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Author Note: Ok, Internetz, I hope you enjoyed eating my first draft of this blog and that it was mighty tasty. Either my original blog post is going to show up 50 years in the future or something, or it's gone for good, in which case, I submit this bit of writing for your reading pleasure. Of course, just like the Greatest Song in the World, this is more of just a tribute- a tribute that kicks butt! ;)
This is what happens after you both play multiplayer on a school night.
If I had a dollar every time a gamer guy talked about wanting a gamer girlfriend, I'd be richer than Bill Gates. There are multiple articles on the internet about how to get women to start playing games with you (although chances are, even if she does not identify as a gamer, she probably does play games, they're just more likely to be "casual" games or social games). And at the risk of permanently wilting your joysticks, I want to make a couple of things clear- most of those articles are crap. If you love something and you want someone you're in love with to love it the same amount that you do with the same, licensed-underpants-wearing devotion, you're probably not going to succeed unless she's already to that point herself. So, without further ado, I'm going to talk a bit about how to healthily deal with differences in what people like in a relationship, especially when it comes to gaming, and how to not totally drive each other crazy in the meantime.
1) Chances are, if your girlfriend/wife/significant other is not "into gaming," she's dealt with gender discrimination and significant roadblocks when she tried to play.
Everything from "backseat gaming" (when someone else lets you hold the controller but then keeps telling you what to do or shouting at you if you make mistakes), to brothers hogging video game systems during childhood, keeping her from playing even if she wanted to, can lead to a woman who grows up basically thinking that gaming is "not for her." Either it's the pressure of being expected to be good immediately, or it's the sheer disbelief that "girls can play games" (yes, even today, this bias exists), and in some cases, it can get equal parts creepy, frightening and outright dangerous.
Take, for example, this article on Kotaku: http://kotaku.com/5782957/im-an-anonymous-woman-gamer
In it, women talk about how it is very hard to play video games while also being identified as female to others. Many people automatically assume you're male on the internet, even if you play as a female character, and when that worldview is challenged, many male players become angry and offensive- suddenly gendered slurs are flying out all over the place. A bunch of female gamers even created a website called "Fat Ugly or ***" to document a lot of the female-oriented slurs and attacks that are lobbed at female gamers simply for "outing" themselves as such: http://fatuglyorslutty.com/
Fortunately, not all males (or gamers) are noxious jerkwads, but the fact remains- if you call yourself a gamer, people pigeonhole you, and they will often start asking questions about your gaming habits to try an assess if you are a "real" gamer in their eyes. If you love playing Pokemon or are an avid Farmville player, there are people out there who turn up their elitist noses and proclaim that only people who play Mass Effect can be "real" gamers. There are people who don't think that handheld gaming is "real" gaming- and stil more who think that puzzle games or casual games are "real" video games at all, because they don't involve guns that shoot things and lots of high- resolution CG.
2) Gaming together can be fun...if you choose the right game and you're both good sports about it.
Do you throw the controller across the room when you lose? If so, then gaming together is probably a big no-no (unless you're both playing separate games in the same room, that is). One of the biggest problems that couples run into while gaming together is the competition factor- if one or both people are highly into winning, the frustration of losing can lead to an all-out fight, and sometimes even eventually lead to break-ups. The other problem is that most of the time, the idea of gaming together is one person's idea, and the game being chosen is one that the person who suggested the game is very familiar with.
For example, when I was a kid, I would go next door and play Tekken Tag Team with my friend Spen. He had the PS2, so I always had to play whatever he was playing. The thing is, he could spend HOURS playing the game, while my only experience was when I came over to play against him. So surprise, surprise, every time I fought against him, I generally tended to have my butt handed to me because he was very good at playing the game. Now, it was often less of a stinging defeat if our mutual friends Jeff and Ryan were around because we'd all take turns and they were more evenly matched with me (because we all did not have PS2 systems). Of course, there were a handful of times when I did beat Spen, and those victories were even sweeter considering that I have always been more of a button masher when it comes to fighters and with my lack of practice in the game, his mouth would practically hang down to the floor with disbelief (and that made me laugh like crazy).
"Just because I'm shorter than you doesn't mean I won't kick your butt any harder at the new Street Fighter!"
