How to deal with gamer boyfriend
November 6, 2013 8:57 AM   Subscribe

My 2 year boyfriend turned into a gamer some time ago and it's driving me crazy, because I feel that his games are more important to him than I am anymore.

So we've been together for almost 2 years and our relationship was always wonderful, wouldn't there only be that tiny problem.

The game he got about three months ago is League Of Legends, and he literally spends half of his day playing, every day. If it wasn't for me, food or sleep I bet he wouldn't get away from the screen for a second. League Of Legends is all he talks about, he get's depressed when he loses a game, he is mad when his internet is cut off and in general I feels it's all he wants anymore. And what bothers me the most is how he puts the game above me, how he always has time to play, but not so much time anymore for me.

I have talked to him a lot about how it bothers me, but I don't think he understands. And that's the point where I get mad at myself for either not being strong enough or smart enough to put this into the right words in order for him to understand how much he hurts me. I would love to make him choose between me and the game, but we have too many plans for the future and I really love him. We are planning to move in together and to get married in a couple of years, and I have no idea how I'm gonna deal with his gaming addiction at that point.

Whenever he talks about LoL, there is this satisfaction and happiness in his eyes; I wish I knew if he talked the same way about me, which you would think I'd know as his 2 year girlfriend. But he has changed a lot.

I know how much he loves me, but that's one thing I cannot deal and it's driving me crazy lately, I would love to have some suggestions on how to approach him on that.
Thanks a lot!
posted by Emily119 to Human Relations (44 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
He's addicted.

Treat this the way you would treat any addiction.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:00 AM on November 6, 2013 [18 favorites]

Yes, he's addicted. Check this out.
posted by mareli at 9:03 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Thirding Addiction.

You may need to bail.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:03 AM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have talked to him a lot about how it bothers me, but I don't think he understands.

He won't bother to understand unless there is some consequence for not understanding. As in, "if you don't turn off that goddamn game this minute I'm leaving and you will never see me again."

And that's the point where I get mad at myself for either not being strong enough or smart enough to put this into the right words in order for him to understand how much he hurts me.

Not a matter of "right words," he is either addicted or making a choice to ignore you in favor of the game, and neither of these problems can be fixed by you just saying a magic thing.

I would love to make him choose between me and the game, but we have too many plans for the future and I really love him.

So, what you're saying is, you know there's no way in hell he would choose you. I think you need to forget about moving and marriage right now; your boyfriend either has an addiction problem or a relationship problem and in both cases he ain't gonna be marrying you any time soon.
posted by like_a_friend at 9:05 AM on November 6, 2013 [33 favorites]

Nthing that this is an addiction problem. Ultimately, though, it would be extremely unwise to move in with let alone marry someone who does not prioritize you or even take you seriously when you tell him that there is a problem with the relationship. I'm not saying you should dump him (although I would if the situation doesn't change), but I strongly urge you not to further entrench yourself with this man until this issue has been resolved.
posted by Kimberly at 9:07 AM on November 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

Is he working? Going to school? Did he have any sign of troubles before this started?

It can be sort of an addiction, but there are some people who do manage to learn how to be dedicated gamers (like, playing 4+ hours a day) and still manage to hold down jobs and have relationships and be happy. A lot of it is about how you treat people when you're not playing, and whether you can set aside time for the people you care about. A lot of people who develop the big issues have depression problems or whatnot before they get into it, and the game is something that delivers a big dopamine payoff with reliability in a way that the rest of the world doesn't.

Whether this is going to work or not, well, it's only going to work if there's direct communication. Not about how horrible the game is, but about the fact that you need more time and attention, what your relationship expectations are, what his needs are, whatever. Really, the only thing you can do is talk about your relationship with him with complete honesty and see where it goes from there.
posted by Sequence at 9:09 AM on November 6, 2013 [12 favorites]

Does he have a job? For him to be playing that much he has to have an awful lot of free time at his disposal. Did his getting in to the game coincide with some other major event for him (ie. losing a job)? Honestly, I think there is something else going on here.

Regardless, I think all you can do is:
1. tell him point blank that you are unhappy in the relationship
2. lay out clearly why you feel that way
3. tell him that you are not able to stay in this relationship if things don't change. Be crystal clear on this point.
4. explain what you need to happen for you to feel valued in the relationship
5. ask if he is able to satisfy those
6. if he isn't able to satisfy them have him explain why

Be prepared to make good on #3.

