Game vs Me
August 13, 2013 4:59 AM   Subscribe

Looking for perspectives/personal stories on dating gamers. I am early 20s, he late 20s. He is smart, level headed and fun to be around. We are both employed and having other hobbies/interests to pursue outside of work and our casual dating relationship. We enjoy each other company and sex is great. There are other minor issues that we do need to work on but at the moment things are going well. This is my first time dating a gamer. He's not an addict so I am not addressing this as a red flag. I find it kinda amusing, a part of him that I don't want to change, but yep, the issue of Game Vs Me/Us time does arise.
posted by azalea to Human Relations (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Dating a gamer can be difficult, depending on their level of commitment (to the game). For some couples it helps if their non-gaming partner also becomes a gamer, allowing for the gaming to be a "us time" thing as well. But this, again, depends upon the gamer, as well as the level of interest of the non-gaming partner. Frankly, it has been my experience that some gamers really really want their real life and their gaming life to be separate, and the idea of having their girlfriend start gaming with them is not a thing they want to do.

What you are going to have to do is have a discussion and decide on what each of you want (how much couple time does each of you expect, how much solo time does each of you expect) and then decide on a plan that satisfies both of you.

Oh, and when he is gaming, never just walk in front of the tv or expect him to be able to just pause the game and answer a question you have. You should ask him (when he is NOT gaming) what he is okay with while he is gaming. Can he play and talk to you at the same time? etc.

Personal Story:
I used to be hugely hugely in to World of Warcraft, and I was dating a guy who wasn't a gamer. He didn't understand why anyone would want to play any game for big chunks of time like that, let alone a game where you had to run around as a big half-man-half-bull thing with a giant hammer, killing scorpions... He did, at one point, try to get in to WoW so that he could play with me, but it just ended up pissing me off (I was a level 40 and the starting areas for new characters are hugely boring for someone that high up), and frankly he never really enjoyed it. Ultimately what we had to do is set out specific "US" time and specific solo time where we each could do our own things.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:13 AM on August 13, 2013

You basically have two options. Yes, he can change, he can cut back on his own hobby, &c &c but you can't control that so you can't make it work. What you can control is you. So your two options are:

1) Make Game Time into Us Time by taking part in his hobby if he's willing to do that. Maybe you're not going to roll up a GURPS character this weekend and break into his circle of practiced role playing buddies, but maybe you can find a game that you both enjoy playing and do that as a regular thing. A LOT of game companies are making entry-level versions of games for just this purpose, with stripped-down mechanics but still some degree of fun. Make a list of what he plays and head over to and look for similar games, games with similar mechanics, &c &c.

2) Make peace with him having this time without you. He's gaming with his buddies: you're fly-fishing or writing that novel or watching through the Criterion Collection with a couple of friends.

On preview, I see that I've been assuming you meant board gaming or in-person gaming of some sort. Video games are kind of harder, especially single-player ones, but again, you can still only control what you can control.

If you feel neglected when, say, you're spending the weekend at his place and he's playing video games, and you've made your feelings clear, I think it's totally appropriate to leave. I wouldn't storm out (unless you feel really disrespected) but rather keep it light, like, "hey, it's clear this is what you want to be doing right now so I'm going to leave. See you when you're done." The point is to establish that Game Time is not Us Time by not being there for Game Time. If it starts to feel like he's not putting in the Us Time because you're leaving during Game Time, that might just be a fundamental incompatibility in your expectations.
posted by gauche at 5:23 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

1. Play games with him. Or play the same games that he plays. Or play games that interest you.
2. Have a serious sit down conversation and learn to communicate about this.

You don't explain what 'us time' means. Do you mean you want his undivided attention over the video games? sexytimes? is he blowing off dates to play games? Is he not wanting to do spontaneous unplanned things with you because he's playing a game?

Have you asked him, politely, if he wouldn't mind shutting the game off and doing things with you?

