Gaming Stereotypes

My own partner BlueJay pointed me in the direction of a terrible, terrible opinion piece on a major national news website here, called ‘guide to going out with a gamer’. It is – as we perhaps should have expected – a vicious reinforcement of negative gamer stereotypes, referencing only the most narrow and simple definitions of the term ‘gamer’. The author appears to be female, and if her article is based on personal experience, I sincerely feel sorry for her. Still, it seems to me that this article is damaging on two fronts: firstly it portrays (male) gamers in an unfortunate and unfair light, as infantile and selfish; secondly it reinforces the idea that women who date men should put up with any such infantile and selfish behaviour (‘boys will be boys’, right?) and mould themselves and their lives to fit their boyfriends.

As the female partner in a long-term heterosexual relationship between two gamers, I’d like to take a look at this article in depth. Let’s start at the beginning…

1. You may not have seen them for two weeks, but even though they probably miss you in their own way, the first thing they’re going to want to do when they see you is sit down for a couple of games. Be prepared for this every time you see them.

I’m not sure I’ve ever known a gamer, of either gender, who was like this. Believe it or not, many gamers are quite capable of spending time away from their games, not least because many of them hold down full-time jobs. If you say “honey, since you’re free why don’t we go out for dinner together?” a gamer is not going to say no because they have games to play.
This is relevant.

2. If you want some cuddles, you have to accept that you’ll probably need to let them use your leg or back as a platform for his computer mouse. Stay very still.

The imagery here of a woman being used as a piece of furniture just to be near her man is almost as disturbing as it is exaggerated. I understand that some hyperbole was intended, but really. If your partner refuses to leave his or her games to spend some time with you, that’s because they’re a jerk, not because they’re a gamer. If you’re trying to cuddle him or her while they’re in the midst of a game, maybe be more considerate and wait for them to finish; you don’t need their constant attention. If your partner is really that unwilling to put aside any time for you, you should probably get out of that relationship! It’s exploitative.

3. When you ask them what’s on his mind, don’t expect “You” to be the reply. In my case it’s usually either games or food.

The author presents her assumption that all gamers are selfish, infantile, single-minded and bloke-ish (I’m willing to bet that ‘beer’ would also have been an acceptable answer). Gamers are incapable of emotional attachment and sentimentality? I beg to differ. Heck, even games provoke those feelings in us. Playing games does not make one a Neanderthal. The ‘what’s on your mind’ question is a trap, anyway, since the majority of us don’t just sit there contemplating our partners, especially when they’re actually present!

4. After a while, you’ll be able to tell simply from the way they answer the phone whether or not their game is going well. If it’s not going well, don’t expect much conversation.

This assumes that not only will your partner always be playing games, but they will always prioritise their game over you – not cool. The correct response if a partner calls while you’re playing games is “hey, I’m just in the middle of a game, can I call you back?” Both your partner and your team-mates will appreciate it (multi-tasking in this instance hurts both tasks). Whether or not the game is going well is immaterial to this.

5. While we’re on the topic of conversation, be aware that most of what he does tell you will be about a play he made in their favourite game. You’ll need to master the art of sounding interested and engaged, while not really understanding or being able to picture what he’s talking about.

The assumption that a non-gamer partner will never really understand conversation about games is, frankly, insulting. Here’s a thought: why not ask? Get him or her to explain their favourite game to you, or at least to explain what things mean as they go. If the hobby’s that important to them, show an interest. If you really don’t care, absolutely do not “master the art of sounding interested and engaged” – just tell him or her that you’re not interested. If you don’t share interests and you can’t communicate your interests to each other considerately, maybe you should reconsider this relationship.

I’m a gamer who dates another gamer, and that’s great, but we don’t always play or enjoy the same things – which is also fine. I’m conversant in Warmachine even though I don’t play it and don’t intend to, because he enjoys it and when he talks about it, I listen!

6. You’ll get used to living with the noise. What noise, you ask? The noise of their unbridled fury every time they is defeated. He’ll swear like a sailor and interrupt you while you’re talking to them with exclamations of “What the Hell? Why is there so much lag?!”

