On Being A Gamer's Girlfriend

Video games have never been my strong suit. As a child, I preferred being outside with my siblings or raiding my mother’s closet. When I did decide to plop myself in front of the family’s beloved clunky computer running Windows 98, I played Reader Rabbit, Carmen San Diego, Freddie Fish, Jump Start, Magic School Bus, and Arthur’s Computer Adventure. They were all educational games with clear objectives, lessons to learn, and fun ways to learn them.

I later dabbled in Red Alert, a game I noticed my dad playing. It was very different from what I was used to. It was all strategy — create and command units, destroy enemy base, repeat — which I found quite boring. I wanted puzzles and quizzes and trivia. Fifteen years later, not too much has changed. I would still much rather play Carmen San Diego than GTA or Dark Souls BUT I have learned to appreciate the skill that is needed to play them and make them.

My boyfriend is a dedicated gamer. Now you are probably thinking that he’s like every other gamer you know: glued to the couch, yelling expletives at the screen, laughing at an enemy character’s (often bloody and unnecessarily violent) demise, and a professional one-handed speed snacker. You are most definitely correctBut unlike some gamers, he decided to turn his passion for gaming into his career and he is taking his masters in Game Design. That means twice as much discussion about games and any time I ask about school, I must be prepared to hear an in-depth explanation of 3D modeling, environment building, or the history of gaming. I accidentally asked him about World of Warcraft and that led to my lunch break being devoted to intensely discussing (well, just him) the world editor, DotA, and how it all branched out.

Now, being a gamer’s girlfriend with very little experience or interest in the kind of gaming he does has not been as easy as learning to patiently listen to gamer rants. There have been quite a number of arguments (and not just the little bickering kind) and adjustments over the past two years. Here’s what I’ve learned:

 

“Cool Gamer Girlfriend”
In a desperate attempt to relate to him and be the perfect manic pixie dream girl with all the quirks (“Oh she’s perfect! Pretty, smart, funny, and a gamer! *heart eyes*), I tried to become the cool gamer girlfriend. I took it upon myself to attempt to learn all gazillion Pokémon names, nod along during game-related conversations, and research game plots and characters.

What I learned? First: if you feel like you have to try become some perfect movie trope for your relationship, something’s wrong. Second: Just ask. If you don’t understand a reference or game, ask! If the person you’re talking to isn’t a jerk, they’ll most likely be happy to explain it to you. Third: Be authentic. Nobody likes a faker. If games aren’t your cup of tea, there’s no need to act like they are. Do you. Lastly: Being a gamer doesn’t add or subtract points from your likability or personality. ☺

The References
For our anniversary, I ordered him a shirt with a customized Skyrim design. It had the words FUS RO DAH plastered across the front beside a brooding gentleman in a ram helmet. I thought it was some cheap shirt that had misspelled a word or statement and I almost didn’t pay for it. Thankfully, my boyfriend explained (while trying not to laugh, mind you) that it was a shout of some kind that summoned power in the game. That wasn’t the first time I missed a reference. There were countless Pokémon puns/pickup lines, “took an arrow to the knee”, and “get a life? done” showing little pixelated mushrooms that were apparently from Mario.

Do Not Rearrange
Just like how many bookworms have a specific way they like their books placed on a shelf, games have a way they arrange their games. By genre, title, release date, etc. It may not make sense to you but you wouldn’t want someone rearranging your entire closet just because it doesn’t make sense to them so hands off.

Realizing the Seriousness
When I was first getting to know my boyfriend, I learned that he was into gaming as hobby. That he liked it just as I like reading. I learned just how serious and dedicated he was to gaming when I witnessed how easily he clocked in 260 hours into playing a game I bought him a few months ago. That's nearly 11 days worth of play time!

For this one, set some kind of limit. I've spent roughly 8 hours marathoning Lord of the Rings so I can get past gaming for that long but 12-15 hours? I'm pretty sure doing anything continuously for that long can't be good for you. Everything in moderation, folks.

The Violence
To be completely honest, I sometimes worry about the amount of aggression and violent tendencies my boyfriend harbors. The satisfaction and joy he seems to get from killing everyone and everything within range was a tad disturbing. But once I experienced it for myself, I can say that there's definitely a rush. It's also a pretty great stress reliever when you're not legally allowed to run over your annoying coworkers.

This was a 'to each his own' lesson for me. I've also found that some people take a gamer's aggression a bit too seriously, thinking it will somehow create a generation of trained, ultra violent psychopaths and serial killers. It's a game. Relax. As long as your kid is playing the right games for his age group (M for mature, T for teen, and so on), there shouldn't be anything wrong.

“Gaming is an art
Just nod, resist the urge to roll your eyes, and smile. Gaming is not childish or a waste of time to them and it really shouldn’t be for you either. The skill that’s needed to play intense games and the art/design work that goes into the game’s environment is no joke.

I used to think mastering a game was easy so one day, I grabbed a controller and went at it. A few minutes in, I had died thrice and had unintentionally killed nearly every civilian on that mission. I also managed to make myself nauseous by swiveling the perspective toggle on the controller too much. There really is more to it than blindly smashing buttons and picking weapons or armor because it’s pretty (like I do).

 

Relationships are tough whether they are with athletes, gamers, chefs, teachers, CEOs, painters, politicians, dancers, or janitors. There are always frustrations and misunderstandings. Everyone has their quirks, hobbies, and habits. It just takes a lot of patience, communication, and r-e-s-p-e-c-t.