How Night Terrors Forced My Family To Unplug

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You never forget the moment where you wake up to your child screaming. The bleary-eyed rushing to their room only to find them awake but not awake. The early night terrors Wyatt experienced were full of him:

  • Tracking objects, with his eyes, that were not there… but if you watched him, you’d think there was something.
  • Shivering, teeth chattering to the point you’d think that they might break.
  • Pure terror.

Night terrors make a parent feel helpless as it is hard to convince someone, who isn’t awake, that there is nothing trying to kill them.

Tabitha and I started to notice a pattern though. Looking at our bedtime routine, we were watching TV, specifically playing videogames, up until the point Wyatt went to bed. So we re-evaluated our evening routine and turned off the television. 

For me, being the dad who loves sharing gaming with his kid, this killed me. KILLED ME! The effort it takes to read a book aloud or play a boardgame is far more than turning on the TV and playing a game. Call this being a lazy dad at the time, I admit it now. But our evenings changed for the better. The night terrors, which seem to be caused by a combination of electronic stimuli and tiredness, slowly faded away. Over the years, with each book we read aloud, each boardgame we played, we slowly learned to interact more as a family in the evenings.

Today, I can’t say everything is perfect. The night terrors like to rear their heads on the occasion (but are more infrequent). We still watch TV shows before bed, but we have learned that certain TV shows don’t seem to trigger the night terrors as much as others (I think it has something to do with the amount of blinking lights). Our family reading time has segued into Wyatt having his own reading time at night.

My Little Scythe

Smart parenting often requires sacrifice. In our case, that has meant moving any gaming time away from bedtime (we’ve noticed that an hour buffer works). I’ve learned that I can still game with my son but that often it is good to shake things up with no screens. The battlefield of the Chess board, the trophies of My Little Scythe, all work together to make non-screen memories and keep the night terrors at bay.

Why Do We Play?

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A few weeks ago, I asked the Theology Gaming Community:

The TG Community answered:

  • Entertainment
  • Bridge gaps of distance
  • Stories
  • To slow down and enjoy friends
  • To learn new systems/rules
  • To be invited into a piece of art, by the artist, as a collaborator
  • To forget about problems
  • Video games are fun
  • Enjoyment
  • Escapism
  • Fantasy of having increased power/capability
  • Gaming brings people together

Sam went on to say:

Mainly it’s my time to ‘turn off’ from any sort of stresses in real life and just sit back and enjoy something. But there are other huge things I’d miss if I wasn’t gaming. Mainly the excellent communities you become a part of, and I have found, since starting college, it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends who went elsewhere.

Joe emailed me his reply:

Apollo 13 is one of my favorite movies. It’s a classic tale of man versus adversity. Human ingenuity wins out over a catastrophe that almost certainly should have spelled certain death for the three brave crewmen. It’s a great story to watch, but as a viewer I can only be a passive observer of this story. Kerbal Space Program, however, allows me to be the solution as well as the cause of all my Kerbonaut’s problems. What should be a routine trip around the moon turns into an epic series of rescue mission because of my inability to effectively design spacecraft. Running out of fuel, botched engine burns, missing solar panels, and the inability to dock two spacecraft turn Kerbal Space Program into an interactive rescue simulation. The best part of all this? My experience will never be exactly the same as anyone else’s. 
That’s the appeal of gaming to me: personalized entertainment. While most games will offer a similar overall experience to its players, little details and interactions are unique to each person. Nobody has the same struggles as I do in Kerbal Space Program. My approach to clearing Liberty Island in Deus Ex will be different than anyone else I know. Dark Souls fosters camaraderie with fellow players who follow the same story beats, even though not everyone will struggle with the same sections. Though I play the same game as thousands and millions of other people, my own experiences with that game are unique to me. This is what sets gaming apart from every other form of media. It’s fun, it’s dynamic, and it’s accessible. Why wouldn’t I play games?  

For me, gaming is about:

Relationships  The conversations that happen while trying to outscore my wife in King Domino.

Nostalgia – Playing Chess with my son reminds me of all the times I played Chess with my Grandpa. I miss him and those times we had together playing Chess, flying remote control airplanes, and telling stories.

Imagination – As with good books, video games allow me to visit other worlds and step into the shoes of someone else.

Discovery – Digital worlds come with their own individual sets of rules. I love seeing what a game world will allow me to do/not do.

Connection – Nothing like discussing games with fellow enthusiasts, taps into my nerdier side.

Sampling All The Flavors – I love constantly trying new games which allows me to experience the different gaming mechanics they each bring to the screen.

Why do you play?