Do Gamer Dads Dream Of 2:1 Sheep?


Being a father to a little baby was cool. He was all cute and snuggly and I loved the first words and the first steps and all that stuff. I remember getting Sam a “Level 1 Human” creeper and a couple nerdy onesies before he was born. One of the few perks of babies not being able to talk is that you can dress them in whatever you want without protest. Consequently, my kid has unwittingly displayed in his short time on this planet countless slogans, concepts, and characters from many nerdly sources. (Including one Celestial Porpoise onesie I designed when Stupid Ranger first started, which raised a few family eyebrows despite a great deal of well-reasoned logic about its utter manliness.)

Does The Konami Code Count As Operant Conditioning?

One thing that’s always been lurking in the back of my mind is whether all this geeky stuff is just a weird mold that he’ll eventually break. I remember thinking, he’s two. That Mario shirt is cute, Sam can even say “Mawio” when he sees it, but he doesn’t have any attachment to that character like I do. Am I just filling up his head with a bunch of crap he’ll just dump and replace with something real to him?

Now, my boy Sam is 4, and we can have conversations about stuff and tell jokes to each other and share what happened that day and play all freaking day and HOLY CRAP. IT ROCKS. THUNDEROUSLY. These days, Sam knows what’s on his shirt. Boy, does he know. Don’t try to send that kid to school in an Autobot t-shirt if he has declared it Robot Taco Shirt Day. At least, if you don’t want a war on your hands. He is familiar with the source material for pretty much everything he wears that has an associated game or TV show.

My favorite thing to do with Sam right now, which should surprise no one, is playing lots of old NES games on the Wii. I’m pretty sure he can tell it’s an older game, mostly because he asks me “Daddy, is this game old?” Even so, he still giggles and smiles and loves playing. It’s still colorful, it has cool music that makes him dance, and the characters are recognizable to him (perhaps the sole benefit of Hollywood remaking freaking everything!). I know a big part of why he loves this is because he’s spending time with me.

It is really cool to be a 4 year old’s dad. You are frequently super awesome in their eyes.

The Sam Of The Future

I’ve been in karate since I was a teenager, and I remember seeing an odd scenario play out not long after I started. One of the black belts had both his kids in the class, and they were rising up through the ranks a little ahead of me. About the time they got to brown belt, they just sort of vanished. I found out later that they quit and really hated being there. The instructor, being a good parent and extremely nice guy, let them follow their own path but was sad they didn’t take his.

That scenario kind of scares the crap out of me. I identify pretty hard as a giant code-slinging gamer nerd, and kids are known for thinking their parents are complete idiots after they reach a certain age.

It’s so weird simultaneously not wanting your snuggly little kid to grow up, and yet not being able to wait until they’re old enough to really game with you. I see boardgames a couple nights a week. I see after-dinner Magic: The Gathering. I see me running D&D campaigns for him and his friends. I see a means to have fun and bond with my kid and my family — hopefully even after he leaves the nest.

Thing is, I have no idea what I would have done if my dad would have been all “let’s play D&D” when I was 13. He is (and continues to be) an awesome dad and I learned all kinds of cool stuff from him, but we didn’t play all that much — certainly not at the level I have in mind.

What I’m hoping for is the scenario I saw at my D&D Next playtest table at DDXP this year: an experienced gamer dad of about 45 years with his 15 year old kid who had never played before and was loving it. I don’t usually think of Gen Con as a family vacation but bringing my teenaged kid to it sounds like a blast.

Unless, of course, he only likes NASCAR and thinks I’m an embarassing dweeb.

I suspect the answer is going to lie somewhere in the middle, where we have a lot of fun gaming together as he grows up and he thinks I’m completely embarrassing. I won’t be, of course.

That is, not until the Celestial Porpoise pictures come out at his wedding reception.


  1. Very nice, Vanir. It is a lot of fun being a geek dad, and I do sometimes share that concern over whether they will like D&D and my other gaming favorites. My own thought is that what most matters is exposure. By showing them that this exists they will have choices around gaming (and at an earlier age than most of us). As with anything else (swim classes, piano, etc.), being flexible and trying various approaches is bound to help.

    My kids are 6 and 8, and our household is very low media. Most of what they want on their T-shirts is just something that looks cool (dinosaurs) rather than brands. But we give them free reign at friends’ houses, so they play Skylanders and Beyblades and want that stuff. At home we tend to do a lot of outdoors stuff and then we play board game and do art together. Pretty low key stuff. Throughout all of it I give it a lot of imagination and story. So, we might build something with blocks and have it be a castle. Or we might at night have a story-telling session that is basically a D&D adventure. All of it, I hope, gives them the reasons to enjoy D&D and my other hobbies. And, one of them does like the Ravenloft/Ashardalon/Drizzt board games. And another really likes reading about fairies and magic. She read the Hobbit recently, and the first three Harry Potter (in Spanish, sweet!).

    In the end, it will be up to them. From my friends with older kids I see mixed success. Some of the kids really want to play and can’t wait to grow up a bit more so dad will let them play more often. Some of them find it a bit boring or have other interests. But, I think that for each of them that exposure has been valuable. The gift of imaginative thinking is a great gift. And, in time… they may come back to the game even if it doesn’t take at first.