You can even tell him "I cannot be in a relationship with someone who values a videogame more than they value me and my feelings." Define exactly what changes you need to see, make them clear and reasonable (ex. 2 evenings a week he spends with YOU doing something together, etc) and when/if he fails to meet those expectations you need to walk. Seriously.

and like others have said, now is NOT the time to be making any sort of long term plans with this guy. No moving in or getting engaged or anything. Get this issue fixed, get back to a place where you are happy and feeling valued in the relationship, and then look long term. You can't base your decision to be with someone on what you HOPE they will be. You need to base that decision on WHO THEY ARE NOW. Right now, if nothing changed, would you want to be married to him?
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:09 AM on November 6, 2013 [9 favorites]

Games are a lot easier and quicker to feel accomplished at than 'real life', by design. Not saying anything about your bf's mental state, but when I was depressed I self medicated with video games in the same way others use drugs. It's a ridiculous instant gratification loop.

So: he has to want to change. He probably won't until there's major consequences like you leaving, eg.
posted by PMdixon at 9:09 AM on November 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

hooboy. I hate to sandbag a fellow gamer, but either he's holding up his end of the relationship, or it's running mostly on your hopes for the future. (And maybe your finances-- is this guy working or otherwise supporting the household?)

Negotiate some boundaries on his time. I don't know what your own alone-time activity is, but he is entitled to something similar, roughly along similar amounts of time. Make it clear that LoL playing is excluding you, and that's not acceptable. Every gamer in a relationship gets a little friction, but unless you're exaggerating, he's playing too much for you, and maybe too much for his own health. Some time on weeknights, more time on weekends.

That said, the game was designed to be entertaining and engaging. You were not designed to be anything except a survivor; you are a complex human being and you have to work at being entertaining and engaging like all humans. Don't compare yourself to the game, any game. The game doesn't make him happy, it helps him escape his life. A girlfriend and games are not two different answers to the same need. Games satisfy a lot of things; human partners satisfy other things, and there's some overlap, but you can't replace the games with yourself.

LoL is a multiplayer game, but I don't know it well enough to know whether he's likely playing in a regular clan or other regular group of friendly players, or just playing newpeople each time. If the former, then part of his game addiction is the fact that it's a major social outlet for him, and he'll want/need some other social outlet to fill its place. Part of that can be you, but he's going to need some friends outside the game, or this game and others will pull on him.

Words didn't work? Not surprising-- it's hard for the rational brain to get leverage on the monkey brain. Time to move on to actions, namely some consequences for when he blows you off.

You, by the way, have to accept that this gaming addition is a warning sign, and that this relationship may not work out, and you may not be able to save it. If you can, that's awesome. If not, that'll be the time to move on.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:14 AM on November 6, 2013 [9 favorites]

My 2 year boyfriend turned into a gamerĀ 

More and more, everything is an "addiction." What about accountability?

It's a choice first before any addiction. And, he made it. He needs to make another choice regarding you and the relationship. Tell him clearly what you want. After that, not much you can do.
posted by Kruger5 at 9:17 AM on November 6, 2013 [9 favorites]

Boyfriends who ignore you and do their own thing 100% of the time are pretty much fungible.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:23 AM on November 6, 2013 [27 favorites]

Rather than coming at this from a "You play LoL too much", come at it from a "I am unhappy in this relationship, I don't feel valued, I don't feel like I am an important part of your life. I feel that we are losing our connection and closeness. I need things to change for me to be able to continue in this relationship, let alone considering moving in together or marriage."

Is he honestly aware that this could result in the end of your relationship and that you are prepared to end it if things don't change?

Also, you need to come to terms with the fact that you may never be able to get him to understand. Trying to get him to understand why his behaviour isn't okay is very possibly pipe dream and will only make you more sad and more frustrated. You also need to come to terms with the fact that he may try to deflect this back at you, somehow implying that you are being a bad girlfriend because you are trying to keep him from having any time to himself, saying you're trying to control him, that you're overreacting, etc.

and honestly, I'd take this as a huge red flag.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:30 AM on November 6, 2013 [15 favorites]

I have talked to him a lot about how it bothers me, but I don't think he understands.

He understands, but he is not moved to change. If you've told him it bothers you, he knows it bothers you, but he isn't willing to stop playing this game so much or make any concessions to you. In other words, your feelings are not as important to him as the loud blinking toy box.

And that's the point where I get mad at myself for either not being strong enough or smart enough to put this into the right words in order for him to understand how much he hurts me.

The failure here is not yours. It is his. You are almost certainly putting it into the right words. You have led the horse to water.

I would love to make him choose between me and the game, but we have too many plans for the future and I really love him. We are planning to move in together and to get married in a couple of years, and I have no idea how I'm gonna deal with his gaming addiction at that point.

So here's the problem: What you're saying is that there is ultimately no reason for him to change. If you aren't willing to leave a man who's being so self-absorbed and obstinate, and if he's not moved by you telling him you're hurt and upset, why should he concede anything at all? Why shouldn't he just keep playing his game since there won't be consequences? And if there are, the only consequences will be that you'll be upset and neglected, which are ramifications he clearly finds acceptable?

Would you really want to move in with him or marry him if this doesn't change? Actually, let me answer that for you: No, you would not. You might think you would, but I promise that you wouldn't.

