As I have discussed in previous columns, screen time is a concern to many parents. Though I worry about this and my children’s obsessions with the digital worlds, I completely understand them. Yes my son gets sucked into the building blocks of Minecraft a little too often and my daughter falls down the YouTube rabbit hole of toy fan videos, but I can’t say they are that different from their parents. Its most likely you’ll find me jockeying for screen-time on the PS4 (maybe I can start putting a quarter on the TV stand reserve next game) to play Destiny. Its hard not being hypocritical when I just want to grab a controller and get lost for a bit among the other Guardians. Though my husband is a little more analog and you might find him behind a Game Masters screen or behind a back-issue of some obscure comic he has his obsessions too. We all have them, don’t we?
Last weekend I did just that on Sunday. Though I had a list of other things to do, and it was one of the warmer days we had seen in a while I decided I was going to play a little Destiny. Destiny is a first person shooter video game developed by Bungie and published by Activision (yes, I said Activision you know – the Atari 2600 gaming guru.) It was released back on September 9th, 2014 and was Bungie’s first new franchise since Halo. It’s a massive multiplayer “shared world” environment with role-playing elements mixed in. The game was offered as “Pick-one” of four in our PlayStation 4 bundle. I knew very little about the game except the tease the commercials offered while watching The Walking Dead – it kind of sucked me in (so pretty).
My initial game play was solo. I didn’t have friends on my PSN (PlayStation Network) account and I didn’t really think I needed them (WRONG). I started the story aspect of the game and made my way as far as I could before getting extremely frustrated and desperate for assistance. Enter my Brother-in-law, Brent. With him on the PSN I made my first friend and possibly the biggest perk I could get. It wasn’t long before my Brother, Kevin opted to join in. The thing about Destiny and a lot of the online games like this is that you need individual consoles and accounts to join in. This meant Kevin had to bring in a second PS4 into their home so that he could join Brent in his adventures. Bonus for me! Two friends!
Once I started playing with other players it was a different experience. To start with, you have back-up, which is very helpful working through the stories and strikes. Its always nice to have someone around to revive you. Second, you learn different gaming styles. I tend to hang back and go for the safe sniper approach, while Brent goes in Shotgun or Hand-Cannon to the face. Kevin seems to be a mix of the two – leaning more towards Brent’s “someone will revive me style if I get into trouble”. What added to this whole experience was the chat function.
My son Lex had been begging for a headset for our PS3 for months and he finally got one at Christmas for the new PS4 as Santa left one under our tree. I thought this was the most annoying gift ever and one of my biggest mistakes as a parent. I didn’t get it until I was given one recently for my birthday. It came from my fellow guardians – Kevin and Brent. To be completely honest when I opened it I thought it was the most ridiculous present I had ever received. Though I game, I don’t GAME. I was turning 40 and not 17. The Gold Wireless is a high fidelity 7.1 virtual surround sound which allows you to chat with your teammates while becoming fully immersed in the game. Lex immediately had headset envy because his is wired and not nearly as cool as mine. I was thinking about maybe exchanging it for another game or something else, before I even opened it. I thought I don’t need this-until I tried it. It completely changes the game, which means my children get less PS4 time because I want to play more.
Not that we get to play all the time together, but playing with multiple people and being able to chat, trash talk and laugh at yourselves makes the whole gaming experience more fun. Mad Dog only hears my side of our conversations with my handy dandy wireless headgear, so he gets a little confused when I yell “follow the carrot” but completely understands the “don’t get dead” command. For me it means I get to interact with people who I wouldn’t get to see as often as I would like. Between work, the kids in school and life it’s hard to hang out with people as much as we would like. This lets it happen from the comfort of my own living room (and theirs). At this point I haven’t joined any chat session with people I don’t know, though I have played in strikes on other Fireteams (small squads of two to six players). I’m a little skittish still playing with other people. Though I can hold my own I feel like I might handicap other players from time to time.
Regardless I’ve been completely sucked in. I’m not shirking my parental responsibilities, but I am teaching them they can fend for themselves at times. Last Sunday was a perfect example of this. I turned on Destiny to play a “bit”, take on a few bounties and then go about my day. After not being able to find a specific place (The Devil’s Lair) – because I couldn’t remember where the location was I found myself IMing my brother for directions. They jumped on after doing errands and the three of us spent the afternoon doing strikes. This meant Lex and Loki were slightly left to their own amusement, which they are completely capable of. With my wireless headset, I was able to pour drinks, get snacks and help open things without missing any of the action. They played board-games, had a little PS3 time, played with action figures together, Loki did art, Lex did some reading and the afternoon slipped away. After completing a strike and journeying back to The Tower I realized I needed to walk back into the real world – ultimately before my husband got home and found I accomplished nothing on my To-Do list for the day. I said good-bye (for now) to my fellow Guardians and continued on with what was left of my day (I should say evening).
Like the kids I have had to put limits and guidelines on my playtime. I am showing them I am balancing my play with other things, leading by example. Take this article – I’m a currently chomping at the bit to go play for a little while, but I made myself promise to complete this task and teach my son the basics of Photoshop before taking the red pill and entering the Matrix. I catch myself checking the Bungie app on my iPhone to see who is on, it’s at those times I take a moment to think if I am becoming as drawn in as the kids. The Bungie App is completely useful, allowing you to move items to your vault for storage, check bounties in progress and keep up with the latest game news. Another great app which has become my best friend since I downloaded it is DownDetector.com app. It allows you to check when PSN is having issues or Destiny is experience connection problems (as well as other online sites such as Facebook, Netflix and more). My husband has raised an eyebrow when he sees me checking my phone to see who’s on or if the reason I’m having trouble is due to an outside issue (not just our connection). I guess I’ll know when I’m going overboard when he grounds me for caring about my Guardians too much!