On May 17, 2012 I became a father and how I played and looked at videogames changed forever.
It was a beautiful spring day on May 16 2012. It was almost summer-like with clear blue skies and some humidity, which made the day feel unseasonably warm. I was working from home that day, while my teammates from work were at an offsite in upstate New York, drinking wine and getting shitfaced, in the name of teambuilding and corporate engagement and all that other crap overpaid human resource experts say which pisses me off. HR people suck.
Given that my entire team was out of office, it was a slow day work wise as I just monitored e-mails and caught up on some loose ends. I was fine with this, as it meant I got to be home with my very pregnant wife. We were expecting our first child any day now. My wife was officially over this whole pregnancy shit and was ready to squeeze my spawn out of her. We were also very much looking forward to her visit to the lady doctor later in the day. We were hoping that we were going to get the green light to go to the hospital.
Deep down inside however, my mind was secretly thinking about something else, and that was completing Mass Effect 3. Yes, I’m a juvenile asshole and a horrible person. For nine months I planned for the day that my daughter was going to be born, and by planned, I mean I played as much videogames as I possibly could. I had to get caught up completing every game that I had, because I knew that when my daughter was born, things were going to change. Time was going to be at a premium. Mass Effect 3 was the last game in my queue and I was practically finished.
As the morning turned to afternoon, it was time to head out to the lady doctor. This was pretty much also the last time we got to leave the house like normal people. I long for the days where I can be sitting on the couch, watching TV with my wife, turn to her and say, “alright, let’s go…” and be out the door and backing out of the drive way in 2 minutes. That doesn’t happen when you have kids. Be prepared for a 45 minute spectacle of frustration that ends with me hyperventilating in the car and asking myself, “did I lock the door?” then getting out and double checking because apparently becoming a father means developing a crippling case of OCD. Oh, we forgot the baby’s pacifier? Let me smash my face on the steering wheel until I pass out.
At the lady doctor office we get ushered into the room and told which doctor will be seeing us that day. Unlike other practices, this one had a “team” of lady doctors. They apparently run on a platoon system or better yet, a pitching rotation on a baseball team. This is great because it adds an element of surprise to every visit. Who’s going to be poking around my wife’s privates today? Ohhhh, Martinez, the left handed knuckle baller! Oh, he’s good. His off speed stuff is wicked.
Today was a special day. We got to see the same doctor who had the privilege of bringing Snooki’s progeny into the world. Look how fancy we are! We go to the doctor of the stars. We’re practically famous ourselves now just by association. Then the doctor turns to me after poking around IN my wife, show’s me the hand in which he was performing the exam with and says, “Whoah, my watch’s gone!” I felt like telling him that I, and only I should be the one telling the inappropriate jokes. The joke was on me though, as a day later, my daughter was born wearing a gold Rolex.
My wife and I did get the news we wanted to hear in the end. We were told to make our way to the hospital, that they were going to induce labor, but that there was no rush. We were told to get some lunch. Head home, pack, relax a bit and go around 6.
And yet, a small part of me was disappointed by this news. I was looking forward to the day when my wife turns to me and says, “Vince, it’s time!” I then get a pass to act like a complete maniac and drive like a sociopath to the hospital. Then, when the police inevitably pull me over, I get to say, “SIR YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND, MY WIFE IS IN LABOR!”, pointing to the back seat where my wife is doing her Lamaze breathing, screaming, cursing and speaking in tongues resurrecting Gozer the Gozerian. Then the police office says to me, “Sir, follow me.” And I get a high speed police escort to the hospital. This apparently has never occurred, ever. It’s only seen in the movies. Hollywood once again lied to us.
Once we got home we prepared for the hospital. Got the bags ready, made some phone calls and got things in order. At this point, my wife was starting to have contractions, but not close enough together to indicate that she was going to labor. Then I had my wife shave my head, because it was getting long and as we’ve already concluded, I’m a horrible person.
My wife then went upstairs and I powered up the old Xbox 360. It was time to finish Mass Effect 3. This was going to be the culmination of nine months of gaming. From this point on, gaming will be very different. How fitting, that this new chapter in my life starts with the conclusion of one of my favorite series.
As my wife’s contractions started coming on with more regularity, I completed the game. The Mass Effect story was now completed. Mass Effect was a brand that I loved so much so that I had to complete it before the birth of my daughter. I had invested hundreds of hours, and became emotionally attached to the characters.
As the credits began to roll, I had a Christmas Story moment. “Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?” I devoted years to this franchise and THIS is how it ends? It was as if I waited months for my Little Orphan Annie decoder ring only to get pandered to. In this case, it was more like EA slapping me in the face with their junk. I won’t get into details because I don’t want to spoil a 1 year old game, but this was not how it was supposed to end. It was supposed to so much better than this! Disappointment does not even begin to describe how I felt. I immediately understood how pretty much every girl feels at the end of prom night. It started with so much promise and it ended with a drunken and awkward make-out session in the back of sketchy limousine. Then someone threw up and things will never be the same again.
My daughter was born the following morning, a perfect little angel. Seeing her born was so much better than the ending of Mass Effect 3, so in the end, bonus for me. A year has now passed and I still play videogames, I just play them differently now. Extra time is so precious now that I can’t devote hours upon hours to my hobby of choice like I used to and nor do I want to. I want to spend time with my daughter and be a good father. I want to spend time with my wife and be a good husband. That leaves a precious few hours per week on gaming.
I have become a much more discerning gamer (I feel like a douche just by writing that). In the past I would roll the dice on a game, and if I didn’t like it, plow through anyway and move on to the next. Not anymore, time and money are in short supply (formula and diapers are expensive shit). I find myself taking it slow in games. Enjoying them more, taking my time and enjoying the ride. That, my friends, is a sign of maturity. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play some online death match and curse out and teabag some 12-year-olds