Here's what you need to do.

It's time for a serious sit-down with him. Tell him:

1. That you have an issue with how much of his life is devoted to a video game
2. That he seems to be prioritizing this game over his relationship with you, and always seems to have time to play it but does not seem to have time to spend with you
3. That when he does spend time with you, his conversation is dominated by this game, and while you certainly do enjoy hearing what's going on in his life, you would prefer to be able to converse about things you both care about
4. That this video game is having consequences that continue after he stops playing (such as him being depressed when he loses or angry when he can't play)
5. That you need this situation to change, and you are willing to work together to find a solution that works for the both of you
6. That the solution will not involve you playing this game with him
7. Finally, that his obsession with this game, as it stands, is causing you to be deeply unhappy in your relationship with him, and you need things to change, because you respect yourself enough that you will not stay in a relationship in which you are deeply unhappy.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you have that conversation with him:

Know what your boundaries are, establish them, and be firm about them, even if it kind of hurts to do. If you say you're thinking of leaving if he doesn't change and then he doesn't change and you don't leave, you will give him no reason to consider consequences and no reason to respect you or your decisions.

One of these boundaries should be that you need to see a concrete change starting now. Do not accept "I'll try to cut down" as an answer. If he says that, he may only play for four hours instead of six for the next few days, but then will be right back up to six in short order.

Within those boundaries, be understanding. He is going to need to disengage his brain from a machine which repeatedly presses on the reward center of it, and that will be hard. So it's understandable that he might need to be reminded not to talk about it so much, or what have you.

Last of all, you should have a timeframe in mind, and if things haven't changed noticeably within that timeframe, you need to just get up and go, because they're not going to, and you're just going to be beating your damn head against a wall. You deserve better.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:34 AM on November 6, 2013 [10 favorites]

I think it's time for you to find a new boyfriend and relationship. If you try to help him, he'll just resent you. He needs someone other than you to help him through this.
posted by discopolo at 9:37 AM on November 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

It might be worth your while to define what your needs are, irrespective of this boyfriend and this obsession. Do you need an average of 15 hours of attention and companionship per week? 20? Do you need him to cook and do dishes half the time? Do you expect him to verbalize his admiration and appreciation? What things should he be doing with you daily/monthly/weekly? Taking you out? Visiting with your family? Etc., etc. Let him know what he needs to be doing if he wants you as a girlfriend. Yes, he should know most of that stuff without needing it to be explicit, and it's quite possible he does but just isn't trying anymore. But if you want this to work, I suggest giving him positive goals to meet rather than negative injunctions about his hobby. It will also help you in the future with recognizing when things are falling off in your next relationship.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:50 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

You know what an addiction is? It's not "He does this thing X hours per day" or even "He does this thing more than he does anything else." It's "He does this thing so much that it is negatively affecting the rest of his life." Tell him that he has reached that threshold, and either he considers his relationship with you part of "the rest of his life" and he needs to make it so this thing isn't negatively affecting that; or he doesn't, and you cut bait.
posted by Etrigan at 10:01 AM on November 6, 2013 [10 favorites]

His obsession with gaming has nothing to do with you and isn't a reflection of some shortcoming on your part. You are not designed to flood his brain with a constant flow of dopamine; many games are. It is very difficult to combat the pull this offers. It is addictive, I would guess more so to those of us with addictive personalities.

I finally walked away cold turkey, gave it a good two year break and was able to resume gaming a lot less problematically. Is there a way the two of you could go on a vacation someplace where gaming isn't an option, preferably without Intnernet so he can't even look up wikis and player tables? Sometimes getting yanked out of the pleasure cycle gaming offers can make a difference.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:08 AM on November 6, 2013

No therapist would make a diagnosis of an addiction based on 300 words from someone who is not the patient, so I don't know why that word is bandied about so freely here.

As Sequence and Etrigan have mentioned, just because he is engaging in gaming a lot does not in itself mean that there is some sort of addiction or impulse control disorder. Tom Brady plays a lot of football - that does not mean that he is addicted to playing football. Doing something a lot is only a problem if it becomes a problem. Maybe it's a problem - it would depend on what "not so much time anymore for me" means in quantitative terms. I don't think he has an obligation to see you every day, for example. How often are you to spending time together, and what is the nature of that time? If all your time together is just spent watching him play, I would agree that's a problem. If you're going out every weekend, I am less concerned. Is he working/in school? Attending class regularly/paying his bills timely? Without some sort of quantification, it is hard to tell if there is a problem or not.

Have you thought about how much of this is about the fact it is gaming? Is a gamer getting irritated at an internet outage any different than a jogger irritated by a rainstorm? Do you think you would be posting this question if he spent half his day making artisanal cheese or jogging? If not, there isn't an behavioral problem - you just don't like his hobby.

