You see I have this love/hate relationship with games consoles - the neurotypical (read non-aspie) parent in me who believes in healthy exercise, being outside, riding bikes, kicking footballs, throwing rugby balls and hours spent in a swimming pool, hates games consoles, they are a modern day evil turning our children into dribbling, square-eyed, monsters...
However, the other parent in me, the one who is trying to understand how her children tick, who is aware of the one who is differently wired, who is desperately not trying to turn in to her parents (anyone remember the comments their parents made about your favourite bands during Top of the Pops?)........
.......this parent is trying to be cool with the fact that games consoles are part of life and youth culture - I mean, they even have awards ceremonies for games. If Bafta has it's own separate category for Gaming then there must be something in it? (http://www.bafta.org/games/).
Theo has a nice little sideline reviewing games for a small gaming website and this means he often receives preview copies and tickets to events for free. So I really try, in my awkward mum way, to take an interest and be involved because this is where he is happiest and this is where he sees his future. I listen to him talk about the games and read the reviews but to be honest a lot of it goes over my head
I did like this song however that Xanthe shared with me from one of their favourite games, Bioshock Infinite
The games do have amazing soundtracks, even my 70-something mum listens regularly to a game soundtrack that Theo downloaded for her (the fact that it features songs she used to dance to in the 60s helps!)
The children tell me I would really enjoy playing Bioshock but I honestly don't know one end of a playstation controller from another and that is the preferred console in this house, I guess Theo would tell you why but take it from me Xbox is a no no and don't even mention Wii (now that was a console I got on with, I loved Wii fit before I started running again, now it gathers dust in a corner).
But Andy is a better man than me, he has more of a background in these things for a start - his early gaming days involved an Amstrad ZX spectrum and in the early years of our marriage he was the proud owner of a Sony megadrive, the height of gaming sophistication at the time. So a couple of weeks ago he was up for a gaming session with Theo, a bit of Dad and son bonding time as Theo put it. An opportunity to turn the tables and for Theo to teach his dad how things had moved on and what the world of gaming now involves and why he enjoys it so much.
So they spent a happy few hours together, as Andy consumed the best part of a decent bottle of red wine and Theo patiently helped him negotiate the complexities of a game he had reviewed on release - Grand Theft Auto 5. But what Andy did not know was that Theo was recording the game play and Andy's reactions to it. For those who don't know about this side of gaming there's a whole genre of people who record game play via a PVR (personal video recorder) with their commentary over it and post the results of you tube. Which is precisely what Theo did.
And here's the proud parenting moment. Because gone are the days when we stood on the touchline (to be honest there were very few of those moments anyway) cheering him on, or applauded his latest drama performance (he did appear in 2 school productions and two local productions in his time!). As he has got older opportunities to bask in the reflected glory of seeing our son excel in a specialist field have diminished, how do you measure success in playing a video game?
Well that's where old parent has to become 2014 parent - because these days it's all about page views and feedback. And when Theo posted his video of him helping his dad to grasp the basics of Grand Theft Auto, it went viral, people loved it, and told other people, they commented about it on Reddit (the definitive social media site for geeks/gamers and people ahead of the game), and it was featured on the Reddit home page. A gaming website picked it up and wrote a piece about it and so it went on and we watched to You Tube counter go up and up until it hit 179,000 views - incredible!
Even better were the comments - obviously being the internet and You Tube there were the usual troll/pedantic ones but many said how brilliant it was that Andy was playing the games, how cool it was of Theo to do this, how their dad never takes an interest in their gaming....
So I guess like everything in our lives, we have to think differently - seeing our boy do so well was like him winning the Victor Ludorum at sports day, scoring the winning try for his school in an end of season decider or getting A*s in every single gcse. Success is all relative, as always in our overly competitive society we measure our child's success by our values and standards and live our lives vicariously through them. But this moment was about moving over to our son's world and understanding what success means for him.
So I bet you're itching to see the end result - now for those of a nervous/fragile/oldschool disposition, I need to explain that Grand Theft Auto is rated 18, try not too look at the subtitles in the game, you'll fall off your chair, but listen as Andy tries to play and Theo patiently explains to him what is happening - it's more than watching game play, it's about being a fly on the wall as a father and son spend some quality time together....