  2. Vanir, you have echoed a lot of very familiar thoughts in this article. I have a teenage daughter who truly loves fantasy and is now – at 17 – a regular presence at my gaming tables, but I also have a 3-year-old son with whom I hope to share the same devotion to geekdom and gaming that has brought so much joy to my life. Unfortunately, my older child became so interested in our hobbies because she grew up to be socially awkward and unable to make many friends. The upside is that she found comfort in her parents’ interests and company… the downside? Well, if I hadn’t at least contrived to build a social circle for my gaming back in high school, her mother and I never even would have met. I don’t necessarily want to see my son walk such a lonely path.

    Like you, I can only hope that he doesn’t start to see me and my world as something to escape or ridicule by the time he comes to understand it.

  3. I am a Dad of two (7 and 4), and I would likely be labeled a bad geek dad. I have not exposed my kids to my geek interests in any active manner. My son, who is 7, and I play Wii, and he is familiar with Mario and Sonic and the like. He knows that Daddy has his game night every sunday night. He knows his polyhedrial dice, but he makes up his own games with them. And that is about it.

    Rather than geeking-out my son, I turned my own geek talents towards the things that interested him. When he was 2 and took a liking to Thomas The Tank Engine, I turned on my Geek ability to learn everything about a subject, and I learned all the characters; watched all the episodes with him. We got the wooden tracks, and we built tracks together, and played Thomas. Even as he has gotten older rather than turning him onto Mage Knight or Magic (and I have all my old stuff for both), I got into Beyblades this Christmas, and it was awesome.

    I did not let him watch LoTR or Start Wars at age 2, and I am only now considering letting him see Star Wars (ep iV), as he is the same age as I was when I saw it. As for his first RPG, that is going to be a few years away. I was 10 when I started with my basic D&D, and I don’t see a need to rush him into it. For now he can watch Disney and play with the toys and games that his peers play.

    If my kids later take an interest in my hobby and the geek culture, I will be right there to introduce them and guide them, but I do not feel any need to bring them to it. For all I know my two kids may be into sports and cars, things I never was, and I don’t want to steer them into the things I love, because I love them. I want them to love those things (or other things) because it is what they are interested in.

  4. I have a son (age 5) and a daughter (age 2). My son is hugely into Transformers thanks to Netflix, and he’s been loving the Transformers brand Kreo blocks. I have given him all of the Legos I had when I was little and he’ll just go to town with them.

    As far as gaming, I bought him a Pokemon deck a while back, and he enjoys playing that with me, and even managed to teach his mom how to play. We also have some kids games like Kids of Carcassonne and Lego Creationary that he likes to play. With his reading level, though, I’ve been thinking of breaking out some of the more adult games like Ticket to Ride and Agricola to teach him the basics of those.

    I hope that he’ll embrace, or at least accept the gamer side of things when he is older, but even if he doesn’t, at least I’ll know that I tried.

  5. Oh, boy, I see right where you’re coming from! You see, I’m the Cool Geek Aunt. My nephew (11) and my niece (8) both think I’m the coolest. Of course this could have something to do with the fact that they only see me for a couple of weeks every summer and then I’m gone again like a fantastic alien-fighting action sequence dream. So far we’ve only gotten into geek TV – Firefly/Serenity, some Buffy, some Supernatural, and The Guild. My niece loves everything pink and wants to be Hanna Montana, but she also loves Reavers! My nephew plays hockey and has a Star Wars lego addiction. 🙂

    This summer I’m taking the leap and teaching them the rudiments of D&D. I am both hopeful and scared they won’t like it. My nephew is old enough for his own books, so I may leave some stuff with him and hope he introduces his friends to it. Wish me luck guys!

  6. Dan Masucci says:

    I’ve played D&D since I was 16. I always looked forward to introducing my first born (now 14) to the game. Turns out, he loves it, but he’s more likely to play with his friends than me. Can’t blame him since they have a few ongoing campaigns. However, I do get to play a weekly game with him that my brother (who introduced me to the game) runs.

    My four year old already enjoys running his mom and me through adventures. Of course, those games are more about him telling us what our characters do and to roll dice (which can mean something different by the moment!).

    I’m glad both boys have such an interest. For me, sitting at a table and gaming with friends will always be a better experience than sitting in front of a computer.

  7. oregonpinkrose says:

    I don’t think this fear is any different then our fathers’ hoping we were going to be the next Pete Rose or Michael Jordan.

  8. Dad_Delzer says:

    Well, sometimes we are surprised by our kids. I know their mother tolerated my gaming hobby because when we were engaged I was spending two or more evenings at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee either playing D&D as a GM or board games on the weekends as a member of the gaming club I co-founded. She would fall asleep in the couch in the lounge…

    And later on playing the old GoldBox D&D PC games they would sit on my knee (and when they got bigger their own chairs) as we played the games. I gave them their own characters and let them call the shots for what to do. This was a blast! There is nothing like 5-6-7-8 year-old gamers to let you know what is really important: “Dad? Can we pause the game?” – Daughter, Dad: “Why?” Daughter: “I have to go potty…”

    And when my son hit the teenage years and impressed all his friends by bring Dad’s books to his gaming sessions. I remember his best friend Matt asking me what addition my AD&D Monster Manual was. I asked him “what was the edition number in the back of the title page?” Matt’s reply “it does not say.” My reply “then it is First Edition” was my reply since I has attended the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater and our local gaming store was The Dragon down in Lake Geneva owned by the Gygax’s and I bought it there in the late 70’s.

    And now my son and I play on-line. Well, not so much lately since he is a work-a-holic like his dad…