Wing where the combat is played on the TV, and the shield and weapon configurations, ships systems, communications, targeting systems, and tactical maps are displayed on and controlled by the touchscreen in real time. Each ships system being presented on its own screen, with each screen allocated to a face button to bring it up. How about some RTS games using the touchscreen like a laptop track pad? A Dungeon Keeper remake? Or how about ignoring the gamepad altogether and just provide some titles with deep immersive gameplay and worlds to explore?

Nintendo, give me a unique gameplay experience that I can't get on other consoles and I'll buy your system!

X-Wing on Wii U - I'd buy it!

3) Franchise bloat.

This point is more of a weaker argument, but I'm the kind of gamer that likes to enter a story from the ground floor. Any series which has a developing story line between games, or recurring characters, I want to play in order starting from the first game. It's just how I want to do it. But the Nintendo core franchises have such long lineages that playing every game in the series is out of the question.

4) I own a Wii.

This is perhaps the biggest reason for why I'm not interested in a Wii U. I got my Wii about a year after it was released, and until I got my PS3 in 2012 it was my only 7th generation console. As I said above, prior to 2006 Nintendo wasn't a big player in New Zealand. The Wii was the first Nintendo console to really penetrate the NZ market, and it was the first Nintendo console I ever owned or had any real experience with. And it wasn't very good.

Controls. Back in 2006 Nintendo was hyping motion controls as the next big thing. It was going to revolutionise how we played games.  The first run of TV commercials showed the Wii being played with what appeared to be near 1 to 1 motion capture. Gaming would never the same. And all this carried a lot of weight coming from Nintendo, who had reputation of producing top quality products.

I was seriously considering buying the console, but it wasn't until I played Wii Sports while waiting in an airport for an international flight that I decided that I would pick one up. Like everyone, my first game of Wii Sports tennis involved making proper heavy swings with the Wiimote, mimicking a real tennis racket. I thought it was awesome - the gameplay that this machine would allow would be absolutely phenomenal. Lightsaber or sword fights where you actually participated in the action - slashing, blocking and thrusting rather than just hitting X and Y. Harry Potter games where you actually cast spells with the Wiimote. New platformers where the characters responded to your movements. And gameplay experiences that I hadn't even imagined... This was how the Wii got you. It wasn't until you purchased the Wii and got it home that you realised what you were really in for.

The reality was that the Wiimote was far from a revolutionary control system. The controller used a rudimentary system for tracking 3d movement, meaning that true 1 to 1 motion tracking was impossible. Instead any small movement in the right direction was often enough to register as a command - leading to the infamous Wii waggle. For me this really took away from the enjoyment of the system. Wii Sports just wasn't as fun once I realised that a small wrist flick would be enough to send the ball screaming. And combat in Twilight Princess was far from revolutionary - Nintendo's great 'revolution' was to attack the enemies with furious wrist flicks - the equivalent of the furious mouse clicking in Diablo. It wasn't until the PlayStation Move came out that I had the true combat experience, through Sports Champions, that I had been promised by the Wii's marketing. 

To be honest I think Nintendo knew that the Wiimote sucked - the majority of Nintendo's core franchises only made light use of motion control, and Nintendo certainly didn't try anything overly revolutionary with it's own product.

And now the Wii U gamepad is the thing that Nintendo is hailing as revolutionary. Sorry Nintendo, I'm not just going to take your word for it this time... Show me the games!

Peripherals. The Wii was a peripheral graveyard. Giving the Wii a fair chance, I bought two Wii Motion Plus Wiimote add-ons when they were released in 2009. Excluding Wii Sports Resort and Wii Play: Motion (which were little more than tech demos) how many first party Nintendo games support Wii Motion Plus on the Wii? Two... How many 3rd party games required the Wii Motion Plus to play? One...

For Christmas 2008 I got the Wii Fit balance board from my parents. Excluding Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus (the tech demo games of that peripheral) how many first party Nintendo games support Wii Fit? One... Wii Music. According to wikipedia 120 games were released by 3rd party developers - most of which were shovelware knock-offs of Wii Fit.

