The Weekend Gamer
Thoughts on gaming culture, living among non-gamers, and growing up in the nintendo generation

Navigating a Gaming Lifestyle Among Non Gamers

For most of us, gaming is something that the other people in our circle of association simply don’t understand. Despite the maturing of the industry, many social stigmas still exist, and chief among these is that a person should grow out of a “childish habit” like video games. This is never more apparent than in our own homes, where many of us have gone from arguing with our mom about play time to arguing with our spouses (Surprise…We can find a girlfriend!).

For the lucky few that have found a partner who enjoys gaming the benefits to our psyche and sanity are obvious, but even if you fall into the majority of gamers who live with a non-gamer spouse or girlfriend, there are plenty of ways to keep everyone happy and maybe even win a convert or two to your favorite past time. Here are some helpful tips to winning over your video game-challenged girl or guy:

1. Involve your significant other in gaming.

Easier said than done, right? The key is to start small and start casual. Free and casual games for the PC like Bejeweled had success with the adult female demographic long before Nintendo ever tried to tap in to the market. Find a game that is easy to pick up, doesn’t take too long, and that you can do together.

My wife really liked Katamari Damacy from the moment she first picked it up, enough so to ask me to play it with her, instead of the other way around. It was a good game to start with, because it only uses the two analog sticks. She also likes Wii Sports and Mario Party (probably because she was able to beat me at Bowling the first two times we played). These are the kinds of games to begin with, and then you can slowly introduce more complicated controller schemes.

As you’re doing this, remember that many of us have been playing games for years and as such we have a knack for picking these things up quicker than a normal person. You need to subtly and creatively indoctrinate give your spouse a crash course in gaming education–don’t throw them into a FFA slayer match in Halo and expect them to take to it.

The other key to this is compromise. If you’re going to expect her to participate in your hobby, you need to be willing to do the same for her. Find something that she likes to do and make an effort to be interested in it.

2. Introduce them to other (normal) people who play games.

Gaming is becoming more and more social as we connect via our PC’s or through Xbox Live, and you’re probably running into a whole slew of people in your game sessions. It’s true that some of these people are exactly the kind of person you don’t want your spouse to meet (you know the teabagging, obscenity shouting 15 year old who fragged you in Gears last month? yeah, not him), but you’ve probably also met some really amazing people as well.

In my case, I’ve met some people playing a particular MMO over the last year and introduced them to my wife online, and then in person. One of them in particular (a female and a gamer) has moved from being an in game buddy to me to a friend of both myself and my spouse. I think it’s been good for her just to see that these people are normal folks who lead well-balanced lives that include a love for gaming. Do whatever you can to find these kinds of people and let your spouse know that they’re out there.

3. Set clear boundries and have more than one outlet for your gaming sessions.

I can’t stress this one enough. First off, if you can manage it, separate your consoles from the main living room television. Set up a second entertainment center in another room so that if she wants to watch television it won’t conflict with gaming. If that’s not possible, then hopefully you have a healthy love for PC gaming and can switch back and forth.

Again, the key here is compromise. In my household, I work a second shift while my wife works a first shift. That means that when I get home my wife is in her prime down time at home–she wants to watch T.V. and/or spend some quality time with me. Since the consoles are in the same space (a tragic but unavoidable circumstance), I need to either wait till she goes to bed or get my gaming in in the morning, when she’s at work, but I’m still home. The great thing is that I’ve got the PC, so I’ve got something to fall back to.

Not only do you need to respect her boundaries, but you and her need to sit down and talk about yours. One of the biggest hurdles for me was getting my wife to recognize that there are some instances where I’ve made plans with online friends and I need to keep those commitments.

She didn’t always understand this–“Why can’t you just pause it?” she’d say, or “I’m your wife, those are just some silly characters in your game!” But now she’s learned to accept those commitments on the same level as if I had made plans with some of my other in-town friends to hang out. How was this accomplished? I think mostly it was that she heard real people’s voices talking over my PC speakers in voice chat, and they would be polite and say hello to her when she came in. It was the biggest step in her realizing that these really are people and no, I can’t just pause them. Now she knows the difference between the games that I’m playing by myself, and the games that I’m playing socially because we’ve talked it through and set up acceptable boundaries for when I can or can’t break away from the game.

The other thing to keep into consideration here is just like when you have a “real life” commitment, you need to communicate well to your significant other. Let them know as far in advance as possible that you’ve got a plan to take on that newest raid dungeon, or that the guys want to fire up the 360’s and play online. One simple conversation, like, “Hey, some of my friends from [insert applicable MMO here] wanted to meet up on Tuesday at around 7, is that cool?” can save you a world of frustration. Let her in on your plans and you’ll be fine, just…

4. Don’t over do it.

Finally, it’s important to keep a healthy perspective about all things gaming and realize that your spouse or girlfriend (if you want to keep her) is more important than your PS3 or 360. Make time for her, and balance out the time that you spend online or in game with the time that you make for her. Make sure that she knows that she comes first, and you’ll avoid 95% of all wife aggro. This means that when she wants to talk to you during a game that you’re playing by yourself, you pause it immediately. If you are online and you can’t break away that second, ask her politely to hold on and that you’ll find her as soon as you can take a break. Giving her an approximate time that you stick to helps as well. Try something like “hey, this match only has 8 min left till it’s finished, I’ll find you as soon as it’s done, I promise” or “Sure thing, we’re just finishing up this mob–let me finish that and then I can tell the guys I need to take a break.” She’ll appreciate it when you make good on your word and will be more receptive in the future.

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These skills form the basis of developing and maintaining a healthy relationship with your non-gaming partner as it relates to your “silly” habit. Focus on good communication, and put some time into it, and I think you’ll find that you can enjoy your games with even the most stubborn non-gamer. At the very least, you won’t be sleeping on the couch.

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5 Responses to “Navigating a Gaming Lifestyle Among Non Gamers”

  1. Great post to live by… now i just need the spouse :). And where do you find all these great pictures?

  2. my spouse is more important than my 360? yea right… j/k very good article and mostly true. 20days till halo 3!!!

  3. i liked this post, mainly because it just talked about rachel a lot. too bad for you, i’m the gaming mason daughter. EW just kidding. but we should hang out more and play some games 🙂

  4. I ❤ you two.

    This is a really well written, articulate article Bri-guy! I enjoyed it very much:).

  5. I’m a female “gamer” and I play everything from RTS’ to FPS’ to RPG’s and everything else you can think of. I also play on consoles, though I am a PC gamer at heart. On top of that, I do play D&D and Vampire at the table. I’m a huge geek, but that’s okay.

    Where as most men have the problem with finding girls interested in gaming, I have had the problem with men. Though there are tons of male gamers, not everyone does the same thing. My husband-to-be is a console gamer and doesn’t do PC games. It’s annoying to me.

    In the past, I remember dating guys that didn’t play. It just couldn’t work. I spend too much of my free time enjoying this hobby of mine and it’s hard to get “non-gamers” into it. On the flip side, I’ve also dated guys that were so obsessed with gaming that they wanted to have sex while playing–as though it was a “fanasty.”

    So, in the end, everything can be taken to extremes and if your partner cares about you enough and vise versa, you’ll be good to go.


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