How to Share Gaming With a Skeptic; or, 'Then I Won That Race, Now I'm a Believer'
By Tara Roth on August 27th, 2012 (7 comments)
While gaming is becoming more prevalent among women thanks to Smart phones (I mean, let’s be real here, Angry Birds and Temple Run have done a lot more for attracting players than Demon Souls ever has <single tear>) we’re still a minority when you consider the numbers. There is still a stigma against gaming (I would never in a million years admit to my coworkers how much I play) and the stereotype of the socially inept shut-in is a big hurdle to fight against when it comes to attracting new people. I’ve heard a number of gamers bemoan that they are are in a constant battle with their significant other (usually a girlfriend) over gaming and really wish they would give it a try and see how fun it can be. Thinking back to how I got into gaming and how I’ve shared it with roommates and boyfriends in the past, I’ve come up with guidelines that, if followed, give you the greatest chance of bringing your significant other over to the dark side.
1.) Ease Them Into It. If her entire life gaming experience is Farmville and Angry Birds, handing her Dark Souls and looming over her shoulder is not the best way to win her over to the “games are fun” camp. Is she an artist or “spiritual” type? Have her play Flower or Journey. Is she a Farmville addict or a collector? Try Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale or Pokemon. Does she have aggression issues? Any fighting game... just make sure you let her kick your ass sometimes. Which brings me to my next point.
2.) Play Co-Op. Remember, the goal here is to make sure they have fun. Playing a co-op game where the price of failing is low or at least amusing is the exact sort of game you want to be playing. This is where the Wii really shines. Examples would be Super Mario Galaxy (Wii) or Kirby Super Star (SNES or emulator). Even games like MarioKart Wii can be easy and accessible to new gamers. Playing together makes gaming feel like a fun social experience instead of obsessive compulsive disorder drudgery. Give it a party feel or turn it into a drinking game and add bonus points.
3.) Keep it Close. Remember: It HAS to be fun or they will not want to play again and you will only have yourself to blame. The goal here is no longer winning, it is credibly losing. Obviously if he just spent the last three laps grinding his front fender against the wall in last place, losing to THAT is hardly credible and he’ll just feel like you’re patronizing him. But you can drive off a cliff, get hit by a few extra banana peels, or hit the wall wrong a few times and fall into 4th place forcing you both to redo the track (There is a possibility I have done this a few times). In some ways, credibly losing takes MORE skill than winning. Once you’re sick of retrying you can just barely sneak into 3rd page and mutter “Christ this is a hard game.” (Okay maybe I’ve done this a lot). Yes, it’s lying, but it’s all for a good cause. Playing to his ego will go a long way to repairing the image that gamers are all obese misanthropes that rarely see the light of day. Oh, and by the way...
4.) Do Not Play Into the Stereotype. If she comes over to visit, turn off the single player game. Ignoring someone who is coming over specifically to visit is rude anyways but more to the point, it feeds the stereotype that gamers make terrible boyfriends/girlfriends. Games like MMO’s or multiplayer shooters (such as Call of Duty) are incredibly boring to watch (this is coming from me) and no matter how many times you insist that they’re fun, her perception is only going to be that she is bored and you’ve barely acknowledged her existence. An hour or two may go without comment, but if you’re getting gf-aggro, it’s time to log off or risk losing your game privileges (or bedroom privileges) forever. If you want to keep your raid nights, tell her ahead of time when those nights will be. If she comes over after you’ve already told her you are going to be busy, give her a realistic ending time and be prepared to hop off when that time approaches.
5.) Praise. Remember, the goal here is believable praise. Gushing “ZOMG! You did so well!” when he managed to only score one goal in an entire NFL Blitz game is only going to be believed by a complete retard. A better remark might be something like: “Wow, you’re learning fast!” or if they make a move that is particularly... erm... imaginative: “I’d never thought of doing that before.” These comments are believable and suggests to them that they can win with enough practise and time. This is the sort of motivation that keeps people playing.
6.) Be Patient.Remember, you didn’t become the God of video games overnight and neither will they. As they improve, keep the trash talking to a minimum and under no circumstances respond to any trash talking from them by opening the floodgates of pain. Seriously. No matter how much you want to, don’t do it. As the idea that you have been holding back sinks in, they will realize all your praise has been bullshit. They will feel humiliated and they will never play with you again. Learn from my fail.
Follow these guidelines and you have a good shot of convincing your friend/significant other that games are at least fun and should be tolerated. Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll be the one desperate to leave the house and she’ll be the one saying: “Just 5 more minutes, okay?” Ain’t it grand?
Tara is a part time writer and full time scientist living and working in San Francisco, CA.
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