Both Wii Motion Plus and the Wii Fit balance board were peripherals that Nintendo released and then dropped straight away. Both were completely under utilised, and both were a waste of money. Nintendo very much came across as a company more interested in dumping hardware onto the market and then relying on 3rd party developers to find a use for it and make it fun.

And that's before we even look at the countless plastic tennis rackets and swords released by Nintendo and 3rd parties. The Nerf N-Strike game which bundled a shovelware game with an ok Nerf blaster. Tony Hawk's Shred which bundled a shovelware game with a barely functional shovelware skateboard controller - a controller which itself was never used again.

Sometimes the Wii felt like a peripheral dumping zone. A console where Nintendo was happy to let itself and 3rd parties gouge the audience with cheap and crappy peripherals designed to make a quick buck rather than add to the overall gameplay experience. It made the Wii feel incredibly cheap.

The Games. There were simply very few games that I wanted to play on the system. I've already gone through my lack of interested towards the core Nintendo franchises, but on top of that the system also suffered from a glut (especially in the earlier years) of lazy barely playable shovelware - and extremely poor ports from other consoles, particularly PS2 titles, where the functions of the left analogue stick had been simply mapped to the Wiimote. Developers were extremely apprehensive about developing AAA titles for the system - due in no small part to the Wii's low technical specs, which is something the Wii has in common with the Wii U.

On the Wii you had to slog through a lot of crap to find the good games. And you had to check reviews absolutely every time you purchased anything - really check them. Yea you should be checking reviews anyway, but there are certain titles or developers for which on any other system you could expect a minimum gameplay experience. This wasn't true of the Wii - you couldn't just pick up a title and expect a good, or at least playable, gameplay experience - regardless of who made it or if it was part of an otherwise good franchise. For example, another very early game I picked up was Call of Duty 3. Normally I know what to expect from a CoD game. But on the Wii all they had done was an extremely sloppy port, and the controls absolutely sucked. This quote from sums it up;

It feels like the developers hadn't played with a Wii for a great deal of time before doing this control structure as it's so full of little problems that ruin the game. For instance you have the grenade woes. To access grenades (a vital part of any good soldiers arsenal) you push on the d-pad. Doing this invariably means moving the Wiimote, thus adjusting your aim and finally meaning that when you do throw your grenade (by a flick of the nunchuck) that it will not be on target. The anger felt as you see a grenade hit off of a piece of scenery and land at your feet purely down to poor controls is quite spectacular.

For me the the Nintendo seal of Quality simply means the game will run on a Nintendo console, and it has a 70% chance of being shovelware or a lazy port.

The Wii didn't do anything to make me feel that Nintendo is a worth putting my money into. I'm not going to be picking up a Wii U until I can see some sort of guarantee that I won't get a repeat experience of the Wii.

Wrapping it Up.

So there we have it. I certainly don't want Nintendo to fail - competition in the market place is the best for the gaming community as a whole. And who really wants to see a company that has been part of gaming since 1889 bite the dust? But we are far from the golden age of Nintendo. This is not the same Nintendo of the 80s and 90s which almost single-handedly saved console gaming in the United States, and ushered in a period of genre building and innovation in the console space. Once Nintendo gets some of that old glory back I'll be right there to pick up a console.

Saturday 4 January 2014

Quake Review

ID software’s 1996 classic. This game was one of my favourites growing up, with the shareware version being pre-installed on the first PC the family purchased back in the mid 90s. I used to get up early on Sunday mornings (we weren’t allowed to play games on a Saturday.... parents....) around 6am so I could sneak in a couple of hours before anyone else got up and kicked me off. Quake, Quake 2 and Quake 3 were a big part of my gaming childhood. With the re-release of Quake on Steam, and my limited time to game, Quake naturally fell into my inventory of games I could easily play on the go.

But this was the first time I had played Quake in almost 12 years. Does the game still hold up today in the modern world of dynamic lighting, 1080p, and real time environmental physics? Read on dear viewer!


