Parental Controls: Dad Mode

The Typical Day

Despite the proliferation of new and exciting game launches in the calendar at the moment, that has been little in the way of coverage from us over the past few weeks. Clever Game Pun is a small operation with a tight-knit circle of periodic contributors that help us deliver the quality content we have been able to present.

We try to to be as vocal as possible, and responsive to the happenings of the wider gaming landscape, but also want to be sure we only talk when we have something to say.

All of what happens here takes place in the periphery of a fairly-full life.

A commute from a house in the suburbs to full-time work at an office steals me from home for eleven hours of the day. Some words do flow from pen to page during those hours, but ordinarily not much of that time contributes to the day-to-some-arbitrary-stretch-of-time-later of this place. Once home, the work shoes come off and the Dad slippers-or-sandals go on.

With a twelve-week old boy usually audible from the driveway, and a two-year-old girl who storms the door as soon as she hears it squeak open, the console is no longer the centre of the evening. Even my supporting yet suffering spouse has acknowledgements and attention before the first sit-down of the evening.

From arrival it’s a spattering of dinners, bedtime stories, baths, full nappies, pyjamas, good-nights, silence, sudden crying, good-nights, unbridled giggles, good-nights and good-nights. Some spousal time, chores, clean-up and prep for the screams of the night ahead (those of the baby, not the existential ones inside), and the night might hold a few hours yet, or sometimes already be over.

Then whether it be nine, midnight, or in-between, it is finally time to play.


Or sometimes time to write.

For a moment we will pretend I am not also trying to thrust my iron into a ridiculous number of fires, but the site requires words, pictures, and experience with the games being written about. If there is a review copy on the in-pile, it gets first look. If not, the choice is between what could be written about, what I really want to play, or most often, one of the games that satisfies the requirements of Dad Mode.

Enter Dad Mode

Dad Mode is half about the game, and half state of mind. The game requirements of Dad Mode are that you can stop playing at any point, that you do not have to pay too much attention, and that sound is not critical to success. All of these elements are necessary for game-time.

The biggest change in your gaming habits comes from yourself. It might be something that happens unintentionally through necessity, or form part of a reconsidered mindset to how you approach the balance between games and responsibility. Acceptance of the change is paramount to continuing to lead a happy, gaming life.

And yes, there’s a similar yet different approach to games for the many gaming mothers, but this is very much written from my personal experiences.

Stop Right There Parental Scum

If you can’t stop playing at a moment’s notice, your evenings are going to be troubled. That stirring child will not always rock themselves back to an exhausted, overtired sleep. You often have to respond to the needs of the night, or deal with the wrath of a child that does not want to be awake but inexplicably is.

The first way to satisfy that is to play single player games. As children we were often told to pause a game to take care of some critical chore, and now that you are a parent, well, it’s up to you to pause the game. This isn’t the start/stop of the entire list as you might expect, but being able to stop everything is a near-must.

When you’re playing online, that isn’t so easy, but it doesn’t have to be the end of your gaming social life. A whole slew of living worlds will accommodate idling in quiet areas, but games where you’re a critical part of the team might be off the table, depending on the habits of your younger kin.


At the very least it helps to let your squadmates, fireteam or other group know that you may not be as effective as usual. You need to accept that they may have to carry you because the handicap of burping a baby on your shoulder while facing off adds does mess with your aim. If you are on kidwatch, maybe Overwatch will not be a good fit.

Do you hear that hum?

Being on guard for the cries that might wake a spouse trying to get a leg up on sleep for the night ahead means your ears being free. You could use a headset to reduce the noise your gaming produces, but also need to check regularly that the wind or music you’re hearing isn’t a toddler crying out.


If I have the baby sleeping in my lap, headphones are alright, as is adjusting to a lower volume on the TV. If speech is especially critical to the game, well, God invent subtitles for a reason. It does also mean you won’t be as free to chat through a headset as other times, but as with the rest of life, it all varies according to your situation.

As your children get older, and tend to sleep through the night (once you actually convince them to stay in bed), gaming habits do mostly return to the pre-children norms.

You. I’ve seen you before.

With the many strange worlds that we’re taken to in games, or complicated mechanics that require consistent attention, you might feel that parenting and games might not work for you.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Playing familiar games is one way to satisfy the needs of Dad Mode – they don’t tax heavily in terms of attention as the challenges ahead are a known quantity. It’s easier to jump into something that you’ve played before, as you won’t be missing much by way of detail. You may still discover new things, but it’s not what you’re playing for.


Low intensity games like Diablo 3 or Minecraft also get a fair showing at the moment, as well as any that lend to dropping in and out of play. It’s easy to pop into something like The Division (which I’ve been getting back into), patrol a few blocks or join a friend, then go off to prep a bottle for the baby as he stirs.

The healthiest requirement of Dad Mode is the alteration to your mindset. You have to be okay with failure, and of playing poorly. It’s an approach that should be more common with players, but absolutely essential when your chances of having to stop are higher.

This also ties into the repercussions of games, where character death might mean a repair bill or corpse run, or it could mean a creeper blasting a few nights progress apart when you weren’t in the room. Dad Mode has a low threshold for grief. As long as the progress made through play won’t be invalidated through inattention, the game is fine.

New Game +

At the very least, Dad Mode leave something to return to on future plays, when children aren’t so restless and longer stretches can be accommodated. Sure, eventually the playtime shifts again once they’re old enough to show interest.


It’s also unlikely this quiet spell will last long, and even if I’m not playing as many new things as I need to, or playing for as long as I want to, there’s still something to talk about with games.

This doesn’t mean that Clever Game Pun is in standby mode, but does mean we want to share our thoughts on games with you even more than you want to read them. I’ll do my best to make sure they’re worth the wait.

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