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Opinion: If you have kids, you can forget about playing games

PSM3's man in Japan, Dan Robson, reflects on how fatherhood affects gaming...

"Once you have kids you can forget about playing videogames; you just won't have time." So said Shinji Mikami, father of not only the survival-horror genre but also two children, when I asked him what I could expect from life as a dad. Well now I am one. And you know what? He was sort of right.

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My little girl was born in Tokyo on 14 June 2012. Lollipop Chainsaw was released the same day and, of course, I still haven't played it. Oh, sure, reviewing games is part of my job, and that sometimes earns me the right to boot up the console and shirk baby duties without my wife divorcing me on the spot. But slashing at zombies on the big screen at home, just for fun? That was the first thing to go. My world was changed faster than a chronically soiled nappy.

I could play after hours, when everyone else is asleep. The trouble is that I'd quite like to get some sleep myself occasionally. If I'm only likely to get five hours of broken Zs due to 6am baby screams, would I really give up one of those hours to make a tiny bit of progress in Mass Effect 3?

VIVA LA VITA

Salvation, thy name is PS Vita. The couple of hours I spend commuting on the train every day provide the perfect escape. Thanks to handheld gaming, I can sneak around Big Shell as Raiden or toy with gravity as Kat, and Vita's luxurious screen and comfortable dual thumbsticks make it feel just as good as on a real console.

"Keep them away from the damn videogames," was the advice given to me by Foo Fighters' bassist Nate Mendel, when I interviewed him around the same time as Mikami. "When they want to do it 24 hours a day, you'll know what I mean."

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Sorry Nate, but sod that. Pretty much the only reason I had a kid in the first place was so I'd have someone to play local multiplayer with. At two months old my daughter can't yet handle a controller, but she seems pretty smart - give it a year or two and she'll be more dextrous than I am.

And once she's old enough to actually choose the games we play, what will she go for? I imagine an easy entry point will be games that involve hitting things, such as whatever edition of Taiko: Drum Master we're up to by then, or the copy of GameCube classic Donkey Konga that my editor at Xbox World slung my way.

As she gets older, I wonder how she'll relate to the characters in games. Will there be more female role models for her, or are we stuck with Lara "protect me" Croft? Of course, the real female role models in games are not only the women but also the men. And the blue hedgehogs. Who says girls have to learn only from girls?

The good news is that I know, first hand, that games cannot corrupt a child's mind...

Being half-Japanese and raised in Tokyo, she'll have double the amount of games to choose from than I had. But Japanese games can be dizzyingly sexist, with everything from the big-titted cast of Dead or Alive 5 to the Rapelay-type simulators to the material hollowness of Girls' RPG: Cinderelife.

The good news is that I know first-hand that videogames alone cannot corrupt a child's mind in the way the mainstream media told my parents it could when I was little. I grew up jumping on baddies' heads, shooting them to pieces and sniping them from craggy outposts on alien worlds. I grew up with friendly and not-always-so-friendly competition in head-to-head games, and a spirit of collaboration in co-op. I didn't become a murderer or a sexist or a shut-in, and neither will she.

My little girl has so many gaming experiences ahead of her. She's going to love it. And before too long she's going to be kicking her old man's arse.

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