When I met the man who would become my husband, I was not in any way, shape, or form a “gamer.” Sure, I had played a few rounds of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? in my day and had picked up the controller to my younger brother’s Sega Genesis a couple of times, but I certainly wasn’t someone who considered gaming to be a fun recreational activity.

Then, one cold February evening in 2002, I met a cute boy at a house party, and soon we were spending all of our free time together. And that’s when I started to notice that gaming wasn’t just a pastime for him, but a passion. I can very clearly remember the first time he packed up his computer tower and screen to head out to a LAN party; I was amazed that he stayed out until 8 or 9 the next morning! At the time, the TV show “Real Life” on MTV was extremely popular, and one of his friends was featured on an episode called “Real Life: I’m a Professional Gamer.” That’s when I realized this was the real deal. My cute boyfriend was a gamer. And I couldn’t have been more confused by the appeal.

Fast forward a few years and we are married with two young children. That cute gamer boy turned into a tech entrepreneur and I became a marketing director by day/photographer and writer by night. We were all grown up, but there are some things you just don’t grow out of, and for my husband, gaming was one of those things. Sure, he couldn’t just pack up and head to a LAN party whenever he pleased, but he still loved playing games whenever our packed schedule would allow. And as our kids grew, they started wanting to play too.

Now, as the “mother” I pride myself on being in tune with my kids’ wants and needs, but this was something I didn’t understand. I admit, at first, I was jealous. This was something my kids and husband could do together and I had no idea how to participate. Excepting a one-month binge of The Sims in college (when I locked myself in a closet with the game for a few weeks and then realized I needed sunlight and never played again) I certainly wasn’t a gamer by any definition of the word. All of a sudden my husband and kids were connecting on a level I couldn’t relate to, and I felt lost.

Minecraft is a great game to play with your kids.

Minecraft is a great game to play with your kids.

But that’s when I realized…I can either pout and sulk or join in on the fun. I have always been tech savvy, but often I undercut my abilities because I lived with a real-deal tech guy. But when I take him out of the equation, I’m often the most tech-abled person in the room. So I played to my strengths. I learned everything I could about the games my kids were playing and talked to them about them. I read Minecraft books with my daughter and researched awesome game apps on my phone for my preschooler. When they all line up on the couch to play the Wii U, instead of heading for another room, I started sitting down with them and cheering them on. After a while, they even started asking me for help now and then, when they got to an extra-difficult level.

But the greatest gift of watching my kids play games is watching them connect with my husband. Try as I might, I’m still mostly a wannabe gamer, and he is the real deal…but so are my kids. And seeing the look in their eyes when they watch him play, like he’s the coolest dad in the universe, is totally worth feeling a little left out once in a while. Gaming has given my family the gift of connection, and for that reason alone, I have become its biggest advocate.

Nicole Tanner

Nicole Tanner

Nicole has been playing games her entire life. Now that she's a mom, she's passionate about promoting games as a healthy pastime to other parents around the globe. She has been an editor at IGN, where she launched and hosted the Girlfight podcast. In her spare time (which is not very much, honestly) she enjoys gaming, reading, and writing fiction. Most of the time she’s a mom to a crazy, intelligent, and exhausting little girl.