December 16, 2008

Gaming & Relationships

I came across an article that really bothered me: You can find it here:

The article is almost 2 years old but as I was reading it, trying to get a better understanding of the gaming "lifestyle" because lets face it, it really is more indoctrinated than a hobby. Anymore the more I read it the more disturbing it became to me.
The article is about a guy who is a gamer and being lucky that he was able to find a wife who he was able to introduce into gaming. I think it's cool that he was able to find someone to enjoy his hobby with.

I think my frustration was this. The whole article is about finding ways to introduce your love interest into gaming so they A: Understand the lifestyle B: Can spend time together C: Not have it interfere with the marriage/relationship.

Sound pretty good so far, yeah? Ummm NO! There was really nothing in there about taking an interest in your partners hobby's or compromising anything in their relm of likes other than Putting off your gameathon for next weekend to do the "Honey do" list this weekend. I have a HUGE problem with that.
I admit I have a biased opinion of gamers and gaming or anything that takes over the better judgment of having to make a choice between it and the needs of a human or human relationship.
How sad, to let something like this get in the way of human relationships. I can remember my daughter, an only child, not really going to friends houses because they just sit and play video games and watch T.V. Family christmas parties were anyone between the ages of 6 and 40 crowded around the console waiting for their turn while the Older folks cleaned up the holiday mess and talked story about family history and traditions that were basically dying out.
It's not secret that in this technological age we have many awesome things to make our lives and the world an easier place. But seriously, what is the trade off?
I've dated and hung out with some Gamers over the passed let's say 20 years. I've a few gamers in my family as well and I've also HAD a few in my family as well. The difference in that last sentance is gaming was a huge factor in more than a few divorces in family and friends.

Anyone out there ever have this experience?
"Never again! Had they had the (insert favorite hand held gaming device) on during the movie and dinner."
"He was more interested in his cell phone conversation then me."
The funny thing is....they would call back for a 2nd date.

I've hear parent's complain that their kids don't do their house work or school work because of their gaming systems. YET the parent's are sitting next to them in a filthy home with lazy kids.
Of course it's justified as family time when the parents are next to them playing.
I've learned it's a great baby sitter also. Easier to put the kids in front of an idiot box: Whether it be computer, TV etc than spend real time with them. Maybe marriage is the same way. Instead of putting real effort into becoming humanized with people, it's easier to dehumanize them as a avatar in a game.

I've noticed a pattern in a my gaming and techno friends and family. They don't all have all the characteristics of what I've noticed, but they have most of them:
A. Most of them are divorced or in marriage number 2 (because the first spouse didnt "understand" their lifestyle.)
B. Most of them have had a series of set backs in life: loss of jobs, loss of spouse, loss of property, some kind of loss that caused them to feel failed.
C. They are very technology savvy: Computer programmers, Cell phone collectors, PDA's Palms... you name it, they know it and are good at it.
D. There is a need to be in control just about all the time
E. They come across selfish and "me" oriented. In reality they may not be, but we have a hard time seeing it.
F. It seems they have great success getting to level 700 of whatever game and wear these success as though they won some small lottery.
G. They make us feel guilty when they can't get to their games because of something else we'd rather have them do.
H. Their justifications are blatantly justifyable and they actually get angry about our inability to accept it as valid.
I. I'm seriously too sad to continue a list so pathetic, so I'll stop there.
There's little "cheap, Courtesy" things they do as well. Turn to you with some less than involved comment or nudge to barely acknowledge your presence. And then go right back into their game. Only intensifying the fact that not only am i being ignored, they've just acknowledge me for 1 minute as if to say " I know you're here and You get one minute for every 25 minutes of game play"
I talked with my brother, who is a gamer, on his 2nd marriage and doing well I might add. His wife, is much like me: Understands it's a hobby and everyone should have time to enjoy their hobbys. Now I lived with my brother and his first wife for about a year. And the time he spent with the idiot box compared to the time he spent interacting with his spouse I would call shameful. Up until about 3 or 4 years ago, I would say his time spent was shameful.
I asked him what he does differently and how can I have a successful relationship should I (once again) fall for someone who happens to have the gaming lifestyle.
What he does differently:
When his wife comes home, the gaming/computer goes off, Period.
She has become the priority.
What kind of message does it send to your family if you come home from work after being apart all day and head straight for the toys? Especially if the spouse has been working all day as well. If your butt is playing games, and they're cooking and cleaning and dealing with the kids, where is the partnership, and where is the compromise? And if they came home and headed straight for their toys and allowed you to do all the other needed things how would you feel?

My brother added this: " A gaming partner will give you every excuse in the books, and because they believe it, they expect you to believe it and will even get upset when you call B.S on it. You stand your ground and stick up for yourself and your needs."

For him, it was all about feelings of failure. In the gaming world he was successful. Each win or conquer was a success against what wasn't going on right in the real world. So it was easier to function in the real world but find more joy as a successful Avatar who can easily "start over" when things didn't go right and continue in victory when they did. Making it an easy addictive.
I guess we can't always do that in real life... start over when things do go right. Or control other people in a less than favorable situation.

I'm happy he did what was needed to start having those successes in the real world and experiencing that excitement and "high" with people, family, friends instead of machines, electronics and such.
Oh he still plays his games. But not every day, not even every week. It's become something to do when there's nothing to do. But he also realizes there is usually something else to do. The enjoyment he got from his gaming he now gets through his family and other things. He has found a way to fill the void that gaming once filled. And has become more physically healthy as well. Yeah I know there's the Wii games now that allow movement and minimal exercise. But it's scarey to me to rather sit and play a fake game of tennis, bowling, golf or whatever instead of a real game. Basically a gaming session would be sitting and eating. eating and sitting. Invite the boys over to come and sit and eat and play games. Is there any wonder there is an epidemic of obesity in the U.S? Which is a whole other blog altogether.

