The Dads Who Became Obsessed With Games Then Quit

These fathers knew when enough was enough.

A few months ago, I wrote about my dad’s favorite games. When I posted that piece on Twitter, I asked my followers to tell me about their dads’ favorite games. A curious phenomenon emerged — that of the father who briefly became obsessed with a certain video game and then never touched them again. It came up so repeatedly that this seems to me to be a broad societal dynamic that affected fathers throughout the last few decades, specifically the 1990s.

In some cases, these dads seemed to see games as not much more than a novelty, or else as mainly the province of children. They happened to encounter a title that got its hooks in them, finished it, then moved on.

Dad Games

In other cases, however, a different picture emerges. A picture of a relatively young father, perhaps one who dallied with arcade hits in his teenage years, suddenly encountering then-contemporary games. Think about it. If you grew up playing Galaga and Pac-Man, stepped back from games from a few years to raise a new baby, and then returned to gaming in the 16-bit era or later, you’d be entering a whole new world. Sure, arcade titles have compelling gameplay and their quarter-draining tactics can make them addictive prospects, but suddenly games were so much more than racking up a high score.

Dads Games

Games like Super Mario World were, appropriately, entire little worlds to explore. There were secrets to discover around every corner, and built-in battery saves meant that objectives could span over multiple play sessions. The increased capabilities of consoles throughout the 80s and 90s meant that games were getting bigger and more complex, more absorbing.

Dads Games

It wasn’t just action games, either — RPGs and management games, previously mainly the domain of personal computers, were becoming more accessible to a wider range of players. Games in the 90s were blamed for addicting kids with their flashy graphics and compelling gameplay, but imagine the appeal they could have to someone who was really into Defender and Joust in the early 80s and never imagined that games could look this good, have voice acting, or tell long, involved narratives.

Dads Games

Maybe it’s no surprise, then, that dads (and some mothers) fell way deep into a single game or two and then stepped back from playing them entirely. Of course, some parents of the era simply developed an appreciation for modern video games and got into them as a hobby. But I’ve heard countless tales of those who picked up one, played it so much that it nearly ruined their life, and then — perhaps wisely — never touched a joystick or controller again.

Dads Games

To me, this seems like a phenomenon of the last few decades. New parents today are more likely to have grown up continuously playing games in some capacity, since video games are more omnipresent than they ever have been. Of course, it’s possible that in twenty years, people will have stories about the time that their dad stayed up late playing Fortnite for days on end to get the Indiana Jones skin and then powered down the Xbox for the final time. That story could, in fact, be being written at this very moment.