In The Beginning

In My Girlfriend Does Not Play Video Games on June 30, 2010 at 5:01 pm

I’m writing this, because I imagine there are other gamers in the same situation as I am.

My girlfriend — actually my fiancée, but I don’t feel like looking up whether it’s fiancé or fiancée, not to mention hunting down the “é” on the character map — does not play video games.  She’s not really in to them.  As a medium, it’s something she’s largely written off; not as incapable of inciting an emotional response or producing a worthwhile narrative, but simply incapable of being as such to her.  This affliction extends beyond gaming and into all non live-action mediums for reasons that may simply be reduced to personal taste.  And, as we are all aware, in matters of personal taste, there can be no argument.  She shan’t be convinced.

I’ve tried convincing her.  To date, she’s shown the most interest in heavily narrative-driven titles, and among these only those with voice-over narration stand out.  The two (2) titles she’s sat down and actually watched me play — a tremendous event far rarer than a blue moon — have been Legacy of Kain: Defiance and Fahrenheit / Indigo Prophecy, though she (of course) agreed that the latter’s plot devolved into an exercise in incredulity.

But these paragraphs do little to describe her interests.  When I met her, her favored movies were indie, art-house flicks and she never shied away from a hefty foreign film for the subtitles.  Her father instilled in her a great appreciation for science fiction, and through our relationship I cultivated with her an interest in zombies, superhero movies and Jason Statham (I also got her into plays).  She likewise shared her interests with me, and as far as cinema is concerned I think we’ve both broadened our horizons and now share very similar tastes in film.

So it’s not that she’s too high brow to deign to accept games as a medium to deliver fun; enjoying Crank and its sequel officially revoked both of our rights as such.  She’s just not into gaming.

Because this is not a hobby we share, there’s been a great deal of tension over the time it takes away from “us.”  She’s madly in love with me, and I her.  When we watch movies, we watch them together; we can tolerate even crappy films by simply being with one another.  Gaming, in contrast, is not something we do together and she does view it as direct competition to her where I am concerned.  We’ve really gotten into it a few times if she perceives that I am playing when I ought to be spending time with her.

It doesn’t help that gaming serves as a conduit to hang out with my brother and my friends; suddenly, she’s not competing with just games, but the rest of my social life.  If you thought this would mellow her out — after all, I’m not leaving the house for some nebulous, potentially adulterous “poker night” — but it just seems to incite further feelings of resentment to the medium.

It takes me away from her.  It cuts her evenings short.  She spends hours, alone and asleep, waiting for me to come to bed as I game the evening away, and of course I stay up too late.  It presents too much of an idea that never may there be a day “just for her” as I continue to enjoy a gaming nightcap night after night.  It prevents me from helping out around the house as I should; and quite unfairly, while she does chores by herself, I consider time away from her to be gaming time by default.  When does she get to relax?  Were she not around to prod me, I would likely do nothing but game, be perpetually late and procrastinate everything as I defer to my hobby.

In my defense, I have tried explaining that I play at night because she offers no opportunity to do so during the day.  I have no qualms about this; I understand full well that the afternoon and evening should be used to see movies, eat dinner and generally spend time with each other.  Additionally, she does not have the legs for staying up late as I do, and she’ll naturally begin to feel drowsy a little after nine in the evening.  I’ve also plead that she “wins” over my friends and gaming more often than not, and she expects any engagements I have scheduled to be canceled at her whim if “something comes up.”  And, while I do admit I could be much better about keeping up the house, I would contend that I do most of my gaming in the evening, when it’s generally not suitable to, say, start vacuuming.

What this most often boils down to, is that on occasion I am thoughtless with either the timing or the duration of my gaming, ignoring chores and girlfriend alike, and she is occasionally callous in her absolute rejection of my hobby and social outlet, starting an argument in the middle of a session (“in front of my friends” so to speak) or outright denying whole swaths of perfectly viable game time on general principle.  This doesn’t mean we don’t love each other, but it also means that this problem isn’t going away any time soon.

I’ll close with an anecdote of the first time this came up:

We weren’t living together as yet, but for whatever reason, I would be staying the whole extended weekend.  As she had to work during this weekend, I thought it would be kind of nice to bring my Gamecube to entertain myself with while she was out.  As she was showering for work that day, I got out my equipment, hooked it up and began playing (Phantasy Star Online, if you must know).  She got out of the shower and was appalled I that would be playing during her last few moments with me before leaving for work.  I backpedalled, agreeing in principle and stated that I was making sure it still worked.  At that point, however, the damage had been done; she left in fear that our weekend would be overshadowed by my gaming.  For my part, I distanced the gaming so severely from our time together that it may have set an unfortunate precedent… but we did have a wonderful weekend.

  1. I would point out that my timid nature about calling to game is in part due to this. I worry that I might be taking away from quality time. Of course ehr refusal to see game time as worthwhile could be because we are indulging our ghetto tendencies and commiting acts of virtual manslaughter.
    Though we do tend to look good while doing it.

  2. While I’m hesitant to admit to our e-sociopathy’s reciprocal relationship to real-life activities, the other option would probably be to admit we’re actually sociopaths. So yeah!