The game does have a story - one that it shamelessly ripped off from ID software's older title: Doom. Scientists experimenting with teleportation technology accidentally connect their transporter network to that belonging to the evil demi-God like creature Shub-Niggurath (code named Quake), who proceeds to send monsters through the teleportation network to take over the human bases as a first stepping stone in a plan to take over the entire human realm. The first wave of human defenders sent in to stop the attack were slaughtered and reanimated as grunts fighting for Shub-Niggurath. You, as the last surviving member of Operation Countstrike, are tasked with singlehandedly stopping the invasion.

But just like Doom, the story of Quake is little more than an excuse to have you blasting monsters. The game is split into 4 episodes plus a final boss battle. And at the end of each episode you are given a wall-of-text giving you a simple exposition. Instead, Quake is a first person shooter in the purest sense of the term. There are no cut scenes. No dialogue. No squad mates. No branching story. No plot twists. No relationships. And no mission objectives. It's just you, a pile of guns, and 28 levels full of bad guys that need to be dispatched in the most efficient way possible. That's it. The story is simply the briefest excuse for the on screen carnage, and Snub-Niggurath is the PC equivalent of 'sorry Mario, but our princess is in another castle!'.

In the current era of gaming where even the most basic of shooters have some sort of dramatic story telling element, Quake's story and exposition has fallen woefully behind. Does this matter? For me it didn't. This is exactly what I wanted as I was only going to be playing in occasional half hour blasts. Still, the game makes many references to the Cthulu mythos of H.P. Lovecraft including the names of several maps, the end boss Shub-Niggurath, the episode 1 boss Chthon, and monsters like the shambler. Playing the game I had the feeling that there was supposed to have been a more intricate story involving the Lovecraft mythos which had been cut during development.

If you are a heavily story driven person, or enjoy deep well thought out worlds, then I could see Quake getting fairly boring fairly quickly.


Graphically this game was a beast back in the day, and the graphics still do look good. Obviously not mind blowing compared to today’s AAA titles – but certainly acceptable given the age of the title. For the most part the PC managed to avoid that awkward, and sometimes very ugly, ultra low polygon count 3D with ultra low res textures that blighted many console games of the the Nintendo 64/Playstation generation. And Quake is no exception.

Something that I wasn't able to do as a child was play the game in opengl mode - 3D accelerator cards being hugely expensive at the time it was completely out of my reach. Today opengl mode helps pull the graphics to a very acceptable standard. The environment artwork is very sharp; while the textures are a little pixellated they don’t tend to be muddy, everything looks like what it is supposed to look like, and it is easy to determine different objects in the game world from one another. There is a little texture stretching here and there where the developers have applied a smaller texture to a larger surface where it wasn't designed to fit, causing the texture to become deformed. But this is limited, and you likely won't notice it unless you are actively looking for it. There is also little obtrusive aliasing, with lines and edges looking crisp and sharp for the most part.  

Grunt (image
The character models are also very well done, with character frames having a reasonably high poly count, and skinned with reasonably detailed textures. Character and weapon animations are also very fluid.

And this is before you even get to the many fan made texture mods which have come out over the years which easily push the texture graphics and lighting up to something more reminiscent of a game released in the mid 2000s.

On the down side, the graphics engine doesn't seem to support curved environmental elements. As a result every room in Quake is made up of straight lines. Rooms and corridors are often perfectly box shaped, with perfect 90 or 45 degree angles everywhere you look. There are no arched doorways or windows, no curved ceilings, and columns are square. Everything in the Quake environmental design is rectangular. The game also features no true outdoor spaces, and very few decorative elements (trees, statues, wall panels and such). Finally, while the wall textures are very well done, the walls themselves are perfectly smooth. Tactile texturing (for example the curvature of rivets on a wall, or the gaps between floor tiles) was achieved by using shadow in the 2D wall textures to depict a 3D shape. 