Whether you stick with this man or not, I think "satisfaction and happiness in his eyes" when he talks about you is a dangerous yardstick for relationships. It's high-seeking behavior of a different sort.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:19 AM on November 6, 2013 [11 favorites]

I feel like the addiction aspect of this is kind of a red herring, you could be in exactly the same situation if his life revolved around an important stressful job and he always prioritized work over you, for example. I think it's not a good idea to frame this in terms of you not thinking that the amount of time he spends playing the game is acceptable or that you think he has a gaming addiction, because from his perspective the game is something that he feels is worth spending a lot of time on and it's going to be hard to convince him that it's not worth it.

What you can do though is make it clear to him what your needs are in the relationship and how those needs are not being met. One of those needs would be to be able to talk to him about things that are not related to LoL. Another need would be to be able to often spend large amounts of time with him doing things that don't involve LoL. You should tell him clear, black and white needs that he can make decisions about, rather than something vague like "putting the game above you" that he can handwave away by saying that of course you are more important. Once you do that, it puts things back on him. He then has to explicitly decide how to balance being in a relationship with the other parts of his life. If he does really care about being the kind of partner you need, then he'll decide for himself that he needs to cut back on gaming when it gets in the way of the relationship, rather than just being forced to stop because you told him he couldn't play anymore.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:22 AM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

OP, just as an anecdote, I once spent a period of time ramping up and then maybe 3 months playing a particular video game around 60 hours per week while married and holding down a job. I was on a team playing the same amount, and I had personal goals of my own in the game. I met my relationship's needs pretty minimally during that time, but as soon as I met my goals in the game, I walked away from it with no intervention and never again spent an unreasonable amount of time on it. I think people overreact to this kind of behavior being tied to video games in particular. It really may be just a hobby that your boyfriend can contain if you call him on it and get him to decide what he really wants to achieve, especially including a relationship with you.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 10:24 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Maybe learn to play LOL and share time with him?

Seriously though, if you've reached the point of "this must change or I will break," you need to tell him that. LOL is a competitive game that can, if you allow it to, consume many hours of time. Both playing and planning-when-not-playing. It is similar to Magic the Gathering in that way.
posted by andreaazure at 10:30 AM on November 6, 2013

He really enjoys the game when he's winning and is easily frustrated by his random team (if it sounds like I'm making some assumptions here, its based on the info given above). He is then drawn back into a second round, mostly with different random teammates, and attempts to ease that frustration with a win. I do the exact same thing (in different games). I wouldn't call this addiction, I would call this a bad game fit. Its not meeting his needs and he isn't responding well to it not meeting his needs.

LoL is massively more time intensive for the payoff win that any other game that I know. More than Starcraft, Counter Strike, Team Fortress, Call of Duty, Company of Heroes, Guild Wars arena matches, more than all of it. There's usually 20 minutes (twenty minutes!) of 'laning phase' before the team-centric portion of the game even BEGINS. And the team fight portion lasts for another ten to forty minutes after that. He isn't frustrated with losing per se, he's frustrated that he just spent up to an hour of his life losing at something.

If, and only if, you decide to not cut the relationship off here I would suggest pushing him into another game by talking to him about how LoL is probably not the best fit for a full time game (I'd argue for 'a full time game for anyone with people in their life'). Maybe even gaming with him in this new game. Something with progression, depth, and things that both of you enjoy (without it having something that both of you hate to death). There are shooters: Planetside 2, Battlefield generally, MAG if anyone still plays that, Team Fortress 2, and others that don't require every player to be a great in-game shot, the support roles are heavily relied upon. Massively multiplayer role playing games (more like point-and-click adventure games at this point, I don't know of anyone who thinks they're an elf in Elder Scroll's Online beta) like Guild Wars 2, A Realm Reborn, Eve Online, and others that definitely don't require super fast reaction times in all modes of play. Strategy games, open-ended sandbox games (minecraft, Tekkit, Big Dig, Space Engineers, etc etc), and more could be tried.

It sounds, though, like he is a gamer for now. Gaming will be his go-to thing in his downtime. He can truly excel, mastering the theory and practice of a video game, and compete with people. He's found a subculture, I guess is what I'm trying to say (as a rep of one) and you may not want to follow him down that rabbit hole.
posted by Slackermagee at 10:52 AM on November 6, 2013

Oh, my gosh, don't move in with him if you're having these kinds of doubts or concerns. Shared leases can always, always wait.

Whether he's got a gaming addiction or not, you're not satisfied in the relationship. I'm married to a gamer, and I really think that it's like any other behavior or hobby or activity - people can engage in it healthily, they can go through cyclical periods of intensity, and they can do it in a way that pushes people away and harms their ability to meet their other obligations in life. There's a spectrum, and people have been "sports widows" for even longer than they've been gaming widows.