    And, you shouldn’t hesitate to call (texts are better though) about this. Most of the time I try to be a bit more aware of when it’s ok or not ok to game, and for her, most of the time she’s ok with me bringing it up. Given that I’ll likely be playing something whether you text or not…I’d be in trouble either way. Or not in trouble.

  3. I’ve had some thought and consideration in this experience myself. My one qualifiable ex-girlfriend wasn’t really into gaming, but since it was long-distance I never really got to explore how much it would’ve conflicted with our relationship since she left me for a pedophile before we ever got to theoretically find out.

    The second girl, whom I had intimacies with but never truly dated, had a passive experience with gaming which I tried to encourage and, at times, I think she may have pursued because she knew me. Since our relationship settled more back into a conventional friendship, her interest in the medium largely went the same way.

    With my current girl, who I call Wife at times, she has what is (for our relationship) a more healthy interest in the medium. In fact, given my passion for the genre (to the point that I’m endeavoring to make my own) I don’t think I could’ve gotten into a serious relationship with her if she didn’t.

    From my perspective, gaming is a part of my life and who I am; were I forced to choose (in the petty it’s either that or me sort of choice) I would’ve chose the games, not out of some obsession but because I would read it as a sign of disrespect towards aspects about who I am, and things which I enjoy that I’ve never pretended to hide. On top of that, the Wife is a being whom I tend to be very blunt towards, and if she were to take me at anything less than my word on these matters then I generally feel the need to make my circumstances fully understood, at which point she can either accept them or not.

    This is what works on my end, of course, and I’m not saying you should apply it towards yours. I admit, because of how I know my wife I know how to (and this is a dirty word to use) manipulate the situation; I know how much work she puts into things versus me, and my playtime is rationalized under those circumstances. Between the amount of schoolwork I do, coupled with my extracurricular work and my job (the last of which now is considerably lessened) I generally don’t feel bad about sitting down and playing something.

    There are other circumstances to consider of course. Although she is a gamer she’s not nearly as much of one as I am; she likes games but is not as often motivated to play, and finding agreeable co-op is difficult (Resident Evil 5 and Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams served us the best) so I usually don’t have to worry about her monopolizing the TV. Besides that, I often carry portable systems around (one of the best traits about the DS is that I can just shut the thing to put it into sleep mode and reopen it just as fast) so if I need some quick entertainment I usually have it on hand.

    Even from her I’ve gotten my share of questing for time and attention; though in our case the worst of it was while she was stuck overseas waiting for her visa to be approved, during which time internet voice chat and Phantasy Star Universe was the only way we could really spend time together. Routine arguments had me establishing that I had other things in my life to do or attend and other obligations which in no way diminished my love for her, and ultimately she could either accept that or not; in the end, she could only begrudgingly accept it (what else could she do from a computer?) but was never really happy with it.

    By contrast, out here it’s a little bit better, though my free time or lack thereof still creates conflict, more when I’m in school and too tired/busy to really go out for dinner, especially coupled with the costs of getting a good meal when our collective pay equals what I used to make full time alone and I’m trying to make sure we don’t dip too deep into our reserves.

    I will say with your mention to good storybased games, it does help a fair bit as it creates a better common ground, though this is sometimes challenged if there’s too much game and not enough story to go with it.

    This is a problem we had with Brutal Legend which kept me from getting back to it and finishing it as of yet; at the time I was enjoying it, the story was great, but there was too much game in between at the time to know exactly when the next story piece would occur. Part of the problem to was my lack of time coupled with my wife’s interest meant I could only play when she was around, and I haven’t made a point of getting back to it yet in part because of that.

    Heavy Rain was something we blazed through together (so to speak) but, like Indigo Prophecy, it’s helped that the game was essentially ALL story. I showed her Dreamfall a while back and there was good appreciation for that. The 2008 Prince of Persia also worked out well, though like Brutal Legend the gameplay between cutscenes can go on for quite a bit at times.

    I suppose what I’m getting to is that it’s best to compromise when you can, and as much as you can (since it’ll better help establish a common ground) but some respect for yourself needs to be established. The hard part, of course, is showing them that your gaming activities in no way diminish your love for them.

    Just don’t argue when they’re on the rag.

  4. I recall the old joke, where a husband says he wanted a dog, and his wife a cat, so they compromised and got a cat. I’ve also heard the definition of that word jokingly referred to as an outcome where no one gets what they want and walks away resentful of the others.

    Gaming is important to me, and my girlfriend understands that; but she is ultimately more important. I’ve told her this, and given her the situation as thus: as we live together, she considers all of my time to be her time; thus, should I do something by myself, I am substracting from her time. This, coupled with how much love and affection I give her anyway, tends to cool her off a bit.

    That said, I would laugh if she ever tried to make me choose. I’d choose her, obviously, but I also would still play games. The situation simply would not occur where I’d actually have to dispose of my hobby for her.

    That doesn’t mean there aren’t moments where I do have to choose, but I really don’t look at it as sacrificing an integral part of myself. Does that make sense?

    Basically, I’m trying to assert that it’s more than possible, and good, to be with someone that doesn’t share this particular hobby.

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