The living room is where both Nikki and I spend a lot of time. Our dual recliner couch thing is there. Our TV is there. When we have people over, due to the 100+ year old floor plan, many of our guests are there. So, when we were moving in and setting up the entertainment center, we put Nikki’s PlayStation 2 there. We knew that she wouldn’t get a ton of use out of it, what with the imminent release of her gestating fetus, but it’d be there when she had a moment or three to rub together.
Hunter would occasionally play it, as well. He’s the ruling gamer of the house, and would regularly want to take a break from his Game Boy Advance SP and play on something hooked up to a larger screen.
Fast forward a bit. Hunter saved up to buy his own used PS2. Mine came out of storage to serve as a DVD player for the bedroom, then went downstairs to my basement nerd cave for use when I was taking time to myself. Hunter upgraded his handheld to a DS, thanks to his Dad, and passed his GBA SP to Aidan. Cian got a Leapster 2. Nikki and I played EverQuest 2 on our laptops. We gamed, as a family, but casually and separately.
As my relationship with Hunter became gradually more strained, he reached out to play video games with me. This was hit and miss, and I realized that all of the games that I own and enjoy are single player games. Yes, this lesson echoes in many other aspects of my life.
I got bored with EQ2, and let my account expire. We had another podling on the way, and we got news that for Christmas, our family was going to be gifted with a Wii from Nikki’s Aunt and Uncle. Nikki and I made grand plans. We got each of the boys their own Wii remote, each with a different LED color, so there wouldn’t be arguing over remotes. I brought up the Super Nintendo from the nerd cave for classic gaming. I kept my eyes peeled for some classic games for the Dreamcast (have the system, but no games). We let all the grandparents and aunts an uncles know about the incoming Wii, in case they wanted to get the kids games. We’d turn the living room into a place where we could game together, as a family.
The SNES and the PS2 still hardly ever get used. The Wii is primarily a Netflix machine. Nikki plays Facebook and Jewel Quest games on her laptop, but hasn’t played EQ2 in forever, because the game outpaced her graphics hardware. Hunter plays his PS2 or DS in his room, Aidan plays his GBA SP in his room, and Cian… Cian is three. We still game casually and separately. Why? Where did the plan fail?
Mostly with me.
The kids’ excitement can get loud, boisterous, and overwhelming. I have problems dealing with all of the movement and the noise and the crazy, especially when I’m already stressed or emotional. So, instead of the living room being a welcome space for gaming and family time, the kids get swept up to their rooms, so that they can be crazy at a distance. The living room has stayed an adult space, unless it’s for something passive, like TV watching.
Off and on, Nikki has mentioned missing EQ2, and I’ve been getting the urge to try again to finish Myst 3. By this time, I had recognized my previous failure on some level, and wanted to fix it. There was only one machine left in the house with the hardware chops to play EQ2, and it was my desktop, which resided in the basement. (Hey, I can do amazing things with old-ass hardware, and hand-me-downs are free, which fits our entertainment budget.) It also had Portal and Myst Online installed. The rusty gears in my skull creaked and ground, and I had an idea.
Last Sunday, for my alone time, Nikki took the kids out of the house. I sprang into action (more or less) and dismantled the half-a-laptop that was serving duty as our media center PC. I took it downstairs, dismantled my desktop, and brought it upstairs. I shifted consoles around in the entertainment center to make room, and made sure that there would be proper air flow. Didn’t want the desktop overheating. Got it hooked up, set up my wireless trackball and solar keyboard, and set up some links to the sites we’d usually access on the media center PC. I got the wires tucked away out of sight, and took a deep breath. It was the moment of truth. I sat in our recliner sofa thing, adjusted the size of the fonts and icons on the TV (OMG resolution!), and then double-clicked on the EQ2 icon.
That shit looks really good on the big screen.
Since then, there’s been a bit more gaming in the living room. Nikki’s tackling the learning curve of all of the updates that she missed. I’ve made it into the Voltaic Age in Myst 3 on the PS2. There’s been some YouTubin’. Searching is a hell of a lot easier when a keyboard is involved, that’s for sure. This weekend, I’ve played some neglected DVDs for the kids, and they’ve been all over some Wall-E and Incredibles. But, in truth, the real test came today. During nap time, Hunter asked if we could do something together. He was respectful about it and wasn’t pushy, so I told him that it depended on my ability to get my chores done. I hustled, got them done, and came to another moment of truth. I sent a txt message to Hunter (What, you want me to risk waking up the baby by going up to the attic? You crazy?):
“Up for some Mario Kart?”
Achievement unlocked – Stepdad.