Think about what you need and can live with in a relationship. Really, really, really think about it. Think about what you're NOT willing to deal with. Make some decisions (internally) about the point at which you would be walk away. And then talk to him about what you need, what he needs, and what the two of you can do to meet those needs. Think about it in terms of time and interaction and attention, rather than gaming specifically. As with any hobby, if you two can enjoy it together to any extent, great - factor that in there.

But seriously, think about your end goal and whether it's realistic. Because if the end goal is for him to not be a gamer, that's probably not going to happen.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 10:58 AM on November 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

Is he happy in the relationship? Could he be immersing himself in the game to avoid something else?
posted by Che boludo! at 10:58 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Walk away. See how long it takes him to notice. If he hasn't contacted you after 3 days, there's your answer.

If he loves you so much, why is he spending so much time completely ignoring you?

I realise you don't want to force the issue, probably because you know that the answer will be "I choose the game over you", but I think that that's the only way you're going to get this sorted out. Make it unequivocally clear to him that this is not acceptable. If you don't, he'll just keep on doing it. People don't spend 12 hours a day doing stuff that they don't really really really want (or maybe need) to do. Indeed, he's making it crystal clear that the game is more important to him than you are.

I think it's not that you're not using the right words. I think it's that he either is in denial about how much this is hurting you, or he simply doesn't care. Which is why I suggest walking away. You can save yourself so much time by doing this - if he cares enough to make the relationship work, he'll put the effort in. If he's not putting the effort in, he doesn't care. Other people have suggested scripts, above, which might work for you. Ask yourself how many times you're going to say that something is a problem before you simply walk away from it.

Marriage isn't going to change this situation. Don't marry him unless you want to be stuck with a husband who doesn't care about you.
posted by Solomon at 11:30 AM on November 6, 2013 [7 favorites]

People are allowed to enjoy new things. You sound upset because the energy and interest he focused on you is now focused elsewhere. Well, why don't you go find a new hobby as well? Why place so much responsibility on him?

Go do stuff for you, and worry less about him.
posted by gsh at 11:35 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Since you don't live with him yet, I agree with Solomon that you should try backing off a bit first. You've already confronted him and he didn't respond in a way that showed he understood or cared about what you were saying. It seems you're just putting up with it, and actions speak a lot louder than words. Just stop being there all the time. If he comes out and asks why, you can explain exactly why. Start making other plans, and think about what you really want in life other than him.
posted by wondermouse at 11:51 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would love to make him choose between me and the game, but we have too many plans for the future and I really love him.

He's already made his choice. Now you need to decide if this is going to be your future -- playing second fiddle to a video game.

Don't live with him while he's still this deep into his addiction. I promise your evenings will be sitting alone in your head on the couch next to him while he games. Do you want that? And absolutely do not marry him unless and until you can both have honest, mature conversations about your needs, wants and goals. Video game addiction is a Thing and it's interfered in almost all of my adult relationships, and at times I've been the one giving make-believe-land priority. It's usually been a symptom of wanting to hide from something or avoid something (like mild unhappiness, commitment or fear of rejection).

If he changes, it's going to have to be because he identifies something negative about his behavior and wants to modify it. I'm not usually a fan of ultimatums, but you do need to lay out your unhappiness and your expectations. It doesn't have to be an immediate "I will leave you if you ever log on again," but just make it clear that your time is not going to be wasted watching him glued to a screen. Live your life for yourself -- book clubs, exercise classes, drinks with friends. If or when he starts noticing you're around less, you explain to him it's because he wasn't available so you took care of yourself. From there, he can choose how he really wants to spend his time.

I'm really sorry you're going through this; when I lived with an ex and his brother they put up a firewall to prevent my computer from accessing the internet so I wouldn't lag out their League of Legends games. Figuring this out hurt almost as bad as finding out he'd been cheating on me for six months. It really, really sucks to be less important than a video game (and not even a good one) and you deserve better.
posted by mibo at 11:59 AM on November 6, 2013 [6 favorites]

So I have a slightly different take, but this may not work for you. My husband is a gamer, and tends to zone out on gaming when he's depressed. We'd had a lot of conversations about how it made me feel, and he promised things would be better, but then they'd slide again, and I'd get mad, rinse, repeat.

We finally had a conversation where I said, "This is making me angry enough to think about breaking up."
He said, "I don't know how to fix this. What does fixing this look like to you?"
I said, "Let me think about that for a day and we'll talk again tomorrow night."

So we have 3 rules:

1) I can interrupt at any time, and he will pause the game, look up, and listen to me*. Eye contact is important. It forces him to focus away from the screen. I don't abuse this, but I got tired of "Hey, can I talk to you for a minute?" "Sure, let me just get to a save point"... and then 45 minutes later, he's finally ready to talk.
2) We have a weekly chore time, so that I don't have to stress about when he's going to do his stuff. It also helps him to not feel guilty about not doing stuff - he does his stuff during Chore Time and then can relax.
3) If I say that I think he's getting into clinical depression space, he will make an appointment to see his doctor and/or his therapist. For him, he doesn't always realize how far he's sliding until it's way too late, so it's how we deal with it.

