My husband and I have bonded over lots of things during our years together. And early on, we found common ground in video games in that we each liked playing them. We’re both continually interested in games, new and old, and we do our best to stay in the news loop concerning games. But what we don’t really do is play games together. We do lots of things well together, but video games are not one of them. So when I tell other gamers that yes, we play video games but, but no, we don’t play them together, they seem to get very confused and something like the following conversation ensues:
Nice Gamer: “How come you don’t play games with your husband?”
Me: “Well, sometimes we play fighting to racing games, but generally, we each just like different kinds of games.”
NG: “But me and my [insert significant other] really like playing [insert game name here, usually an MMO, shooter, or sandbox game] together. You guys should try it.”
Me: “Hmm, but I prefer to play games by myself, and he likes to play alone as well or online with friends.”
NG: “OMG! How in the world do you two even GET ALONG??!”
Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating that last part, but people don’t quite get that we could each be perfectly happy playing different games in different rooms. Socially, we each came from very different gaming backgrounds. As the Duck says at the beginning of The Duck’s Personal Trials and Joys of Multiplayer Gaming (which you should totally read!), I too am a solitary gamer. I grew up playing mostly by myself until my siblings were old enough to catch on. And even though my brother and I played games together quite a bit before I moved away for college, I always preferred to play by myself. I don’t like being watched while I’m playing – it’s hard for me to concentrate and become immersed, which is why I play in the first place. Meanwhile, as a kid, my husband had a large social circle of gaming friends. They played together in the arcades and at home – he learned to tolerate watching games as well as being watched. His friends have since migrated online, as has he.
Early on in our relationship, we tried to play different games together, handing off the controller, playing different characters. But it was really clear that our gaming interests followed two very different paths. Mine had led me up the Nintendo/platformer/RPG/family fare road; while he walked the Sega/Sony/shooter/sports/mature trail. He tried to play Symphony of the Night and I tried to play Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, but neither felt “right” to the other. I prodded him to play Mario Party, he encouraged me to try SOCOM. But these attempts failed. And then, finally, one day we decided that we HAD to find a co-op game we could both play together. Unfortunately, we picked The Adventure of Cookie and Cream. This horrible, terrible, no good PS2 title nearly ended our relationship several times.
This isn’t to say that our respective courses have never converged on games that we both enjoy. L. A. Noire, Arkham City, Uncharted 2, and Skyrim all come to mind as games that we both think are fantastic. And as I mentioned before, we’ll give most fighting and racing games a go together as well. And though we might find more solace in competing than in cooperating, we did have a good time with Little Big Planet for a little while.
And just because we don’t plan out rousing evenings of Mass Effect, it doesn’t mean we don’t support each other’s gaming loves. He’s fine with me spending a few dollars to get Super Mario World from the Wii Shop, and I’m fine with him racking up a bazillion points in Skate 3. We’re constantly telling each other to get this game or that game because we know what each other likes. He’s quasi-excited for the next generation of consoles, and it’s enough for me to at least consider being excited myself.
So while I’m not going to join him and the boys for a bunch of Modern Warfare 2 shoot-em-up any more than he’s going to help me plan out my next strategy in Dragon Age II, we’re still a happy gaming couple nonetheless. All you nice, well-meaning gamers don’t need to worry about our itty-bitty corner of the gaming world. We’re doing just fine and hope that you’re doing okay as well.