All this does tend to give the levels a little bit of an inorganic, artificial, plastic feel. It doesn't really feel like you are battling through an actively lived in and used military base or other dimension stronghold. Instead the levels tend to feel fake, missing that little something to push them over the uncanny valley. Most of the time this was inconsequential, but I did find my immersion and suspension of disbelief rattled a few times over my play through.

But all in all, for a game that came out in 1996 the graphics are exceptional and should put no one off trying the game. 
Quake 1 level select and level 1 screen shots


Excluding the two bosses, Quake features a total of 13 unique enemies to fight against. The enemy roster includes fish, rottweilers, grunts (possessed humans), enforcers (laser gun wielding possessed humans), fiends, knights, death knights, zombies, ogres, scrag, spawn, vore, and shamblers.

While the enemy roster is limited ID did a great job of giving the enemies diverse AI. Yes, human enemies, dogs, fish and knights can be dispatched by sneezing at them, but most of the other enemies have unique attacks and weaknesses. Zombies can only be killed by explosive weapons. Ogres will spam you with grenades from a distance, and will rush you with a devastating chainsaw melee attack if you get too close. Fiend's will run at you with speed and jump at the last moment to avoid your shots to land a massive melee attack. Scrag can fly, attacking you from multiple angles. Vore attack from a massive range with tracking missiles that can chase you around corners. And the shambler is a massive waking bullet sponge with a long range lightning attack. On there own each monster is fairly easy to take down. But when put together it does make for some genuinely intense, and extremely fun, battles. 

ID also did a great job with weapon designs. The game features 8 weapons ranging from a melee battle axe, shot guns, nail guns, rocket and grenade launcher, and lightning gun. Each weapon feels genuinely powerful, and satisfying to use. And each has its own weaknesses and strengths that you will need to master to get through the game. Unlike modern titles you can carry all the weapons at once. And if you want to survive in Quake you will need to know under what situations to deploy each weapon to maximise damage and ammo.

At its best Quake's combat is twitchy, it requires quick assessment of your surroundings and even quicker reflexes. It requires quick cycling of your weapons the keep on top of the changing situation. You have to keep on top of your often very limited ammo. And you have to be able to anticipate which attack type is going to hit you next, and from where. The game doesn't hold your hand; there is no regenerating health, no cover system, no assisted aiming. In short, when it's done right, combat can be an absolute a blast.

Grunt vs battle axe

That said, in my recent play through I did find that Quake could become fairly repetitive. Not to the point where I wanted to stop playing over the course of the week, but I couldn’t see me sitting down to an 8 hour marathon session. I think the gameplay has two major problems;

1) Limited artwork. The 4 episodes each feature 7-8 levels, with each level going into a loose sci-fi, medieval, or fortress/cavern theme which does provide some aesthetic variability. But the colour pallet is dark, the number of unique textures and design elements very limited, and with all levels comprising of tight square corridors and caverns with little additional decoration the levels do begin to feel a bit samey. From a purely graphical standpoint when you’ve seen one dimly lit grey and tan hallway with a gold pentagram switch on the wall you may as well have seen every dimly lit grey and tan hallway with a gold pentagram switch on the wall. 

The limited artwork is not helped by the fact that the 4 episodes arrange the levels in more or less the same order; sci-fi military bases, followed by medieval environments, followed by fortress/caverns.  There were certainly times when I thought 'hey have I played this level before in one of the other episodes?'.

Ogres - get used to these guys... (

2) Variety of enemies. While the AI diversity is good, each level only uses around 4-5 of the available enemy types. Rottweilers, possessed humans, and knights are only present in the first 1-3 levels of each episode, while at the same time death knights, shamblers, spawn and vore are only really used from levels 3-4 onwards. On top of that zombies are sparingly used during the first two episodes of the game. And you can commonly go an entire level without seeing a single fish. 

This direction was obviously taken to give each episode a ramping difficulty between levels. But it means that you will be fighting against the same 4-5 enemies A LOT. Ogres seem to make up about 85% of the enemies that you will fight in the first episode.