I don’t know what I have more of a problem with here: the idea that gamers will all rage and hurl expletives at their fellows (by now it’s obvious that ‘games’ here more or less means League of Legends), or the idea that this person thinks it’s normal to try and have a proper discussion while one partner is in the midst of an absorbing real-time game. Whether you’re ignoring someone talking to you because you’re gaming, or you’re talking at someone who’s obviously busy, it’s rude! Leave gamers to play rather than expecting their attention while they’re doing something else, and by the same token, be clear about when you are occupied and when you are free to talk. Everyone gets their space and you can talk when both of you are paying attention, or what’s the point?

7. When he gets together with friends and takes you along, there will be an explosion of nerdery. Good luck getting them to talk about anything other than games. If this gathering of nerds occurs in somebody’s home, prepare for nonstop gaming throughout the night, ending only when the sun comes up. You may find yourself joining in because you have nothing better to do. After some time you will start to assimilate into their group.

My first question was ‘what about when you take him to hang out with your friends?’ And for that matter, what about your mutual friends? I guess we assume here that the gamer has no social life outside of games, another stereotype which I have found to be wildly inaccurate. The woman here is ‘taken along’ like an accessory, obviously not involved in the discussion, and apparently starts playing games because she has no choice about being there – er, anyone else have a problem with this? Gamers are people – yes, they will play games with their friends, and yes, they will talk about games. If your partner likes to take you to places and then ignore you all evening, though, you have bigger problems than the games he/she is playing.

8. You’ll start to pick up slang and catch phrases. Before long you’ll be booming “SAPLING TOSS OP!” while you play Maokai on League of Legends, and then you’ll bury your face in your hands and cry as you realise that you’re playing League of Legends.

A word of advice: don’t start playing a game unless you’re interested. I fully endorse giving things a go, but if you find yourself wading into the poisonous cesspit that is League of Legends just to spend some quality time with your partner, you guys need to have a talk. If you want to show an interest in games but don’t like what your partner plays, install Steam and have a look around! There are genres and styles a-plenty for your tastes.

Oh, and author? Maybe if you didn’t start with such a disparaging view of video games, you wouldn’t feel so much guilt about enjoying them? As it turns out, games are designed to be fun, and I believe that everyone can find some kind of video game they enjoy, whether it’s competitive or co-operative, action-driven or story-driven, destructive or constructive.

9. You’ll start getting better at all their games – better than other people at least. You’ll never be able to beat them though. They always win. Soon you’ll be playing these games in your own time. This is a hard truth. Don’t fight it. Resistance is futile.

I know this one to be untrue. One of my thesis study participants told me that her boyfriend had got her into MMO games, and had got annoyed when she ended up better at them than him. Many female gamers give similar stories of male egos shattered. Time spent immersed in a game will almost always make you better at it, and if you click with it you can improve your skills rapidly – but it’s also ok to play a game more casually (that dirty word) and not worry about being better or worse than anyone. Or, you could play co-op with your partner and work on becoming a good team with relative strengths. Just saying!

10. Seek revenge on them for the monster they have made you into.

Yes, because the worst possible outcome of dating a gamer is that you pick up a new hobby and end up with an interactive and creative activity which you and your partner can share. That would be terrible.

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3 Responses to Gaming Stereotypes

  1. wildmant504 says:

    Clearly the writer had a dysfunctional relationship at play here. She could almost have inserted some other hobby such as “watching professional sports” in place of video games. Many of the gamers I know are pretty considerate people who enjoy talking about other things and participating in other activities. You made some points and it was clearly written. Keep up the good work.

  2. Hannah Kerr says:

    This article made me so angry when I read it on Stuff. How derogatory for gamers and non-gamers alike. How closed-minded and shallow this person must be. If they’re doing it for a laugh, well, they failed. I’m glad you addressed it in a controlled way because I just wanted to rage.

    • Curuniel says:

      I kind of meant to write a less rant-y response piece for Stuff, but I missed the moment (vented all my immediate feelings here). But the same attitudes are around a lot, so I can only hope that this gets seen in future when relevant.

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