Whaddya mean you don’t play games together??

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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.

9 Comments Add yours

  1. simpleek says:

    That’s a nice story about you and your husband! It’s good to have different taste in games and to be comfortable to play on your own too! It doesn’t mean that because you are a couple, you have to do everything together.

    I think if I were to be in a relationship with a guy, I want a combination of the two, playing alone and having games we both can play together (that is if I found a guy who liked video games as much as I do). I’ve had a balance of both where I played by myself, but I’ve also been encouraged to play as a group by my friends.

    Still, people shouldn’t feel shocked when you two admit that you don’t play games together. Doesn’t mean your relationship is any less solid. I think you have a lovely relationship with your husband when you talk about your lives a bit. 😉

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    1. cary says:

      Well thank you! We’re pretty pleased with how things are, even if people find it odd. What you said about finding someone who likes both playing together and playing alone is important. I know even most “gaming couples” have their moments of difference and separation, but that’s how it should be — balanced. Otherwise, we’d all just end up with clones of ourselves, and where’s the fun in that? Nowhere, I say! 😀

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  2. j3w3l says:

    My husband and I barely play together as well. We tried forcing ourselves to group in many games from genres we didn’t like but it never really works and usually makes both of us frustrated.

    So he plays his games and me ours, and as you said they intertwine occasionally but for those times it feels more enjoyable.because it is a natural thing.
    In saying that it’s still nice to make the effort towards the others games, I sometimes jump into second life to see his newest creations but we no longer force it and that’s way better.

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    1. cary says:

      Sounds like you have a great set up, very similar to ours. There are certainly times when we try to help each other in games — I once got pretty good at building skate parks in Tony Hawk — but it’s not a regular thing. And since we both use games as escape and stress relief, it doesn’t really work out to have two exhausted people trying to play the same game together just because it seems like something that we “should” be doing.

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  3. duckofindeed says:

    I completely understand you guys not playing games together. If you don’t like the same games, you don’t like the same games. Plus, if you’d rather play alone, you should. I don’t know if I’ll ever get married or not, but if I do, I’m going to keep playing alone, as well. It is very relaxing to me, and I don’t think I’d need to give it up just because I got married. Playing certain games together might be fun sometimes, but not always. Being married doesn’t mean you do every single thing together, and there’s nothing wrong if you don’t. (And I need my “me time”! Would they rather I get cranky?)

    (Plus, for me, I’d have pretty strict rules that my consoles and games are not to be touched to begin with. I have a skill for making consoles last for eternity, and no one is messing with that. Sixty years from now, I’ll still have a working N64. Just you wait and see. They can play their consoles and treat them as they see fit, and I’ll continue to play mine in another room, washing my hands before touching disks and gently dusting everything monthly.)

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    1. cary says:

      By golly, if I’m still alive in sixty years, can I come over to your house? I promise to wash my hands and everything. And I’ll even bring my own controller.

      At the beginning, we were really up front about what we liked and didn’t when it came to video games. And though we never really set ground rules about console use, his games and consoles were always “his,” and my games and consoles were always “mine.” (Even today we still kinda consider the PS3 and Xbox 360 has “his and hers,” though not as strictly. And that’s only because of what games we play.) And the way things are now, I’m not saying they are perfect. Sometimes the other person doesn’t want to be alone while you’re off saving the universe in the other room. It’s all about compromise. Like you said, having “me” time is an important thing in any relationship. (I’ll admit to getting particularly itchy about that if it’s been awhile since I’ve gamed.) But forcing togetherness in games, like j3w3l said, isn’t needed or necessary to really make things work.

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  4. Hatm0nster says:

    It sounds like you’ve got a nice arrangement there. Trying to force playing a game you don’t like or playing multiplayer just for multiplayer’s sake doesn’t sound like something that would work out well.

    I’ve found that out when trying to play with friends. Most multiplayer games wear thin quickly, and switching off just gets annoying. So we do a thing now were we play different games but in a common space. All of the social fun with none of the interference and annoyance.

    Hey Duck, If you’ve still got a working N64 60 years from now, let me know! Because I know I’m still going to have functional cartridges for OoT and Paper Mario.

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    1. cary says:

      I like that idea, playing different games together. It sounds like a good way to alleviate any anger issues that often come with multiplayer!

      I have nothing against multiplayer, local or online, when it works. But I wish it wasn’t so forced these days. There are plenty of ways for us to enjoy our games in our own ways. There’s little need to *make* people party up and play together. We’re smart enough to figure that out on our own, if it’s something we want to seek out.

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