Does this game vs me time happen when a brand new game he's been waiting to play goes on sale? If this is the case, it's probably better if you find a not-boyfriend-required hobby to enjoy. He'll be focused on the game, just like any new shiny toy.
posted by royalsong at 5:26 AM on August 13, 2013

If you're talking about video games, my wife and I spend a lot of time with me sitting on the couch playing games, while she reads Metafilter or whatever on her laptop. It doesn't take away from my game time, but it does sort of qualify as "us" time. If I'm playing a game with a storyline she finds interesting, she'll sometimes half watch me play, too.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:48 AM on August 13, 2013 [7 favorites]

You have to have compatibility with your partner when it comes to Me Time vs Us Time. When one partner has a time-consuming hobby, be it videogames, knitting, fine carpentry or horseback riding you are going to have to come to terms with that. As a non-gamer it can be hard to understand that gaming can be just as rewarding as other leisure pursuits, and doesn't deserve any less consideration than one's other hobbies.

Now, if you both agree that you would like more Us Time, there are compromises you can make to help you guys come together. The non-gaming partner can either join the gamer (either by playing alongside or just by watching), but perhaps it would be better if the non-gamer gives the gamer completely solitary game time, so that there isn't the guilt/distraction of having someone at your side. The gamer can compromise by simply setting daily or weekly time limits, or by choosing games that are shorter overall or that lend themselves to pick-up/put-down play, rather than extended scheduled raids.

All in all though, this is just something that you both have to be willing to talk through and express your honest desires and expectations, so that you can either come to a reasonable compromise or end the relationship if it turns out you just have fundamentally different expectations.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:08 AM on August 13, 2013

Get a similarly solitary/at home hobby that you can do while he does his video game thing.

Like, for example, your own video game.

I wholeheartedly agree with Bulgaroktonos that there are lots of good times to be had with him playing his game, you doing your thing (whether gaming on a different platform, surfing the web, reading, knitting, whatever), and just having low key together time in a casual setting.
posted by Sara C. at 6:43 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Play the game once just to get an idea of WHY it's so important to him. Is it the puzzle? The social interaction? Imagining a 2nd life?

See how it makes him happy and love that it makes him happy.

Then roll your eyes and go do something else while he's gaming.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 6:54 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I got my husband to come and say to me, "I'm going to go play [current video game] for two hours or so, do you need anything before I start?" or "I'm going to go play half the night ..."

That way I could say, "Yes, actually, can you help me move this bookcase first?" or "Don't forget we have that party at 3 so you need to be ready to leave by 2:30" or whatever. The problem for me was that he would start and then it'd suck him into a vortex with no time limits where you can never interrupt, so having him tell me before he started would give me a chance to get whatever I needed him for done real quick, or give him a time he needed to stop, or sometimes even he'd decide not to play because of the other things we needed to do. When he did play, he could play with no guilt or interruptions because he'd cleared out the time.

I took advantage of those times as my "me time" and read books or watched shows I knew he wasn't interested in or did girly things with my girlfriends.

It's a little silly to "schedule" video game time, but it really made a much more calm and pleasant home life for us when he would tell me on Friday, "I'd really like to do some serious gaming this weekend, what's a convenient time?" and then let me know before he started in case I needed anything before he disappeared.

He also put an alarm clock next to his gaming computer, used it only when necessary, and obeyed the alarm clock, so he wouldn't be late for things we had to go to, or he'd cut himself off after two hours so we could spend us time.

I had no interest in serious gaming myself, and I like my me-time; my issue was really around the part where there were no defined starting and end points and it was never interruptable, so we solved THAT part and it was no longer a problem.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:56 AM on August 13, 2013 [20 favorites]

A bit of a perspective on what he may be thinking but may not articulate:

Many games are with other players - in that situation, it's considered extremely rude to walk away from the game to be around you. Consider it the same as if you phoned him up at a friend's house and said 'Come home now' - unless it's an emergency.