However, that may seem like too much or not something you want to do, and that's fine. But for us, it worked to have 3 concrete things that can be done to show that he does care**.

*I don't know if LoL has a pause. My husband only plays games that can be paused (or where he doesn't care if he dies because I interrupted) so that we don't have any arguments about this point.
**we also still do couple things, like going out to dinner or a movie and things like that. I'm mostly addressing the "generic weekday after working all day" behavior, here.
posted by RogueTech at 12:33 PM on November 6, 2013 [9 favorites]

You say that he doesn't understand, but he does. He just isn't willing to meet your needs because he's prioritizing the time spent with the game. He's showing you what's important to him and it's the game. That's a red flag.

Yes, games are designed to be habit-forming and they can give the player lots of satisfaction, but the fact that what happens in the game is bleeding into his time not spent playing the game (feeling depressed, angry) is not a good sign. He's not bouncing back into real life very well. I'd also see this as a red flag.

Please reconsider moving in and getting married at this point. This set of issues needs to be resolved in a way that's acceptable to both of you before you move forward.

As for getting more of your own hobbies and spending time doing your own thing, that's a fine idea in general. But, it doesn't address that your boyfriend is not responding to you telling him that the amount of time he devotes to the game is a problem for you and that your needs are not being met.
posted by quince at 1:17 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Break up with him now. The game is his girlfriend.

Signed, someone who has been there, done that, and the game always wins.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:40 PM on November 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

Clear consequences and follow-through is what he'll need.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:02 PM on November 6, 2013

There's something he's escaping from (not necessarily you), find out what that is.
posted by dickasso at 2:04 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I will only say that if nothing changes, as life continues and jobs, mortgages, babies etc appear on the horizon, this kind of thing become untenable, and puts a serious burden on you vis a vis cleaning, cooking, paying bills and managing the everyday detritus that two intertwined lives produce.

You are right to take it seriously. I know successful couples where one is a gamer and one is not - but the gamer has a series of very tight strictures around when and how they game, because otherwise it can take up a massive slab of time, and the other partner ends up doing all the cooking, cleaning, child-rearing etc. And they get hardly any couple time as well.
posted by smoke at 2:49 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have friends who actually divorced over game issues. This IS a big deal. I mostly used the addiction word to get you to see how big a deal it is.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:10 PM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm a gamer ... I'm also a parent to two kids under 6 and a husband of 10 years.

I'm quite honest when I say that I could quite simply sit down some days and play for hours on end, without caring about anything else or actually meaningfully co-existing with anyone else.

But you know what, that's not how life works.

Like I said - I'm a father of two who works five days a week and who is married to a great woman. With my life comes responsibilities - being a partner and being a parent, stuff to do around the house, outings, general "life stuff".

In this context, I view gaming like, say, I'd view TV, or even use of tablet computers for my kids - that is: when everything is done, when all your responsibilities are taken care of, when you have had dinner, cleaned up, played outside, done any chores, homework, reading etc etc etc - THEN you can play on the tablet or watch TV.

This is how I view my gaming - I have responsibilities to others and they come first. Those responsibilities might preclude me from gaming - if so, too bad, those things come first.

Now, if the OP's boyfriend isn't willing to recognise that life comes first, gaming second, then there will always be issues.

I'd advise that the OP sits down with the boyfriend and spells it out. "Your gaming is getting priority over life, over us and over things that need to be done - I am feeling neglected because of it, and this isn't how a healthy relationship should be".

If this prompts action and progress, then that's good. If not, then I am afraid that the decision over the real commitment has already been made, and it would be prudent to consider walking away.
posted by chris88 at 3:48 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm going to be the voice of dissent here, because I was in a similar situation a few months ago.

My boyfriend is a gamer. More specifically, he plays League, same as yours. He played houuuurs a day, nonstop. I don't even know if he realized how much he played. He wasn't interacting with me much, he was missing class, all sorts of stuff.

This happened to coincide with the time when we were discussing moving in together. I suggested we have an open discussion about any of our fears or thoughts about moving in together. I told him I was not willing to live with him if he kept gaming on that kind of schedule. I just wasn't interested in coming home from work and seeing him zonked out on the couch. I told him I wasn't judging him, but that's not what I wanted our situation to be.

He agreed he was playing a lot, said that my fears wouldn't be the case in the future, and he wanted to live with me harmoniously, and his actions have proven that. Sometimes he does play more than I'd like, but I just suggest an activity- "Hey, when you're done with that match, I'd like to watch this movie with you"- and he does so. Or if it's important, he will stop the game and do whatever needs to be done.

