How To (NOT) Get Your Girlfriend Into Games

Show her this advertisement. That will be a real enticement.

Here’s the advertising blurb for it:

Get Your Girlfriend Into Games! is a set of minigames designed specifically to engage any woman in video games entertainment. Best played in couples in versus mode. Suitable for children too!

I see this in a couple of ways. First, the man is fully clothed, the woman is, ahem, not. She is in a more comfortable, relaxed pose, and has a zombie stare at the screen. The text mentions that the game is “designed specifically to engage any woman”. Basically, the ad seems to be a product of Objectifications R Us. With a surprise extra from the “women are equivalent to children” grab bag. I don’t dispute that reading, but it isn’t the only one.

To me, and I think to a lot of men who play video games, the woman sitting next to you on the couch playing video games with you is, at that moment, the most beautiful woman in the world. You might be a total shlub, but she is a goddess. Even in her curlers (do women wear curlers any more?) and bathrobe. I mean, you’re breathing the same air, maybe almost touching each other. And she’s joining you in one of your favorite activities, which, as far as you know, most women think of as a turn-off or competitor. Nerd Nirvana!

What this game and its ad says to me more than anything is that a lot of men would really, really like to have their partners join them in videogaming. And the company selling this game is bent on exploiting that desire. I seriously doubt that this game, even shorn of the offensive advertising, would do much toward enticing a spouse to play video games.

I happen to know several couples that play MMORPG’s. For most of the women, they first got into the game through their husband/partner. So how did they do it? I’m not sure, because my spouse started MMO’s the same time as me, and we both had tabletop RP background. She’s special that way.

One of the qualities that MMO’s have is that they almost all have a fairly gentle learning curve. And if you are playing together with a partner that has more experienced, most of the bumps can be navigated around. It can be tough to be a noob. But as the noob gains confidence, they start to strike out on their own a little, or more. It’s a wonderful blooming, which I enjoy watching.

But there are a lot of videogames that don’t have such a gentle learning curve. PvP games can be particularly brutal this way. You might have to go months before you experience any success. But there are other issues.

Tobi Beck is a woman who has served in the Army and has put on armor and done a considerable amount of fighting in the Society for Creative Anachronism. That’s right, what we do with pixels, she does for real. She wrote a book about her experiences called The Armored Rose

At one point she lists five hurdles that she feels women need to overcome to be successful at fighting in SCA. I think that they have some relevance to playing PVP videogames. I’m just going to list a few of them. I personally believe that men face these hurdles as well. However, men have a lot of cultural support for overcoming them.

  • It can be fun to hit someone Most women (and not a few men these days) are trained to never cause anyone discomfort or pain. But in a PVP game, you are trying to ruin the day of the person sitting next to you on the couch. That’s kind of breaking a big taboo for you. But for the experienced player, busting each other up is a bonding experience, and fun. In Tobi Beck’s world, it involves actually getting hit on the head with a stick (you’re wearing a helmet and the stick is padded, but still.) This can be adapted to, but it’s got to be understood.
  • It can be fun to BE hit. In videogaming, this translates to losing, getting pwnd. This strikes at self worth. This may feel like punishment. This may feel like abandonment, like he(she) doesn’t like you. It can be relearned though, and experienced as respect.
  • You can have fun with new people Tobi writes of women that can spar with a few people and enjoy it, but don’t expand their circle to new people. I see this happening a lot in video games. We all hate PUGs, right?

I don’t know where to take this that doesn’t sound offensive or condescending. What advice would you give to someone who would like their partner to play more videogames with them?

2 thoughts on “How To (NOT) Get Your Girlfriend Into Games

  1. My wife puts in curlers every morning, actually.She's expressed some interest in playing EQ2 with me at some nebulous “future time.” Probably after we can afford a 2nd computer. . . . and hey, I'm gainfully employed again (finally) so it won't be long before we can.We'll see how well she likes it when the time comes.

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