I am a gamer, and I am also married. I am lucky enough to have a wife that not only accepts my gaming but enjoys it herself. Just this weekend, my wife and I partook in a mutual Mass Effect marathon, and next weekend I imagine we’ll do much of the same.
This isn’t something I expected. Truth be told, up until a few years ago I was one of those people under the impression that female gamers were rarer than twonicorns, and while female gamers are coming out as more mainstream and are slowly becoming less of an exotic fruit, chances are gamers are still more likely to date someone who’s connection to gaming is in the least more casual.
A lot of gamers in this position, both male and female, will naturally want to integrate their favorite past time into their budding relationships but many of us make mistakes born of inexperience, ignorance, and outright selfishness. Read on to find out how to avoid turning video games into a problem and moreover, how to make them a part of your love life.
Gaming Too Much
While wasting time at the F*** My Life website recently, I came across the following entries:
“Today, I was about to have sex with my boyfriend. His best friend called and said he just beat God of War 3 and that my boyfriend could borrow it. He got up, got dressed, ran to his car and told me I could walk home.”
“Today, I propositioned my boyfriend of two years to have sex with me in the shower to spice up our love life. He said that he was really busy. He was playing Call of Duty.”
“Today, I woke up and my boyfriend was already awake. Feeling in the mood I slipped off my nightdress and looked him in the eye. He looked me up and down, smiled seductively, reached over… and turned his PS3 on.”
Granted, these are extreme examples, but it is something I’ve done myself to a lesser extent. It had nothing to do with sex mind you. You could wave a gold plated PS3 in front of my face and I’d still pick sex.
The incident took place a few years ago. Already trying to work gaming into our then young relationship, I introduced my wife to Harvest Moon. She’s likes games with relationship elements to them, so I thought it would be a good fit. It was a good move, she wound up really liking it. What she didn’t like however was when I bogarted the game and our sole television at the time for half the day. As much as she liked the game, sitting around watching me play while I forgot she was even there wasn’t a hit. We fought about it, and I came to see that what I had done wasn’t right.
This is a mistake a lot of people, not just gamers, make. For my part, I had grown up spending hours playing video games without interruption. Entire weekends would often fly past without my so much as holding a conversation with anyone. During the week I’d get home from school and start gaming all over again. I lived in a personal vacuum. Imagine my surprise when my wife and I started dating and she was actually interested in me. Suddenly I was expected to speak, to engage, to be an active part of a duo. It was foreign to me, but I eventually learned and loved it.
I can already feel the collective resistance of some in the proverbial audience. “Why should I change? Why shouldn’t they just find something to do?” You should change because you chose to be in a relationship, and a relationship is a two way street. If you don’t like that then choose to be alone. Maybe your partner could do something else, but is it really so awful that they want to spend time with you? Honestly, you should be flattered that someone finds you interesting enough to want to be around that much. I look at myself sometimes and think, “Damn, I’m boring.” And yet my wife makes me feel good about myself because she always wants to hear what I have to say.
Moreover, maybe instead of spending a day playing games you could take interest in something they want to do. This is especially true if you’re with a non-gamer. When I was single, all I did was watch TV, play video games, and read the same three books (Starship Troopers, Ender’s Game, Les Miserables) over and over again. Since being with my wife and putting in the effort to try things she enjoys, I’ve learned that I like roller coasters. I know that hiking isn’t so bad and that I like to kayak. Moreover, I never would have played games like Eternal Darkness or Mass Effect if she hadn’t already liked them and suggested them to me.
Anyone worth a dime will appreciate you taking an interest in them enough that when you try to share your hobbies, they’ll be willing to do the same.
Think about What You’re Playing
One of my favorite games this generation is Demon’s Souls. It’s a great single player experience that at its toughest moments is one of the most intense games to come out in recent years. That said, it’s boring as hell to watch. The same goes for most shooters. Playing online can be fast paced and fun, but to most onlookers it’s just pointless, repetitive violence.
If you’re dating a non-gamer and you hope to get them into gaming, one of the worst things you can do is play a game that’s boring to watch. Conversely, one of the best things you can do is pick something with a good, cinematic story. What better way to show them that gaming is more than mindless fun than to showcase a game that goes out of its way to prove it?
Point in case, up until last year my wife’s favorite game was The Sims, a title I’m fairly uninterested in. She would comment on some of my games, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, etc, but none of them ever really latched on. Then, last year I brought home Dragon Age: Origins. Soon, she wasn’t just watching out of courtesy, she was genuinely enthralled in the game. I wound up playing as a girl so we could romance Alistair together. With time she was playing it herself. We eventually had to buy a second copy for our computer so I could have my PS3 back.
More than just interesting someone with a good story is the issue of accessibility. Modern Warfare might be fun for veterans of the genre, but for a newcomer it’s nigh near impossible to step into. The same goes for games like Demon’s Souls. For the devoted hardcore gamer, there’s nothing better. For the newcomer just getting their feet wet? You couldn’t pick a worse game.
In other words, you can love a game but before you try and hoist it off on your loved one try to think about it from a critical perspective. Would it intimidate you if you were just starting out?
Play Together, Stay Together
Dragon Age isn’t the only game we had to buy two copies of. I recently bought an Xbox 360 for the sole purpose of being able to play Mass Effect at the same time as my wife. Three days later Mass Effect 2 for the PS3 was announced, but I digress. When possible it doesn’t hurt to play a game together. If you both like playing online, play the same MMO. If you both like shooters, frag each other. If you’re like me and my wife, find single player experience you both like and play them at the same time.
If you can enjoy it separately then you can enjoy it together. The shared experience will in turn help strengthen your bond and in the simplest terms, just give you something to talk about. One thing a lot of couples struggle with is what to say to each other after having been together for so long. Mass Effect alone has bought me and my wife at least six months (and counting) of interesting conversation.
Know When to Quit
Some people don’t like video games and never will. If you’re a gamer and your attempts to convert your love interest don’t work, then that doesn’t have to be the end of the world. As long as you are happy, and doing what makes you happy then who cares? My wife hates Star Wars but you don’t see me filing divorce papers, do you?
What’s important is to know your priorities, know when you ought to compromise and, most importantly know when enough is enough. If you’re with someone who asks that you cut back from five hours a night to two or three, that’s reasonable and maybe even to your benefit. If you find yourself in a relationship where the very mention of video games is a touchy subject, it might be time to reconsider. This goes for any hobby or interest. In a relationship, both people have a right to express what they want and don’t want in their lives. If you look at your life and feel satisfied, then just be happy and stop pining after some “perfect” gamer girl that likes to get freaky dressed like Pikachu.
Gaming can be great, but life and love can be so much more. It’s a lot of work and requires sacrifice at time, but for all the hours I could have spent alone killing virtual people, I’ll never begrudge the time I spent holding a real one in my arms.