Finally, while the combat in Quake can be absolutely fantastic when done right the truly great battles only occur towards the end of the game in episodes 3 and 4. Even then they are fairly few and far between, and given the small number of available enemies often play out in a similar way. Most battles in Quake are fought against groups of 1-3 units of the same type - and are fairly linear in their execution. At least this was true of the normal difficulty level which is what I played through.

Level design

If anything it is the level design where Quake is its best. I'm sure everyone is familiar with the image of FPS map design that appeared on reddit a few years back. Like all ID shooters of this period Quake really exemplifies this. Each level is a maze requiring you to find your own way through, collecting keys, flipping switches, finding secrets, and killing bad guys. The level design is absolutely superb - no levels feel particularly too large or frustrating to find your way through, but provide the right amount of difficulty to make you feel like you've accomplished something in getting to the end. 

Quake is a classic, and alongside titles like Doom, Duke Nukem 3D and Half Life deserves its position as one of the influential FPS titles of the 1990s. Quake has aged remarkably well, and many of the short comings are from game play philosophy of the time rather than outright pour design decisions. That said in many ways Quake is a difficult game to recommend to a modern audience. 

Personally I really enjoyed my latest play through of Quake, playing the game over the course of a week in half hour to one hour stints. If you are a retro gamer wanting to experience ye old games of yor, or chasing a nostalgia buzz, then I absolutely recommend revisiting the game. There is nothing here that should put you off giving Quake a go, and as long as you know what you are getting into then you will have a great time.

But can I recommend Quake to a modern audience who never played the game before? Arguably more modern titles have done what Quake did, with more advanced graphical engines and sound assets. Painkiller: Hell and Damnation will give you a similar experience to Quake while providing arguably better gameplay and, depending on your tastes, more interesting weapons. So while Quake is a very good game in its own right, more recent titles may be of more entertainment value to a modern audience.

Thursday 2 January 2014

Gaming as a Father

6 months later.... While I had every intention of keeping this blog updated, the second half of 2013 is a complete blur to me. And with that said...

I would to announce the arrival of my daughter, Abigail, who was born on October 30th at a healthy 3.075KG.

The last half of 2013 has been the busiest I have ever been outside of university. My wife and I had already booked the venue for our wedding back in December 2012, and when we got pregnant decided we would keep the set date of October 12th.  At the time it felt like the sensible thing to do – deposits had been made, a photographer and celebrant had been booked, and shifting things around seemed like it would be a colossal pain.... what could go wrong? But here’s the thing - planning a wedding, setting up for a baby, and trying to buy a house all at the same time was nightmare. There wasn’t much time for gaming – let alone blogging!

But in the end it all worked out. The wedding itself was great. We had a 1890s theme, complete with top hats, vests, frock coats, and fob watches. We held it at Ferrymead Heritage Park which is a recreation (complete with working trams) of 1910 Christchurch. We made it a day time wedding, made sure plenty of non-alcoholic drinks were available, and made it more of a sit down affair. The ceremony was amazing, we had written our own vows and the bridesmaids and groomsmen walked up the aisle to the Deep Space 9 theme, and everyone left the church to the Throne Room tune from Star Wars IV. The celebrant later emailed to say that it was one of the best ceremonies he had ever done. The heritage park was then open for everyone to enjoy before the reception started that afternoon.

With the exception of a few minor hiccups (which in hindsight could probably have been avoided – maybe I’ll blog about it in the future), the day went really well.  

Due to complications Abby was born unexpectedly just two weeks after the weeding by caesarean section following an induced labour. 

So what’s it like? Challenging, tiring, sometimes very frustrating, and for the first few weeks you will go through a little bit of ‘oh crap I have a baby now – what do I do’ shock. But overall it is very rewarding, very satisfying, and you’ll enjoy every moment of it.  

It is hard, no doubt about it. It’s a commitment, one that will completely change your life.

On a good night Abby will sleep from around 11pm to 3:00am, then again from about 3:30am to 6:00am. And on a bad night she will be up every hour. Luckily I have a fantastic wife who is happy to do the overnight stuff so I can get enough sleep to function reasonably ok at work the next day. But still my wife and I have not had a full night sleep since Abby was born, and we’re both exhausted.