Now, luckily for me, I wasn't in an actual relationship with any of these people. It's a big difference when you're joking around with friends. When you're in a relationship, especially one in which the horizontal tango and plenty of kissing is involved, even playful banter can dissolve into petty "fine, no nookie tonight" kinds of sniping if someone hates losing or is vastly out-performed in the game. I've seen plenty of women pick up a controller for the first time, get knocked into oblivion by some guy who obviously has played the game for weeks on end, and then set down the controller and make some comment about it not being "fun." Well DUH. Of course it's not fun if you're always being killed off by someone who knows all of the ins and outs of the game! Most of us have memories from childhood where someone did that to us and it doesn't feel good at all. Now imagine that it happens to you every time you pick up a game at someone else's (normally a guy) request? Yeah. I thought so. You probably wouldn't be nearly as interested in it if you thought you were always going to be a loser.
3) Obsession makes people creepy- especially if they want to force that obsession on you as well.
We all have certain hobbies and talents that we hold close to our hearts. Some people love fixing up cars- they know literally everything about them (my father, for example, who is awesome). Other people love cooking and can list off every single random kitchen accessory and what it does (my husband, for one- it's a passion for him). And still others can give you the entire list of Mary Kay make up lines and the differences between Mascara #2 and Mascara #13. Plus, there's people who have all sorts of random talents in between, from being able to sew to being able to do crazy theoretical math to being able to play musical instruments. But just because you like to tear out motors and fix them up does not mean that your spouse similarly enjoys it. And many of you might be bored about hearing all about the new spring colors in the Juicy Couture line, while others would be simply riveted.
Chances are, we won't love everything the person we love does (and vice versa). However, this does not mean that you can't be happy together. For example, in my relationship with my husband, he tends to like games with a lot of guns and shooting in them. For me, listening to the constant shooting and watching people's heads blow off just makes me exhausted after awhile. I go into sensory overload and kind of shut down. But I don't mind if he plays shooters with the sound off (or with headphones on) and I simply avert my eyes if I don't wat to see heads flying off with the shrapnel as long as he's not insisting that I play it with him (and he is generally understanding enough not to do so).
But on the other hand, *I* tend to be a big fan of horror films, especially zombie flicks. Meta-based zombie movies are my favorite (Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, etc), but my husband has SEVERE ZOMBIE PHOBIA. Seriously. The only Resident Evil games he'll play are the ones that involve the parasites because he can't deal with the actual undead. I sort of forced him to go see Zombieland with me (because hell, I wanted someone to talk about the movie with afterwards, and he agreed to go with me), but he ended up having nightmares about it for weeks afterwards. I felt bad about pressuring him to go. So now, when a zombie movie comes out that I really want to see, I find someone who likes Zed flicks and take that person instead. Or I just wait until he's gone to sleep and watch it on Netflix (note: "Aaaah! Zombies!" is hilarious!) It doesn't kill me all that much to not watch stuff that I know he doesn't like without him even though I think it might be more fun if he was into that sort of thing. Still, I think it all comes down to respecting boundaries and really understanding exactly where your partner is regarding their dislike of something, be it gaming, movies, thematic elements, etc.
4) Remember, real love isn't about how similar you are, it's about how both of you work together.
Some people say that you should have a lot of similar interests in order for a relationship to last, but the truth of the matter is that differences can be great. Having different hobbies and bringing different skills to a relationship can make it truly special and dynamic- and it can keep the boredom from setting in. While the main reasons for strife in a relationship tend to be differences in core values (religion, politics, financial habits, familial priorities, etc), gaming, music tastes and other such things don't really have to be deal breakers. Of course, if you're into heavy metal and your girlfriend is mainly into dance-pop, that can sometimes spell trouble, especially if you both can't stand the other person's music, but very rarely do people who prefer a certain type of music absolutely HATE different kinds.
Obviously, there is wiggle room here. When it comes to gaming, if you expect your spouse or relationship partner to be second banana to your WoW time, they had better be ok with it, or it will cause problems. Of course, outside of that, most people don't care WHAT you play if it's not otherwise causing problems (ie: spending tons of time apart). The bottom line, however, is that when it comes down to it, your girlfriend can enjoy the games she likes and you can enjoy the things that you like and it doesn't have to be mutually exclusive or all-or-nothing. The most important thing here is communication. 99% of the time, the gaming is not the problem- it's usually indicative of someone not really pulling their weight in the relationship and being thoughtless or taking the other person for granted. Believe me when I say that the last thing you want to do is have a fight about your XBOX360 that isn't ACTUALLY about your XBOX360 that culminates in said XBOX being thrown out a second story window in the heat of the moment. Bottom line? Find out the REAL source of the problem and do your best to come to a solution about it together. Oh, and listening- listening is super important and that goes for BOTH parties.
5) Talk about your gaming exploits (but be sure to fill us in on important details)!