Talk to him and see if you can come to an agreement. See if he's forthcoming and willing to work with you. If he seems dismissive, or hardheaded, or is in denial, perhaps it's time to move on.

But there is a chance it will work out, if you communicate clearly and are both willing to come to a compromise.

I will also say that I may have been more sympathetic and understanding of his situation because I once was thoroughly addicted to World of Warcraft and I know how easily game addiction happens and how hard you can get sucked in.
posted by rachaelfaith at 4:01 PM on November 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

I will take this opportunity to adjust my previous answer in a similar thread to this question.

My ex fiance was addicted to World of Warcraft. The relationship had a multitude of problems, but they all were extremely evident and most noticeable when it came to gaming. Everything in his life came before me. That included friends, new friends, D&D, WoW, or anything else.

Now, I have no idea how this guy has treated you before this gaming started, but if I had to guess, he might have put other things in front of you and your relationship too.

The games always came first for him. He would leave our dates to go play with his online friends.

The first few months of the relationship I was too much in the honeymoon state to realize that he was neglecting me. Within the first year I told him that I couldn't handle how much he played the games and how they affected my life. He would literally play for hours upon hours upon hours while I was at his house for a "date."

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.

He admitted it was an addiction and tried to stop. Needless to say it didn't work. He would "Relapse" and break down. I was over it. I finally left the relationship after 2 years. But, the neglect of being put after a video game still hurts.

How to talk to him: "I am concerned with how much you are playing video games. I don't mind you having a hobby, but it's now interfering in our relationship. I am unhappy with how you are treating me and how much time you are taking away from us. I can handle you playing X hours/day(week) maximum (or during X time of the day). You still need to put our dates/time/relationship first. If you can't do that, I can't stay with you."

Then you have to stick to it. If he doesn't do it, then be prepared to leave. Sorry to be such a bummer, but it's not worth being put second to a video game. Trust me.
posted by Crystalinne at 5:19 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would love to make him choose between me and the game, but we have too many plans for the future and I really love him.

Honestly, it seems like you love who he used to be, or who you thought he was.

We are planning to move in together and to get married in a couple of years, and I have no idea how I'm gonna deal with his gaming addiction at that point.

As others have said, do put these plans on hold. I recommend being explicit about that with him, if you maintain some hope that he will change back after the game becomes tiresome. I also recommend you have a reality check with him about this -- i.e. how does he picture living together and/or being married, and will he still be gaming as much as he is now when you get to that point?

Whenever he talks about LoL, there is this satisfaction and happiness in his eyes; I wish I knew if he talked the same way about me, which you would think I'd know as his 2 year girlfriend. But he has changed a lot.

Sometimes it's hard to know these things, especially if you have a partner who isn't big on the flowery, complimentary talk. It's okay to ask him if he talks about you this way to other people, if not to you. You may be getting a skewed perception of how he thinks of you if he believes your understanding of his feelings is a settled issue that needn't be mentioned further. I mean, not that this isn't dismaying -- you sound justifiably upset. Relationships only work long-term when each party is committed to reaffirming them as needed; the expectation is not that one of you can say "well, I told you I loved you that one time, why can't you just keep remembering that?" and the other just has to accept that as a given.

I know how much he loves me, but that's one thing I cannot deal and it's driving me crazy lately, I would love to have some suggestions on how to approach him on that.

That's the thing -- you only know "how much he loves you" by how he shows it. He's not showing it. Honestly, I've spent much of this post skirting around advising you to dump him. You sound kind of young, and I have a feeling that if you break up with him, at some point you will realize that you were saddest about giving up the idea of living with and marrying this guy, not the actuality. You've put in two years with him, you had all these ideas and plans, and they may not work out, and that sucks! You've invested all this time, and now you're having to resist succumbing to the sunk-costs fallacy. But no matter what your age, life's too short to put up with this kind of thing. Don't marry or live with someone who is this un-grown-up.
posted by Smells of Detroit at 5:50 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

> And that's the point where I get mad at myself for either not being strong enough or smart enough to put this into the right words in order for him to understand how much he hurts me.

This isn't the best way to think about it. Focus less on your hurt feelings, and his apparent insensitivity, and focus instead on modifying his behavior--if that is possible.

Figure out some specifics you'd like to see change (e.g. I want you to spend at least 3 nights a week with me doing X, Y, or Z instead of playing LOL.) See if he'll agree, then make him stick to it.

I liked RogueTech's comment a lot. Figure out what you want and ask for it.

I've seen stuff a little like this. Sometimes guys won't give up the whatever, even a little bit. If he won't, it's over, you have to move on.

> I would love to make him choose between me and the game, but we have too many plans for the future and I really love him.

This is an odd sentence. It sounds like you are saying a) you think he would choose the game, if forced to choose, and b) you are mostly dismayed at the idea of breaking up because you'd have to give up on a lot of plans you've made.

