In Games Do We Part: My Life Married to a Non-Gamer

My wife is … not much of a gamer. She thinks anime is “squeaky” and the sound of button-mashing grates on her ears. The music from several games makes her head hurt and that’s not even mentioning the sounds of combat. In a word: games annoy her, which is why I generally don’t play them much. Not to say she is making me, but I would rather enjoy domestic tranquility than fuss. Granted, this has caused some problems as you might imagine, but on the whole I reserve my gaming time for when she is busy or otherwise occupied.

Mass Effect 3, EDI

Now, I do game, and since my laptop can run several games I have gotten back into the habit. She … indulges me at best. When I say I am going off to shoot people, she just smiles and wishes me a happy time. I try to mute the really loud sounds, like the Mass Relay from Mass Effect, in order not to trigger her issues with sound. So yes, there are some issues but they are not insurmountable.

Some of the problems can be categorized into a couple of areas: cost of games, time involved, sounds, and my obsessive talking about it sometimes. These issues are not just things that can affect my marriage but are also issues for anyone living with someone they are romantically involved with when their significant other is not a gamer. Just because they don’t game doesn’t mean we can’t.

The cost of games is obviously an issue unless you are prepared to drop $50 or $60 on a single new game, and it can make a dent in any budget. That isn’t even taking into the consideration that systems run into the hundreds of dollars. Gaming is not cheap. In some ways, it is akin to smoking as there can be a constant outlay of money if you are really into games. What I have done is join Steam and look for deals. Sure, I am behind the curve in terms of games played, but when I can get Mass Effect 1 and 2 for around $20, that is a much better use of money. Hell, I got all three BioShock games for about the same cost. That certainly makes the budget whimper less.

Money issues can be a high stress issue in relationships. In fact, studies have shown that the primary reason for couples to bicker and argue is money. Knowing that to be the case, I pretty much run all purchases of games or DLCs that I am interested in past her. Honestly, she does the budget and has a better idea of what is going on with our money than I do. I also think it is sound budgeting to ensure that the purchase won’t screw something up. Creating a budget shortfall thanks to my gaming habit is not the best use of my time.

And on the matter of time, games can be very immersive and it is very easy to lose yourself in them for hours or days at a time. Some of the RPGs have run times in the 20-40 hour range. That is a pretty big investment of time. Partners can get a touch miffed if you are spending time that they could be a part of with a video game. Honestly, this part is really tricky to deal with as the pull of the game and the story can make you get dumb. I don’t like being dumb and forgetting important dates or times. I do enough of that thanks to my writing.

So I generally play when my wife is running errands, doing crafts, or is asleep. Sure, that limits my gaming time but it also has the added benefit of making me do other work like writing. Everything in this issue has to deal with making sure that the relationship is not ignored while you go off as the Inquisitor to fight off the latest Blight in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Even simple shooters or driving games take time to play. The last thing you would ever want is for your relationship to go down in flames because you are more focused on the boss fight rather than your significant other.

In terms of sound, it is clear that games make them. As Jillian pointed out, the atmospheric music and sounds can make a game even better. However, despite how excellent the music is or the sound effects in the environment, there is always the fact that your partner might not appreciate them as much as you. My wife has really sensitive hearing. It can be really crazy to deal with, but I cope. I used to play a console game but a) it got old and b) the noises from the TV and the button mashing were too loud. That, of course, had to be dealt with.

Now I game on my laptop. The button mashing is still there to a degree but the sounds are contained in my earbuds. Games can be noisy even on cellphones or tablets, which have smaller speakers, and that again can be dealt with by using headphones or earbuds. Few people really want to bug their SO that much, at least not on purpose, though there can be exceptions. It’s a simple consideration of others that should be second nature but rarely is.

Speaking of consideration, since my wife is not a fan of games, I try to avoid boring the hell out of her with stories of my games and achievements. While I may be amazed with something in-game like the graphics, music, storyline, or how I killed the boss, none of it really does anything for her. A huge part of that is context. How can you care about the adventures of Commander Shepard if you have never played the game? Unless you develop the context of who the characters are, what the relationships are, and all that, then talking about the different romance options or how I killed a Reaper on Rannoch are meaningless noises I am talking about.

Mass Effect 3, EDI, Joker

Now, this is not to say that she doesn’t listen to me when I talk about my games. She does. I listen to her talk about yarn, sewing, and herbalism because they are things she is interested in and so it is a good thing to do. The same logic is why she listens to me gush about the beauty of Skyrim or how creepy BioShock is. Communication is the key. We both try to understand something of the other’s interests and try to avoid oversharing. Coming to a balance is what relationships are all about.

I’m also not saying that she hasn’t gamed. She has. It’s just that she has never really gotten into games. We have enjoyed playing Katamari Damacy or Dance Dance Revolution and she has played a few driving games before, but on the whole she could take it or leave it. There are other games like Bejeweled and 2048 that do better at catching her attention. She does game, just not in the more popular games. She is, if anything, a true casual gamer who might play something that catches her interest for a while and then moves on. Games like Flappy Bird, Angry Birds, or any number of games that you can put on your phone—more about keeping you amused and entertained while you are waiting for something or are otherwise unoccupied—make up a very large proportion of the gaming community. Things like Minesweeper or Solitaire still count as gaming despite what some might say.

That said, perhaps it might be a better statement to say that I am married to a very casual gamer who has no interest in games like Mass Effect, Call of Duty, or Tomb Raider and would rather do her own thing. That is perfectly fine. I am aware that I am very into games, the technology involved, the storylines, etc, and she indulges me and my need to know what is going on in a given story. It’s one of the things that has kept us together for over ten years. Besides, that’s kind of what marriages are: she indulges and takes care of me and I indulge and take care of her. If you love someone, doing that should be par for the course.

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3 Comments on “In Games Do We Part: My Life Married to a Non-Gamer

  1. Really Great read.

    I think similar things happen once you have kids too.
    My wife isn’t really big into games, but she would let me indulge whenever I could jump in. With kids, it’s a bit different. One reason is because I’d feel a bit strange playing something like COD or even Binding of Isaac in front of them, so my gaming habits tend to only really come out at night once they all are in bed. I get really excited about things like remote play, which would allow me to partake in a more “mature” game while the kids enjoy a movie.

    Thanks for sharing you experience.

    Like

    • Yeah, having kids really does change the dynamics. I love my daughter but I am also glad that she has moved out. I do get a lot of gaming done but there is usually a compromise. She is aware that trying to talk to me in a fight is bad and she waits until I can get to a pause point so we can talk. It’s all a juggling act.

      Like

  2. Pingback: #FridayReads: A Reading List of Feminism, Queer Identity, Problematic Faves, & More Games | FemHype

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