And sometimes she’ll cry just because she can... and when you’re already tired it can be a real trial to keep your cool.

And everything has an extra layer of difficulty to it. Want to go out for a walk? Better add an extra hour to the time it will take you to get ready by the time the baby is fed, nappy changed, dressed, and nappy changed again. Want to play D&D? Better allow for plenty of breaks to your wife can go breastfeeding.

But then you will teach her something new, like how to give kisses, and feel a sense of pure accomplishment. Or she’ll look at you and smile when you sit down next to her – letting you know she appreciates everything you do for her and that makes it all worthwhile. That’s the rewarding part.

It’s also fascinating watching her explore the world for the first time. Things that I find absolutely mundane, to the point that I wouldn’t even notice them, are jaw droppingly fascinating for her. She seems to really like my Sega Master System collection, which she can stare at for minutes at a time. Apparently babies initially see in black and white, and I guess the grid pattern of the boxes really stands out to her.

And then there is the stuff that is yet to come. I am very much looking forward to when I can share the things that I enjoy with her. When will we first watch Star Wars? And how long can I keep the prequel films hidden.... And when will we sit down and play our first RPG together? Will she like Star Trek? Will she play D&D? Will she enjoy computers? Will she like using my microscope?

Yes, fatherhood can be hard. But I wouldn’t swap it for anything.

Trying to get Abby to my way of thinking early...

Gaming as a Dad
Now for the question on every gamers mind – does becoming a dad kill your ability to play games? Answer: No. Well not really - it will change the type of gaming you can do.

Here’s the thing – when I get home from work in the evening I’m completely stuffed. I might get 4 to 6 hours of sleep a night, and after an 8 hour day in the office (plus 2 hours commute) I’m zonkered. When I get home I’m more likely to crash on my lazy boy chair and have cuddles with Abby while surfing the net on my tablet. On many nights gaming is the last thing on my mind. Then on the weekend time has to be shared between playing with and looking after Abby, spending time with my wife, my other interests, and gaming.

For the most part complicated games have been out of the question. I don’t want to learn new game play, and I don’t want complex story lines that I have to remember. I want short simple games that I can pick up and play between large breaks. I want to be able to play on my laptop in bed, or when lying fully reclined on my chair. Stuff that I don’t really need to pay a whole lot of attention too.

So what have I been playing? Retro games mostly. I’ve been hitting up my account and Steam for the old school classics. Stuff I played when I was a kid. Stuff that I know. 

In the last 6 months I’ve played Dungeon Keeper 2, Caesar 3, Quake, a little bit of Hexen, Doom (with the Brutal Doom mod), Age of Empires 2, and Carmageddon.

But it’s not all retro and simple gaming. On the weekends when I’ve got a little bit more time I’ve been playing GTA 5. I can usually fit in a couple of hours a day over the weekend, so that game will keep me going for a while :-P. With the holidays I’ve been playing through Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition (which I’m thoroughly enjoying).

But something I'm really enjoying is sharing my gaming with Abby. With my recent play through of Baldur's Gate I've been able to play on my laptop while holding her on my lap, and have narrated the game her as I've played - reading the character text, explaining what's happening in the game, and talking about my in game decisions. Essentially using the game as a story book. It has been a great bonding experience for us.

I've been able to do something similar while playing GTA. I'm very much looking forward to introducing her to more games, and sharing those experiences with her. In future years it will be a heap of fun to show her the games that I grew up with, my favourites, and experiening those nostalgic titles again through her fresh perspective.

Then there is the straight up enjoyment of parenting which gaming can enhance. A few days ago I was playing Baldur's Gate at around 8am. It was heavily raining outside, and I was sipping a coffee. Abby was lying in the bed next to me asleep, snuggling into my leg, and I was playing the game with one hand while giving her a back rub with the other. It was a moment of pure gaming and parenting pleasure.

So does having kids ruin gaming. Far from it.