Anyway, you gamers out there may just chalk my experiences up to being with those who didn't know how to balance or prioritize. This could be true. As I think about it even just recently I've heard " what are you gonna get me? If you ever want to get me something, this is what you can get."
Do you know how often I've heard... "so what kind of gifts do you like?" or "what kinds of things/activities would you be interested in" in the last 2-3 years? Honestly, I can only think of twice. And those 2 times were kind of brushed under the rug due to the other person's desires. Sounds like I need stand up for myself more and to date a different calibre of men? I'm not saying better, I'm saying different. More compatible I guess, maybe?

I still say there is some deep void missing in someone's life who prefers so sit and interact electronically instead of voice to voice, face to face, person to person. A couple of years ago I would have labled such a person a coward. My views are slowly changing. I even have a PS2 myself. I think I've played it 3 times this year. Real life is just so much better. I enjoy being active, moving, living. Gaming makes me feel like I'm sitting around lazy wasting my life away when there's a World out there God created for me to live and function in. I'd rather actually go out dancing then stay in with my dance dance revolution.
So to my gaming friends and family:Don't expect any games from me for christmas or birthdays or ever. And I say this with love. ( my step sister complained about her first husbands gaming but would go out and buy him games. It's like creating a monster, and then complaining when it wrecks your house.)

I would love to hear a successful gaming relationship where the spouse didn't need to convert or be converted to gaming to feel a part of their spouses life or feel that was the only way to spend "quality" time with their significant other. And where the Gaming partner really put their priorities in place as is able to have successful relationship with a truly happy spouse.


Kristin said...

I am so anti-gaming. My brother really got sidelined with his life for awhile because he got so caught up in gaming. I think it's a total waste of time, which is okay for a hobby, but not if it takes over your life. David and I agreed before we got married that we wouldn't have video games in our home. We'll see if we're able to keep that up when the kids get older.

ShaBANG said...

it's a challenge. Alieshia was given a nintendo but never used it. She ended up selling it and her game boy. I asked her if she was a little sad she never really played. she said only when her college roomates are doing it all weekend and she has noone to hang with. But then she would rather actually be doing stuff then sitting on her butt watching stuff i think.
she said she wouldn't mind an old school nintendo with a couple games now. I guess since she's 18 she can do that if she wants. But my guess is it will never be her first choice of intertainment. I'm proud as a parent for that.

stacer said...

I'd love for you to meet my friend Dan and his wife Dawn, who live down here in Orem near me. They've been married going on 10 years or so, and he's a gamer and she's completely not. Like we talked about a few days ago in person, and as you note here, it is all about priorities and being interested in each other's interests--mutually. Dan has a D&D night with the guys, which is usually at their house. Now, D&D is not a video game--it's kind of a group storytelling thing, but with dice. So there's a lot of geeky laughing and stuff going on, and it can pause when Dawn comes in the room and tangents can occur when it's bedtime (they have 4 kids) etc.

But I think the important thing I see in their relationship is this: they each have their interests. Dan's is gaming and he gets that mostly through the D&D night (he used to play WoW but found it distracted him from his goals of writing books and getting them published and eventually making a living for his family off publishing his books, which he just succeeded at this year--he quit his day job). So he dropped everything gamer-related on the priority list. His family came first.

But also important is that Dawn has her own interests. When Dan is playing games, she's scrapbooking or doing some other craft. (Or rather, when he has D&D night, she's taking care of the kids, and when she is doing her hobby, he often is the caretaker, aside from all the family time they have together.)

They've built a family culture, too, that involves all their shared interests, which I think is even more important than their separate interests. Their unity comes first. Then the things they enjoy fit in where they can. And they support each other in those interests.

stacer said...

I forgot one other thing:

I do think you're spot on about the rewards of gaming, however. I have another friend who is married. (They are both gamers--so it's not just the gamer/nongamer dichotomy that is affected by this.) Her husband has suffered from severe depression for much of their marriage, so even though they game together, there was a time that he didn't hold down a job and she did, and she'd come home and all he'd done all day was level his WoW character--stinky trash, stinky clothes, and she is left with all the housework as well as working all day.

She finally got him to open up about how his *constant* gaming was obviously causing a severe rift in their marriage, even though she loved playing as much as he did, and he said what you did about how the game world offered constant reinforcements and successes. Leveling up, killing a monster, increasing your skills--they're all so relatively easy in-game and so much harder for someone struggling with real-life depression, and it was a way he was using (a crutch, really, and an ineffective one at that) to feel confident.

They've worked on it, from what I can tell--he has found a job, they've decided to finally start their family, and she feels a whole lot less pressure to keep everything together without his help--because he committed to changing things like that.

But there are many sad stories of marriages for which they couldn't work things out. And whether it's gaming, or drugs, or working too long, or spending more time with friends than you do your spouse, or p0rn, or anything that interferes with the primary relationship is going to be a problem. It really *is* about priorities (and when it comes to some things, common decency), and I think in our digital age that the gaming relationship problems are only the bellwether of how technology has so overwhelmed our lives that we can't recognize the real thing when we see it: p0rn addicts can't appreciate a real woman, depressed gamers don't know how to have a real relationship, etc. What do you think?