This isn't a sensible way to think. Dragging out or hanging onto an obviously failed relationship only means more misery for both of you (mostly you, in this case). You will get your head straight about this sooner or later, but sooner would be better.

I don't think you need to make your boyfriend choose between you and the game--necessarily--but you do need to buck up and find the courage to break up with him if he won't be a real boyfriend at all, which he isn't right now.
posted by mattu at 6:06 PM on November 6, 2013

I have played multiplayer games and they can be loads of fun, but I simply did not have the time to play 4+ hours a day. My characters would level much slower than my friends and it sucked being left behind while they went on to greater missions. There is definitely much pressure to play a lot to keep up with the pack. My current boyfriend games (not multiplayers - games that can be paused and have a story and definite ending) and he does get obsessed with a new game for a short while. I have no problem letting him wallow for a bit because he doesn't do it that often, it doesn't affect his commitments and he will stop the game to do chores or whatever if I ask. His emotions do not go through huge swings based on how his game is going. I will often play peanut gallery, comment on the choices he makes and we crack jokes about the characters and story. So he's not ignoring me for the game, and I appreciate that it is an enjoyable entertainment for him. Gaming and relationships can coexist.

If I were you, I would sit down with your boyfriend at dinner without distractions and have a discussion. Gaming may be the mental equivalent of eating candy, but as an adult he ought to be able to indulge himself sometimes. However, as an adult, he needs to be able to self monitor and as his partner, you need to be able to trust his self control. Make the boundaries clear. He is not to skip work or school or important commitments to game. He is to make effort to plan date things with you (dinner, movie, activity, etc.) and keep those plans and not ditch you for gaming. He is not to pull all nighters gaming before school/work/date days, so he shows up exhausted and can't perform to his best ability. His disappointment with losing in-game is not to spill out and affect himself out-of-game. Tell him you are trusting him to be an adult and know what is too much, but if his gaming gets out of control then you won't be in a relationship with someone who is immature. Tell him this is important to you and critical to your future together. Then step back and watch his behavior. Don't play "mom" and try to control him with reminders and nudges. If you start to feel neglected, speak up and tell him you would like to do X activity. Let him step away from the keyboard/controller and make it happen. If his gaming habit gets the better of him and he neglects you, ditches you or ditches work, just drop him. You don't want live with, have a kid or get married to someone who can't be trusted to monitor himself, because it's a huge indicator that he simply hasn't the self awareness to be a good partner in the long term. If not gaming, it could easily be something else.

Make sure he's had time to prove himself trustworthy with games before you sign a lease or make any kind of greater commitment with him.

The bad news is that if he's young and just getting exposed to gaming, he may have to screw up a relationship (or two ... or more) for him to learn to balance gaming and real life. You do not want to be the longsuffering girlfriend stuck with her addict boyfriend for years, playing mommy to him while he does the bare minimum to squeak by in life so he can be a virtual hero. The good news is you can avoid that trap with honesty and forthrightness right now.
posted by griselda at 7:10 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ah yes. One more vote for NOT moving in with him or getting any deeper into this relationship. In fact, I would say the world is full of men. Quite a few of them know how to handle both their hobbies AND their relationships. Go find one of them. They are infinately preferable to the types that don't know how. I have dated both. I speak from experience.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:53 PM on November 7, 2013

I think your boyfriend needs to understand that gaming addiction is a Thing that happens -- it's not him or his fault necessarily. People don't realize that gaming addiction is even possible until it happens to them.

It happened to my friend's now-husband. He was spending his life on World Of Warcraft. He literally spent almost all his free time on it. He felt some responsibility to his guild, too, which is how he got so caught up.

My friend set an ultimatum - the game, or her. He chose her but it wasn't easy. She was ready to leave him if not, and they were on a marriage track.

Maybe it can help your boyfriend to know that gaming addiction is real - and doesn't necesarily mean he fucked up but he does need to stop with League Of Legends. Maybe show him this thread.

My friend's now-husband still games, but nothing at that level. It wasn't easy though.
posted by htid at 5:51 PM on November 7, 2013

Girl, I have an addictive personality. When I get a new video game I play it for 12 hours straight, and for hours a day for months after that.

Or, I should say, I used to, until I moved in with my sort-of non-gamer boyfriend (plays the occasional game, but doesn't play LoL or WoW or anything). I just don't pull that shit anymore because I respect his time now. It was a sacrifice I made when I decided to let someone else into my life-- don't bore them to death. There are some games we can play together, but I just don't marathon game anymore. The other day I started playing League of Legends, actually, and I ignored him before he went to bed and felt awful for the next day. He needs to develop a conscience about it and tone it down before he moves in with anybody. From experience, nothing else gets done in the midst of that shit. No cooking, no cleaning-- that will be all on you.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:19 AM on December 15, 2013

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