Also, much like you'd have a weekly boardgames night, the time at which the gaming happens is often very scheduled. If he says no one week, all the others might be unable to play, and they also might decide to find someone else to play with instead of him. I'm not exaggerating - just pointing out why things may be inflexible.

A third point is that not everything can be paused 'now'. Or stopped now. It's simpler if you save that thing that will only take 5 minutes until afterwards.

Now, what you can ask for and/or expect:
- that he specify the timespan he doesn't want to be interrupted
- a strategy for how he wants to handle game time. Like, if it's flexible time, he prioritizes it when you're not there. If it's not, perhaps you can prioritize getting your alone time stuff done then.
- a strategy for handling the things that come up. Say you want the bins taken out - perhaps you can leave a note on the fridge, and he will do what is on that note. This may sound petty, but it can avoid a lot of worse problems. Alternatively, he can do things before he starts.
- the ability to negotiate the amount of time spent on games.
- Similarly, pre-set 'I will finish at x time' (yes, you do need to negotiate this before he starts)

Also, extended gaming during a game's release week is something you may want to compromise on. In exchange, perhaps, you can ask for more time at another time.
posted by Ashlyth at 7:05 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think for collective online gaming (like WOW raids and the like), where it's all scheduled in advance, the thing to do would just be to treat that like any other time commitment. He can't make dinner on Tuesday because he has a [family thing, basketball practice, work event, whatever].

On the other hand, if he can schedule this stuff in advance, then he knows his schedule and shouldn't be all UGH DONT TALK TO ME WOMAN I HAVE TO SHOOT THESE SCORPIONS. I mean, it doesn't sound like you live together or like you're demanding all of his waking time as "us time". If you're treating group gaming events like any other scheduled activity, he should do the same and inform you of when they're happening and what his needs are. And be sure to find a time when giving you his undivided attention is an option.
posted by Sara C. at 7:28 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

You're treating gaming as if it is some kind of mental disorder. That's really disrespectful of him.

It's a hobby that he has, little different than fly-fishing, model trains, or gardening. Other answers have given good advice about trying it for yourself and communicating about schedules and the like.

If you are still so bothered about the time that he is spending not paying attention to you, you might want to consider taking up your own hobby or two. Part of being a healthy couple is respecting the other's needs for their own time.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:56 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

My husband is a relatively serious gamer; I am what our friends jokingly call a "diet gamer." I think it depends on your personalities and also on the particular flavor of gaming that he's into. While I think there are some wrinkles that come with gaming that are different from other hobbies, it's honestly not THAT different.

It matters whether you're talking about MMORPGs like World of Warcraft and in-person tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons, where the player generally has regularly scheduled serious commitments to other players in the form of raids or gaming sessions, versus something that is played solo or in casual one-offs online. If he has standing raids or game sessions on his calendar, I think it's good form to respect that just like you would any other standing social obligation. If it sucks up all his free time, to the point where you feel neglected, have a conversation about that. That's true of any obligation. If you're interested, and he's amenable, try joining in - my husband's running a game right now with our social group that I'm not in, but we've definitely played in the same games before, and it's a lot of fun.

I also think it's absolutely worth the time and effort to find games (whether video or board/card/whatever) that the two of you can play together. It means a lot to share a social hobby with the person you love, and it's something that my husband and I have really enjoyed doing together. We found places where our interests overlap. The other times, we do our own thing, whether that means doing completely separate activities in different places, or just different things on the same couch. Also, I think he games less in terms of overall time per week than he used to. I do my individual hobbies less than I used to. We met in the middle.

