Thursday, February 14, 2013

Game Together

Happy Valentine's Day!

There is often friction in a relationship when a gamer and a non-gamer get together. As video games become a more common past-time across the board, I should refine this statement to include that there is also a potential for conflict between a hardcore gamer and a casual gamer. I recently mentioned a few games that got my wife gaming with me, and had a few conversations with my brother on the subject. I decided to write this article explaining some of the strategies I've employed to get my wife on board with my gaming hobby. Hopefully readers can take from it what they deem useful or applicable and turn their personal hobby into a fun (maybe romantic) past-time.

Valentine 2013 by T Oliver Prescott on Grooveshark I'd like to make a brief disclaimer that is hopefully evident: I am a man and my experiences are with women. I dated women jealous of video games; ones who felt I played games more than I paid attention to them. I've dated women who played more video games than me. I've been in a wide variety of combinations of gamers and non-gamers. So this is all based on my personal trials and ordeals. I don't want to imply that women are the exclusive target of this article, and subsequently I don't want to imply that women can't love video games more than their men. I know that isn't the case in many circumstances, but again all of this is based on my own collected experiences and written for people hoping to get their reluctant partners into the wide world of gaming.

When my wife and I first started dating, I wasn't playing video games too much. It was a time of my life that I was more interested in going out with friends, drinking and attending social events. Suffice it to say that it was an odd time for me when I was focused on a part of my personality that usually lies dormant. I'm typically much more introverted. I never hid from anyone that I was a gamer and that gaming was my hobby, but it wasn't until a few months later that I started going out less and less and gaming more and more. There was a true adjustment period over the first year or so while we were getting to know each other and it hit a variety of bumps and misunderstandings as all (long-term) relationships must do, particularly in their infancy.

Some moments in gaming are worth waiting for.
I would say things started to change primarily with the North American release of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. My wife (girlfriend at the time) was an admitted casual gamer most of her life, so I thought what a perfect way to get her back into gaming! The Pokémon franchise has a lot to offer the hardcore gamer and casual gamer alike; it has a lot to offer people who enjoy fierce creatures like Charizard and cutesy critters like Eevee. I feel there is something to like for everyone in Pokémon and if you don't like the series it's possible you don't have a soul. Little did she know at the time that if she didn't like playing Pokémon with me, it was a potential deal-breaker! Crisis averted, though. I would say my wife likes playing Pokémon more than I do these days. The Pokémon Gambit was a success.

Some of our biggest clashes came from my on-off addiction to the MMORPG, Final Fantasy XI, so when I decided that I would ultimately leave FFXI in order to play Final Fantasy XIV at its launch, I embarked on an epic quest in real life. I unofficially call the year leading up to Final Fantasy XIV as the "Get My Wife Addicted to Final Fantasy XIV" Campaign so that when I was addicted to it, we would be spending time together rather than spending time apart. When you play games together, playing games is no longer time you aren't paying attention to your partner, but time you're spending together. You're bonding while enjoying your hobby! It's brilliant, really. So here are some pointers I wish to share with you.

Relationships forged in battle!
Though results will vary based on the interests and needs of the individual, I think it's safe to assume in many cases this is going to be a long-term strategy. It's not something that will happen over night and it is something that you will have to nurture until it blooms. I've broken the process up into three phases, but individual needs will vary and the phases can overlap quite a bit based on your results and findings. So don't think of these proposed phases as set in stone, but something fluid that will be a give and take as you test the waters of your partner's interests and attitudes.

Phase 1:  Know Your Audience

You must know what your partner enjoys in order to appeal to their sensibilities. If they have played games, what games did they play and of those what games did they enjoy the most? If they didn't game, explore what types of books they read or movies they watch. Video games are a form of entertainment, so figure out what entertains your partner in other sources and then start tracking down games that are similar. Do they like Comedies? Dramas? War stories? Fantasy? Romance? Do they like long, twisting and turning stories, or do they enjoy action? These are the types of things you must know or find out before you can start pitching games for them to play. There are so many types of games these days, that it shouldn't be too difficult to start matching up some games with their other interests.

