The Surprising Ways Having a Child is a Lot Like an RPG

Daniel Robinson

Most of what I contribute to this blog is video game related in one way or another. That’s because I’ve been playing video games for most of my life. I can remember trying, and failing, to play the original Super Mario Bros. on NES before I even started kindergarten.

Games, and especially classic RPGs like Final Fantasy, have been the hobby that consumed most of my free time. That is until January of 2015 when my daughter was born. Suddenly, my hobby took a back seat to the very real responsibility of keeping a small child alive. My hobbies and geeky obsessions were slowly and methodically replaced. Star Wars posters gave way to family pictures. That Cloud Strife statute was exchanged for a pink fluffy penguin. Video game consoles sat unused while collecting an assortment of dust and cat hair.

Even though I was able to get back many of my geeky habits as she became older and more independent, I definitely missed out on some big games this past year. In an effort to entertain myself during a particularly difficult 3 a.m. rock-a-bye-baby-a-thon, I started drawing comparisons between life with a new baby and the many great RPGs I was missing out on. After a year of planning this entry, I finally had time to sit down and write it. Not all the comparisons are perfect and I’m definitely not a parenting expert, but I hope you at least find it entertaining.

Fetch Quest RPG

Fetch Quests: Fetch quests are RPG staples. A random villager lost her mother’s amulet in the woods by the demon cave and needs you to get it for her. Complete the task and you’re rewarded with gold, information, or spiffy new equipment.

Having a child is like performing a never-ending series of fetch quests. Where’s the pacifier? Where are the wipes? Where did you leave your diaper? Where’s her other sock!?

It’s endless!

There is always something missing or something to find. The sad difference is that you don’t really get rewarded when you find something and return it, because then you realize something else is missing.

Seriously though, what happened to her other sock!?

FFVII potion screenPotions Cure Everything: In most RPGs, potions heal your characters health or various status ailments. They will literally cure anything that is wrong with your characters. In this metaphor bottles = potions. I’ve found there is very little in a small child’s world that can’t be cured with a bottle. Sleepy? Have a bottle. Angry? Have a bottle. Hit your head? Have a bottle. Upset that you finished your bottle? Have another bottle.

Milk or formula bottles are God’s gift to new parents. He knew how rough we were going to have it so he decided to give us a break. The 10-15 minutes of sweet, holy peace you feel when she quietly sips on that bottle is certainly heaven sent. 

Everyone has a Role: A good RPG team is balanced—a tank in front; a rogue creeping along the edges; an offensive mage blasting away with spells; and a healer supporting everyone from afar. Parenting is a lot like that too. Each parent has a role to play. The tank is on the front line, changing the diaper, while the healer supports from the back, passing wipes as needed. The mage sings songs and distracts with dramatic hand movements, while the rogue slips in to grab the newly-discovered choking hazard.

Chrono cast

RPG teams work best when everyone fills their role at the right moment, and both parents have to be willing to change their role to support the team.

Chrono Trigger boss fight
Image: Chrono Trigger (SNES)

Boss Fights: The stereotypical RPG boss fight is against a hideous monster from the nether realm hell-bent on destroying the world. The real world equivalent is a nine pound, poo-filled baby hell-bent on destroying your chances at a good night’s sleep.

Unlike RPGs, when boss fights are typically telegraphed, baby boss fights usually come without warning and without mercy. Nothing can prepare you for a 2 a.m. cry session when literally nothing can calm her down. However, just like in RPG boss fights, there’s always a way to succeed—more patience, more strategy, more teamwork, or maybe even another bottle.

It’s FunFirst and foremost, RPGs are fun. That’s why we play them. They introduce us to new worlds and exciting adventures. They encourage us to embrace new roles and experience new paths. They reward exploration and patience. They promote strategy and teamwork. An overwhelming sense of accomplishment follows you through each new phase of the game.

Sorry to end this on a sappy note, but being a parent sure sounds a lot like that.

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