Usually reserved and low-key, Ken— better known as Kanter in the World of Warcraft, blogging, and Twitter communities— juggles a busy life with little spare time for much else. But he always makes sure there’s time to game, especially with his three kids.
Location: North Carolina
Brood: Three girls— 5, 9, and 11
Current games: WoW; other than some cell phone games, don’t have time for much— though I did just start playing Dust.
Hobbies (gaming related or otherwise): Not much else these days. I used to play tennis but just watch it when I get the chance these days. I used to read a lot but these days most of my reading time is spent reading blogs.
Other stuff you’re into: Finally reading last Harry Potter book (read first six close to when they came out with my wife).
Do you have employment outside of the home?
I played D&D briefly with some high school friends around 1980 in Austin, TX. I had a friend with an Apple II that I used to play computer games on a little later and I played some games with my brother on his PC also in the early 80s. I vividly remember getting Civilization (the original) and Ultima VI on my first computer.
What kind of games did you gravitate toward before you had kids (and, presumably, had more time)?
I primarily played strategy (Civilization, Master of Orion, Age of Wonders, etc) and role playing games (Ultima, Might and Magic, etc).
Gaming and the Family
Who games in your household?
My eleven year old has autism but loves puzzles and does them on the computer and iPad (and anything else she can get). My 9 year old has played World of Warcraft with me some, but not much (has a free account so can only go to level 20). She and my 5 year old both love Pokemon and play it on their DSes and play a Pokemon Tower Defense game on the computer. My wife plays casual games on her iPhone, but I am the primary gamer in the family.
Will/Do you seek out games you can play together?
My wife and I have played some games together, but she isn’t interested in WoW. I have played WoW with my 9 year old and I can see that possibly expanding with time.
Are there things you (want to) do in your current games with your kid?
Only if they want to. Gaming is something of an escape for me and I don’t mind having them join me, but I don’t mind playing alone.
Where do you personally draw the line between “Games for Mom/Dad” and “Games for everyone?”
I’ve made the decision that I don’t want to play any games that I wouldn’t want my children to watch me play. I don’t have that much time for gaming and so I’d rather not have games that would be limited to times they aren’t around.
Will there be games that are *just* for the kids?
No, I don’t think so.
What are the rules you lay down— or will lay down— for gaming to the kids?
Homework first. We don’t have hard rules, but I encourage them to play outside and I think they have a pretty good mix of playing outside, playing with electronics and watching television and/or movies.
Do you try to make gaming educational even if it’s not a “for kids” or “educational” game? Or do you try to keep gaming strictly as entertainment, fun, and for relaxing?
I know my children do learn from playing games, but I don’t see that as the goal.
What kind of games do you see your kids leaning toward, or is it more based on whichever franchise has their interest at the moment?
My 9 yo daughter is primarily interested in Pokemon and Minecraft. I bought her the first Pokemon game because I thought she’d like it and it definitely clicked. She is much more social than either my wife or I, and a lot has to do with what her friends at school play. She is also interested in what I am playing and I allowed her to get the free version of World of Warcraft— but I have to log her in myself so she only plays it when she is supervised. I also recently started playing Dungeon Defenders with her and we are having quite a bit of fun with that together. My 5 yo takes all her cues from her 9 yo sister at this point.
How old was your 9yo when she got interested in playing video games? Was it something she saw you doing and said, “I wanna do that too!” at some point? Or was it more with external factors and her bringing it home with her?
My 9yo was interested very early on. We bought a computer for our 11 yo when our 9yo was just a baby and she would see both see her sister and me playing games. I showed her how to press the space bar in WoW to make the character hop when she was probably a year old and she thought that was great (maybe that explains the silly people who do it all the time)! She asked to play WoW and I held off for a while but eventually created a character she could play on my account with my supervision. She also had a cousin with a DS visit when she was four and we decided that it would be a reasonable time for her to have one when she was five and a half (at Christmas), so that was the first time she could really play video games independently. She definitely picked it up at home, but she finds it is something she shares with many of her classmates.
You said your 11yo has autism. Would you be willing to share where she is on the spectrum, in addition to her habits?
My 11 yo is profoundly autistic. Her spoken language is very limited (either wants or repetition of stories she likes) and often very difficult to understand. She typically tries to get away with saying one word when she wants something, but we encourage her to use full sentencing and will when we ask her to. She also has OCD and, as an example, I can’t leave a cabinet door open in her sight for more than a few seconds without her getting up to close it. She requires a lot of supervision since she will get into things or try to get outside if left unsupervised. One time she managed to get into a neighbors pool. We have alarms on the doors now to help keep her safe.
The games she homes in on (puzzle games)— does it help?
When I said puzzle games, I should have said jigsaw puzzle games. She also plays some matching games, but jigsaw puzzles are definitely her favorite. I do believe it helps her focus and keeps her happy. We used to primarily buy her cardboard or wooden jigsaw puzzles but eventually she would destroy them or lose a piece and it would often upset her. Now she does them more on the iPad or sometimes on the computer and it is great that we don’t need to worry about her losing pieces from them! We do worry about her breaking her iPad or getting it wet.
Being a Gamer Parent
Do the non-gamers in your life confront you about “still being a gamer” after, or even before, you became a parent?
No, though I do limit who I talk to about it. I am very introverted and generally don’t have many ‘gab fests’ :). I will talk to fellow gamers about games, but it does tend to be reserved. Right now I talk to my daughters about games more than anyone else, but primarily when they ask. Even though I don’t post that much, I do think posting to my blog helps along with reading other’s blogs allows me to express that side of my life, but, as an introvert, I don’t need to express myself that much.
Has gaming affected your parenting at all, or vice versa? Do you sometimes feel like some instances with your kid/baby are raid/BG deja vu?
Parenting has certainly limited my gaming time and I have had times when I played games too much and decided I needed to cut back.
Do you think you’ve gained some skills from gaming that make you a better parent, and vice versa?
No, but it does put the gaming in a better perspective. Sometimes I can take it too seriously and it keeps me from doing that.
Are you comfortable sharing the time(s) when you used to take gaming too seriously? (And also define “too seriously,” as well, since that can change from person to person.)
The biggest issue was when I would be so focused on a game that I wouldn’t react my children or wife needed something. I took a break from playing World of Warcraft primarily to keep that from happening and my blog was primarily an effort to see how I could play MMORPGs as a casual player. Many MMORPG blogs are from the perspective of people who spend a lot of time playing the games and, though that makes sense, it may skew people’s perspective that it is what’s normal or even required. I don’t pretend to have a lot of readers, but I’m sure there are many more casual players and I think it is important for gamers, particularly MMORPG gamers, to keep that perspective in mind.
How has becoming a parent affected your gaming? Do you game less? More often? Only at specified times?
I stopped raiding because it was too difficult to have to leave if something came up with the children (particularly our child with autism). I now have a gaming laptop so I can more easily move around if needed.
Just for Fun
If you could adapt 3-5 video game abilities into real life to help with parenting, what would they be?
Taunt would be great to get my kids attention. If there were an ability that would clean the dishes, floor, laundry, and dog, that would be great!
My kid is most like [fill in video game character/creature here] because…
I can’t think of specific video game characters but I can imagine some based on them.
– My 11 year old daughter with autism doesn’t seem to be paying attention, but notices so much and if you stop paying attention to her can get into things so fast it is amazing.
– My 9 year old child is the only extrovert in a family on introverts which leads to interesting dynamics.
– My 5 year old child idolizes her 9 year old sister. She can get so focused on something that she doesn’t hear or see anything else.
That could be an interesting blog post to imagine a game with the three of them in it. It might work!