My husband, to be sure, is a huge console gamer. Roughly 99% of the games for our XBOX 360 are ones that he bought and played himself. There are obviously titles that I enjoy playing as well (Beautiful Katamari and Ilo Milo, for example), but generally, he plays the lion's share. Of course we often have long conversations about various things going on in our lives, as people often do, and one of the things that he enjoys telling me about are the various things that happened in-game for him that he is really excited about.
"BACK IN MY DAY, WE ONLY HAD ONE CHARACTER NAMED 'PLAYER 1' WHO WE HAD TO WALK UPHILL IN THE SNOW BOTH WAYS TO PLAY AS AND WE LIKED IT THAT WAY!"
Now, don't get me wrong, I love hearing about the story (I've actually gone out of my way to watch him play through several games that I enjoyed for just that reason, but have not actually played myself- such as Bioshock and Arkham Asylum) but if I haven't watched him play it or know much about the game other than the basic sound byes from the internet and various trailers, I am going to get confused really quickly, especially if there are references to "thingies" and "whatchamacallits". Talking about your gaming experiences is cool and fun but make sure to tell it in an interesting manner so that the person listening does not get totally confused or bored and just tune you out. I often have this problem when I'm playing Pokemon- I can't seem to remember all of the newest Pokemon names. So I'll come up with ridiculous (but somewhat appropriate, considering what they look like) nicknames for them that will TOTALLY CONFUSE PEOPLE when I talk about them. When I'm talking about gaming, I must gauge exactly how much about said game the person I am talking to actually understands or is familiar with. Then from there, I can explain or add extra bits of information to fill in the blanks.
Because I am a gamer and I enjoy reading about a variety of games (and we have Game Informer Magazine as well as Nintendo Power), I tend to be pretty knowledgable about the basic premises behind games that my husband likes to play). But my husband's mom is often downright clueless and my brother, while into gaming, is more of a COD/ Modern Warfare FPS fanboy and pretty much nothing else. So it pays to keep in mind the audience before going into a tirade about how someone blew up your tank and how pissed off you were about it.
6) Don't make us feel stupid/patronize us.
Going hand in hand with some of the points above, the biggest thing to take away from having a relationship with someone who may or may not be a gamer boils down to basic respect. Treating a girlfriend like a child or an idiot is just going to make her feel like you don't respect her, and really, you probably don't if you have to pat her on the head and tell her it's ok if she doesn't know which way to hold the controller before she's even touched the dang thing. Things like backseat gaming, expecting her to become an expert in 5 seconds, and making her go along with things you like without paying attention to how she feels on the subject basically broadcasts that you don't care about what she thinks or how she feels on the subject and that you seem to expect that she just should just supplant her personality to whatever YOU want to do because obviously women are supposed to do this sort of thing and be happy about it or something.
I know it sounds strange, but even if you're attracted to someone, they're still a human being as well, and even if you've heard all the strange "women are from venus, men are from mars" hype in our culture, the truth is that most people aren't all that different from each other- they want to be cared for, listened to, respected, and treated as equals in mind and soul (note, this does not mean that they want to be treated like hive-minded Borg or anything like that- just to be cared about as an individual that goes beyond boobage). I don't think that's too much to ask for, really, and honestly, if you're in doubt, turn it about- step into the opposite situation and imagine that you are being treated that way- how would you feel about it? Chances are, if your behavior would make you feel like you were being silenced, marginalized and disrespected, you would tell people you didn't like gaming either.
Love can be sweet like watermelon, but it's also got seeds to deal with and whether you choke on them or work through them carefully is up to both of you.
Now, just to make sure that I'm not coming across as vilifying all gamers out there, I do want to let you know that I do not honestly think that all gamers (especially male gamers who want to introduce their girlfriends/spouses to their love of gaming) are jerks or just ignore how the other person feels. However, I do think it is important to note that when you're really excited/into something, it can be hard to deal with the fact that not everyone else has that same enthusiasm, and it is often easy to just ASSUME that someone else DOES have the enthusiasm, they simply need to be CONVINCED that they, too, are totally in love with whatever it is that you love playing so much.
So, in conclusion, I must say, please don't wish for a "gamer" girlfriend or try and "turn" the person you're with over to your gamer ways. Chances are, if she loves gaming, she won't have to be convinced, and even if you both enjoy different games, the most important part is that you're both having fun and that you both still enjoy one another's company and respect each other's differences, Farmville, FPS's and all.
So, how have you dealt with differences in hobbies, especially gaming with spouses and/or relationship partners?
Have you ever had a fight with someone regarding your love of gaming?
If you are a male gamer, have you ever found yourself engaging in "back seat gaming" behaviors with less-experienced friends? Do you still do this?
And finally, if you are a female gamer, have you ever experienced "gender based hazing" when you out yourself as female while gaming?