I think you'd do best by not thinking about it as a gaming-specific issue. There are lots of hobbies that involve a large time commitment, a tightly-knit social culture, and may be detrimental to a relationship if badly managed - I'm thinking of things like golfing, marathoning, some volunteer activities - and people in relationships with people who have those hobbies all have to deal in pretty much the same way: by developing two-way communication and respect for each other's needs and interests.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 8:39 AM on August 13, 2013

I got my husband to come and say to me, "I'm going to go play [current video game] for two hours or so, do you need anything before I start?" or "I'm going to go play half the night ..."

This is our solution, too, and has curtailed 99% of video game related arguments between us.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:53 AM on August 13, 2013

Video games are really tough if you like a lot of quality time with your partner (not spent playing games together) because even if they aren't addicted to them, many games are specifically designed to take a lot of time. So they can be huge time-sucks, particularly if you only have a few hours of free time every day - video games can easily eat up ALL your free time, leaving no time for other hobbies or focused time together.

Even as someone who has played fairly extensively in the past, I'd be very hesitant to date a heavy gamer. I dated a fairly moderate gamer for a few years and it was really problematic - he'd only play for a few hours most days but those were the only hours we had to spend together, so we ended up not really interacting, which sucked a lot, and it was very clear that the games were more fun for him than spending time together. I did enjoy playing games together but it wasn't even close to quality time for me, since the game takes most of the focus.

Someone who doesn't need much focused one-on-one time wouldn't be bothered as much, I assume, and clearly a lot of people date gamers very happily. So it might depend on your personality more than anything else.

I guess my suggestion is just to keep a close eye on the amount of time you're spending together, and to have a discussion on it early if you're feeling neglected - not "you need to quit games", but "I need to spend more quality time with you to be happy". Scheduling dates/hanging out might help with that, as would "I will be done at X time" and sticking to it. Good luck!
posted by randomnity at 9:18 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, I just realized I assumed "games" meant video games. If it's some other kind of game like board games/ D&D / tabletop gaming, those tend to be WAY less problematic in terms of being time sucks, at least for most people.
posted by randomnity at 9:21 AM on August 13, 2013

I am casually dating someone and I play video games, and it never ever comes up. I think one time they saw a game menu on my television upon arriving at my house, and said "oh, what's that? it looks cool." Then, I quit the game and we do whatever casually dating people do.

You guys are also casually dating. You don't even live together (I assume). If he's unable to budget/balance time properly between you then there's a problem. Is he cancelling a lot of your date plans or something? If not, what's the big deal?
posted by destructive cactus at 9:24 AM on August 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am assuming you mean video gaming, correct me if I am wrong. I am also trying to lay this out in an unbiased way. My gut instinct is to say "Run" because of my negative experiences with a gamer. That said, here it goes.

I didn't know that my boyfriend/fiance was a gaming addict until months into the relationship. I was young, 17, and he was nearly 21 when we started dating. I gamed too, but not like him. You say it's not addict level, but I probably would have said the same thing in the first few months. Granted, there are many problems with my ex as a person and partner, but it also really showed itself in how he treated our time and his gaming addiction.

It may come into addict territory if:
-He puts the game/online friends/game plans before you, without prior scheduling. My ex would literally bail on our date nights because he had to game with his guild - without telling me before hand. Disappointing me was less important to him than disappointing his guild.

-He doesn't stop when he said he will. I get a gut-retching feeling when remember asking my ex how long he would be and he would say "Oh, just 20 minutes." He would say that so many times I lost count and his 20 minutes was usually over 2 hours.

-He can't just stop, or "diet". Meaning he can't just play every other day or stop for a while, or just for a few hours. He has to play all the time or tries to sneak in playing when you ask him to take some time away from it.

I am hoping that in your case he is not an addict. However, substitute "he's playing online poker" for "gaming" and see if that changes your thoughts. I am also hoping he's just stuck in "Oh when I was single I could game" thoughts and not realizing that he needs to change and I hope he does.

