I’ve got a problem. My man is addicted to video games. I feel like it’s destroying intimacy in our relationship. How do I deal?
- Not Gaming
Dearest Not Gaming,
I dated a gamer once. It was brief. I have to confess that the culture of it eluded me. There was something sexy about gathering in dark rooms after hours to assume alternate identities and engage in rituals that were foreign to me.
I felt concerned that this deep investment in an alternate reality might tax the reality I wanted to share with this person. Is the reality we share insufficient? Is my flesh and blood body less interesting to you than somebody’s sleek avatar? What happens if this virtual reality takes over and I’m not a part of it?
The same could be said of any alternative interest your partner holds that you don’t. My desire to spend hours reading books alone or taking off across the country has probably impeded intimacy in some of my relationships. But the question remains: how can you feel less threatened when a partner’s interest takes up a lot of space?
I noticed the gamer that I dated prioritized time with gaming friends over time with me and saw it as a red flag. But I also understood that these were real relationships that spanned a lot of time and that gaming was a way to foster them. Like you, perhaps, I wanted to honor that but wasn’t sure how to articulate my worries in a way that was honest but not controlling.
I SO wish I had known Michelle Senteio at the time. She’s about to pursue a degree in video game design at NYU. I called her up to discuss video gaming and intimacy.
Senteio said, “The problem with gaming addiction is the same as the problem with any sort of addiction, such as alcohol, food and gambling. It disrupts your ability to have a healthy relationship with your environment, friends and family, and it negatively impacts your health. Like an alcoholic does with alcohol, gamers can fixate on games as a sort of escape from dismal day-to-day realities.” However, she also notes that you cannot assume that enthusiastic video gaming can lead to addiction. If you feel your guy is truly dealing with an addiction, that’s serious stuff that should be dealt with accordingly. However, if you feel he’s merely gaming too much, read on.
UNDERSTANDING THE STIGMA
Michelle explained, “There seems to have formed two major, opposite trains of thought towards gaming in my generation: video games are a waste of time, and video games are very fun and useful. Nowadays, children are raised to play video games alongside watching TV or playing on a tablet and all forms of digital media are acceptable for child consumption … People my age and older were taught that video games melt the brain, aren’t constructive, waste time. So when a person who plays video games enters a relationship with someone who has learned that anti-video game mentality, there is a sort of tension and distance that appears from this learned disdain of video gaming.” Sound familiar? There could be some generational stuff at work here.
INTIMACY AND GAMING
School yourself on how gaming might increase intimacy in your relationship. “As a gamer,” Michelle says, “some of the most powerful and connected relationships I’ve formed have been bolstered by silently (and sometimes not-so-silently) playing video games with other players. Sometimes that even means players online that I have never even seen in real life. When you sit down with a person and you play a game with them, you learn a lot about how they take on challenges, problem-solve, how they work in a team, how they take winning and failure, both very important.” She raises a significant point. Try observing your man as he plays. What are his Mario Kart maneuvers telling you about his interior life?
As Michelle says, “Consider the possibility of compromising your own dislike in video games and engaging in video gaming because your partner likes it.” How might you join your guy in gaming? Slide into that couch next to him and try your hand at some Grand Theft Auto or go all Throwback Thursday and play Tetris. Michelle also suggests visiting addictinggames.com to see what type of games you naturally enjoy playing. I have found myself deep into a pillaging Viking game called Frozen Islands, which has an epic soundscape and some intriguing neo-colonial undertones regarding taxes and liberation. Maybe I’m a gamer after all?!
KNOW THE LINGO
If you try to game and still find yourself lukewarm about the whole thing, you may need to have a different kind of conversation. First, I suggest you know the lingo. Michelle tells us, “Video games generally fall under the genres action, shooter, MMOs, strategy, role playing, simulation and sports.” Understand the difference between these kinds of games so that even if you don’t want to engage in gaming with your guy you can understand what specifically attracts him to these games. Then…
SUGGEST SHARED ACTIVITIES
You obviously enjoy spending time with your man, otherwise you wouldn’t be with him, so ask yourself, “What are some other ways you really want to share time together?” Saying, “I don’t want you to do this because I think it takes away from our time together,” is less effective than proposing an alternate activity that you can do together. Would you rather be hiking? Biking? Talking? Watching TV? Whatever it is, propose it and make sure you genuinely feel excited about it.
CHECK IN (WITH YOURSELF AND WITH HIM)
If after a few weeks you find yourself continually resentful and frustrated by the ratio of gaming to intimacy you have going on in your relationship you may want to reexamine your desire to be in it. At a certain point, we accept the people we love for who they are and quit playing games.
Just the Tips is Playboy.com’s weekly advice column, with professional matchmaker Katherine Cooper. Have a question for Katherine about sex, love or dating? Shoot her a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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