Everyone is in bed and here I sit, staring at the television, unable to decide which video games I want to dive into.
I’d love to play until the wee hours of the morning, exploring everything I’ve been missing lately, but realistically I can’t do that anymore. I get a tiny wake up call every day at 6:30am. My “mom time” is so limited, I don’t want to make the wrong choice. It got me thinking about what games we all save for after our kids go to bed, and why?
There are so many games to choose from nowadays, and that comes with a long list of reasons to avoid them when the kids are around. Some reasons are for the sake of stereotypical good parenting, some are just excuses to keep your sanity intact. I often speak about the online game, Fortnite, being my go to with my son, but online safety is always a concern, you never know what someone in a squad group is going to say and what tiny ears are listening. I play Horizon: Zero Dawn a lot, and sometimes find myself wondering, is this game too mature for my kids? There isn’t a ton of gore, but definitely a lot of violent finishing moves, though it is beautiful to look at. As I go through the list of games available on and offline, there are some definite “do nots” and lots I avoid for reasons perhaps a little more selfish.
Many nights I make the choice simply based on what I just CANNOT play around the kids. Those are video games like Cyberpunk 2077 or Resident Evil Village. In Cyberpunk the character creation alone will give you a HUGE heads up for sexual content when you’re asked to design a heck of a lot more than Barbie and Ken are allowed to show. Then you must consider things like language, gore and if it is a violent video game. Resident Evil Village takes this category, not only is it a violent video game, but the suspense alone is enough to give me a heart attack, never mind my children. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla falls into this category too, but the game carries some interesting customization that can make it more child friendly. It lets you turn off gore, nudity and some violence, which means you may be able to sneak it in when the kids are distracted.
I suppose that one was a bit obvious. Another reason you might choose a game in your down time is relaxation. What that means is really up to you. Maybe it’s some Battle Royale in Call of Duty: War Zone. That’s usually a good speed for me, stealth and violence to get out my frustrations. Or you can follow in the footsteps of every mom in quarantine — myself included — and rock some weed picking and flower watering in Animal Crossing: New Horizons or Stardew Valley. I have over 1000 hours in those games, and most of it was dedicated to a fabulously large, rainbow flower garden. Don’t judge me.
Recently I started playing some nostalgic games too. The Dragon Age series came out on Xbox Game Pass and I couldn’t resist. I downloaded all three games because I figured that would be safe for while the kids were awake, it’s what I do instead of binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy. I was very, very wrong. Yes, it’s pretty safe in terms of language, its technically a violent game, but the gore is minimal and a little cartoon-like. The issue I had is how much my six-year-old complained about it. It’s boring, why does it look funny, what is my character looking at, why can’t I go wherever I want? He wasn’t used to anything other than my usual open world games, and it’s outdated so the graphics aren’t state of the art and sometimes glitchy. Turns out my sanity is another reason to choose to play a game after bedtime.
“Sometimes I want to play Among Us without someone telling me I can’t be red…”
One secret I think every gaming parent really needs to know though; you can play whatever you want when they go to bed! You don’t have to feel guilty! Yes, I did play three rounds of duos in Fortnite with my son this afternoon, but tonight I want to land north of the map and loot the lighthouse without a tiny demon yelling that’s HIS favourite spot! Sometimes I want to play Among Us without someone telling me I can’t be red, or snickering when we load in, so I automatically know who the Imposter is.
The only thing I really try not to recommend for parents is a game that takes up too much brain power right before bed. Now, I might game a little harder than the average parent, and when I love a game I tend to get hooked. Believe it or not this used to cause so many sleepless nights for me. There are the usual warnings like limiting screen time before bed. We all teach our children that, if only I could learn the lesson myself. What I’m really focusing on here are the games that keep you thinking. For me, this was most recently Fortnite: Save the World. Long story short, you need to build a base that will be attacked. Your job is to build walls and trap tunnels to keep it safe. I can remember waking up in the middle of the night having epiphanies because I dreamt up an elaborate trap I couldn’t wait to build and didn’t want to forget. If you are anything like me, avoid these games at night.
Always make sure you’re choosing your games based on how you feel. Don’t force yourself to play something at night just because you can’t during the day. And don’t avoid something altogether just because you know your kids will want to do it tomorrow. Not doing things you love when you’re in the right mood is not good for your mental health and a surefire way to burn yourself out. I promise you that. If you’re really torn and don’t know which gaming persona to turn to, just play some Candy Crush. I won’t tell.