Phase 2: Getting Them to Sit Down and Play

This might be the most frustrating and financially draining part of the process. Consider renting or borrowing games you think might interest your partner, because if you end up choosing incorrectly you're stuck with a game that no one wants to play. However, once you have a general idea of what types of entertainment grab your partner's fancy, start grabbing some games that re-create that experience in video game format. Possibilities here are too many to list and it's all catered to the needs of your partner. Make sure to note every success and failure. Inquire what it is that bothers them, or draws them to a game and try to find more games of that nature. Try a wide variety of game types in this stage! If your partner enjoys reading fantasy novels, you might naturally consider a fantasy RPG, but ultimately that may prove too boring. You can shift to an action RPG with more action and less story, or drop RPG all together and try to find a straightforward action game set in a fantasy world. It all depends on the individual and in this stage I can't really set forth any concrete instructions. This is the trial and error stage and you have to remain vigilant and not get too frustrated.

If you dabble in multiplayer games this is a great opportunity to mix in some of Phase 3, because often just playing together can make a game that is boring alone into something that is extremely fun, or fun to make fun of, once you start playing together.

Phase 3: Game Together

FFXIV may not have been the best game
to focus my strategy on, but we had fun!
This is the ultimate goal. Once you figure out what kind of games your partner enjoys playing, then you need to start finding common ground, or if all else fails compromise. Perhaps your partner enjoys racing games like Mario Kart, or Gran Turismo, but they aren't your thing. This is the transition phase to get them from "racing" to something like Grand Theft Auto. It has racing! Once they get used to shooting up everyone in sight, maybe come to enjoy that sort of thing (in a non-sociopath sort of way) Then you slyly transition that to Halo, or Call of Duty, or where ever you're intending to end up in this long-term campaign. It's all about transitioning and conditioning. One of the things non-gamers or casual gamers have issue with is being intimidated or frustrated with their lack of skill (or interest). So you gradually build them up to the point where they're comfortable playing your favorite games along-side you, and enjoying themselves!

Keep in mind, the ultimate goal isn't to brainwash or convert your partner into your Halo wing-man. You may find your partner will simply never like FPS, just like you don't like racing games (in this hypothetical scenario). This is where you must stick to a common interest, or perhaps on Mondays you hit the tracks of their favorite racing game and Fridays you guys shoot your way through the demon infested Phobos base. I can't tell you what will work best for your relationship, but understand that you might hit impasses that you must work around. You might find games you wouldn't naturally buy or play or enjoy by yourself suddenly become extremely fun and enjoyable - Lego Star Wars (and subsequent Lego games) were that way for me. It's a series we can always turn to for a ton of cooperative fun and laughs.

The ultimate goal is to find games that you enjoy playing together, so that you both have fun and your relationship grows stronger. You certainly don't want your partner to resent all the time you game without them, or to feel left out, or unwelcome. Trust me, gaming with your partner is so much better than gaming against them.

He wishes he could play Halo right now,
but nooo she wants to watch a romantic comedy!

Here's some General Tips to keep in mind while working your way through this process:

When you start this process I'd lean towards cooperative games rather than competitive games. It's certainly open to individual tastes, but I'd say that for relationship building (especially the initial groundwork) it will feel better to accomplish something together (beating a difficult boss with teamwork) than to constantly be trying to out-do the other. Certainly there are competitive games like Mario Party and "Mario" sports games in general that are more about "good fun" than do-or-die "must win" gaming, but I'd advise to explore more co-op unless you notice your partner takes particular ecstasy in kicking your ass at Mario Tennis (in which case you might be worried about your future together). It's certainly something you will have to figure out together.

In the same vein, don't take the games too seriously. When playing co-op nothing kills the spirit of teamwork like getting frustrated if your less experienced partner is slowing things down or holding you back. Remember that you're trying to find what's fun for them, and eventually what's fun for both of you. Remember that it's a long process and not going to be instant gratification (the basis of gaming addiction). You need to go at their pace, and cater to their learning curve. You need to offer help and guidance without being overly critical. If you do play competitively, I'm not saying let them win (yes, I am) but you don't need to bring your A-game to each match. This is all for fun, and to spend time together. No one enjoys losing all the time.

Especially me.



  1. I can vouch for these techniques!

  2. The only things I would add (from the perspective of the transitioned and conditioned) are 1)Patience is a MUST. When it stops being fun, stop pushing it. Give it time. Otherwise it becomes a wedge in your relationship rather than a shared experience. And 2) Diversify. Be ready to do something she enjoys doing... like watching a shitty romantic comedy... once in a while.