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How to play MMOs when you've had a baby

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Having a baby is hard. They're loud, messy and eat up an extraordinary amount of your time. If you've ever thought about starting a family no doubt you've already been told, "you won't have time for games anymore!" by parents and peers. Well bollocks to that, it's not true. 

Whether you play World Of Warcraft, Monster Hunter or Final Fantasy XIV, you don't need to give up your hobby. In fact it's an important way to keep some much needed 'me time' during a period of high stress and turmoil as you adjust to your new life.

With that in mind, here are some practical set ups and advice to help you balance your gaming time and new family life. From audio settings to breastfeeding positions, here are my top tips to keep up with your favourite MMO when you've had a kid.

Milestones

There are things you only find out about babies once they finally arrive, like just how big of a deal growth spurts are. Your baby won't sleep and neither will you. While there are some periods where games are better put aside as you focus on just getting by, they always pass. And there are also times when you can fit in a surprising amount of gaming—maybe even level that second class you were thinking about.

The first two weeks are a blur as you adjust to your new life—don't get your hopes up for having any free time at this point (that way if you do, it'll come as a nice bonus). After the first four months, though, you can fit in a surprising amount of gaming time—your baby can't do much at this point so it's quite easy to get a few levels in while watching them. Things get more problematic when they start getting more mobile so scheduling becomes important.

Setup

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Where you physically place your PC is the first thing to be thinking about. Hooking up a good laptop to a TV can be a good option in those early weeks when being present together is so important. Curling up on the sofa with your partner and child to fit in an hour's game time suddenly turns it into a more social, family event. Just make sure you and your partner have everything you need beforehand so that whoever is on babywatch doesn't need to lift a finger while you're occupied. 

Another good option is a standing desk and a baby carrier. Strap little junior to your chest and bop about a little while playing if they like to be carried. Not only do you get your gaming time in, you also get a little exercise and free up your partner to help you run that dungeon (or just take a much needed nap).

And a bonus tip here, make sure your PC is up high and out of reach once they start crawling. It also helps to have a controller you don't mind getting chewed a little. Babies can't be fooled by toy controllers—they will always want the one that you're using. Don't learn this the hard way like I did.

Audio

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Sound is now something to be conscious of as you don't want to wear headphones when your child or partner need you—blocking yourself off from the world might give you the best audio quality, but headphones can make your partner feel ignored as well as making you unable to hear your baby's cries.

High impact sounds such as gunfire or attacks are quite jumpy for little ears, so turn down the sound on weapons and spells. Conversely try turning the background music up—a lot of MMOs have relaxing area music that can chill your baby out. They can be quite happy listening to you while hanging out on their playmat or playpen nearby.

Feeding

If you're choosing to breastfeed be wary of clusterfeeding periods—you'll essentially be tied to the sofa with your baby attached to you for hours on end. It's an insane experience that can get quite frustrating and boring… unless you're into MMOs. Mothers: try placing a pillow on your lap to support your baby with one arm crooked under so their head is resting in your elbow—you'll be able to use a controller or keyboard like this by placing it behind them. As soon as I discovered this trick I got an obscene amount of game time in and could take part in raids surprisingly easily. There was also the added bonus of being able to talk to people in game making the experience a lot less isolating.

Partners: make sure you're plying mum with lots to eat and drink, and then find a way to play as near to them as you can. Being on standby during these periods is important as they're really rough on mothers' bodies, but you should still get plenty of gaming time in if they feel looked after.

Scheduling

(Image credit: Square Enix)

This is the biggest and most contentious issue you will face. It's vitally important to get this right in order to avoid resentment. As they get older it gets harder to play with your kid just hanging out in the room with you—they'll be toddling around and somehow getting into all of the drawers. It's not as much of an issue in the evenings when your baby is asleep, but during the day, when you need to juggle childcare alongside your free time, scheduling is important. 

You may want to go play games for a few hours to unwind, but don't just wander off and leave your partner on baby duty—they will get pissy with you no matter how much you need that 'me time'. You can avoid such issues by scheduling it into your weekly diaries, like you might for an evening out. That way your partner knows it's coming up and—even though you're home—you're not really available. It's also a handy way to be more efficient with your in-game time too. If you know you're going to get three straight hours on Sunday afternoon, it's easier to wrangle some buddies to help clear that raid. Just make sure your partner feels able to schedule an equal amount of free time so it feels fair (and while you're at it, schedule in some 'us time' too). Mentally knowing you'll have that dedicated free time, rather than making do with stolen moments between everything else, is much better for your mental health.

Your free time for gaming definitely won't be the same after your child arrives, but don't ever let anyone tell you you should stop. Keeping up with your hobbies is an important way to stay healthy, you'll just need to be a bit more organised about it.