My story continued: After a good 8 to 12 months in to the 2 year ordeal, after being hooked on this guy, I finally told him it's me or the games. I can't deal. He said he would stop. At this point I had already tried doing the whole scheduling thing and it didn't work. He couldn't just play for 2 hours or on certain days or put me first. The neglect showed up in other areas too, not just the gaming so I also realized it was a personality thing as well that the gaming highlighted. His games were WoW and some other online RPGs. (Along with D&D and role playing board games. but they weren't as big of an issue as they required scheduling with friends.)

He tried to quit cold turkey because he couldn't just play causally. He would have "relapses" that would cause him to break down, just like an addict. I also caught him once after just leaving briefly to go to the bathroom. He was "just handing off a game item to his friend" and it would take "20 minutes". I walked out. We broke up soon after that.

I truly hope he is not like this. But I wanted to share what game addiction is like for someone who is not an addict. The neglect I suffered from being with him was heart breaking. I felt invisible. Again his addiction just showed his personality traits clearly, but I think without that aspect he could have gotten more help or more level headed.

Now: I have an amazing husband. We both game. I have been an Xbox live member for over 10 years. I have about 5 really close online-based friends that I have had for nearly that entire time. My husband games too. We often game together, but sometimes we want to just have a game night.

We do as suggested above "Hey, I'm going to play for a few hours." Then we each do our own thing in the mean time. However neither of us have a problem putting it down if we have to. If he were to say "Hey! Drop the game let's go on a date" I wouldn't even think twice. This is something you need to evaluate in your relationship.

I wish you the best of luck. But I also caution you on the level of "change" that needs to happen in this relationship. This may very well be part of his personality, and if you don't match, it may be better to move on.
posted by Crystalinne at 9:53 AM on August 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

Is he cancelling a lot of your date plans or something? If not, what's the big deal?

Eh, I can see where there could be problems. I dated a gamer for a while and we got into this pattern where I'd come over after work on Fridays, tired from my long day and ready to get some dinner, maybe go out and do something, or have some one-on-one grownup time with another human with whom I'm not part of a rigid hierarchy of professional interactions. I would then sit on his couch, stomach rumbling, for HOURS because he just wanted to "play for just a little while" or "find a save point" or "finish just this one mission" or whatever. It would be 10pm and restaurants would be closing and he would still be looking for that save point and it drove me CRAZY.

My solution was to start speaking up about what I needed. Not "wanna get some dinner soon?" but "I haven't eaten since noon. I'm so hungry. Do you think you'll be a while? If you'd rather stay in we can order pizza."

You need to take care of your own needs and communicate what you actually want to see happen to your partner. Video games or not.
posted by Sara C. at 10:15 AM on August 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Everyone has his or her own thing. Sometimes you can get into it with them, sometimes you just don't want to. It's all good.

Husbunny is in to some gaming and the WNBA, niether of which is anything I have an iota of interest in.

Scheduling is excellent.

Also, it helps if you have a thing that he's not into. Then you have time for your thing, and he has time for his thing and you have something to discuss at the dinner table.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:59 PM on August 13, 2013

Response by poster: Appreciate all the replies here. :)

A quick follow up to clarify:

1) As I said, I don't want to change this part of him. I understand it's a way for him to relax and unwind. Just like how I prefer to take long walks by myself after a stressful day.

2) All kind of games. Board games, video games, Dota, etc.

3) Willing to try out these games. But he doesn't seem to be interested in playing together, giving very short and vague answers when I ask questions about the games that he's playing.

4) We are both busy. I am juggling two jobs and studying part time. Every hour we get to spent together takes a lot of rescheduling. At the moment we get to see each other once a week or once every two weeks. It's usually even harder due to fixed board game dates/online game dates.
posted by azalea at 5:32 PM on August 13, 2013

Oh geez, I've dated a gamer before...Nope, never again.

I'm now dating someone who has REAL hobbies and ones we can share. SO much better then dating a gamer who ignores you or games for hours on end just to relieve stress.
posted by Autumn89 at 10:43 AM on October 10, 2013

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