One of my early articles was about making the esoteric interests of being a nerd work in your relationship (‘dating nerds and making it work for you’). To revisit that topic on a more personal level one of my nerdy and not so esoteric for my generation interests is gaming. I’m not a hardcore gamer but video games are a frequent casual recreational activity of mine and I try to take my own advice and make it a couple activity. This inevitably ends in disaster. It’s more of an amusing defeated kind of disaster, but it’s never gone well for me. I would not presume to tell anyone to not try and do things together, don’t take this as advice but more an amusing commentary and sharing of experience. For the purposes of humor, forgive the mild exaggeration. I’m not really this unreasonable or controlling.
The pitfalls of gaming together fall into three categories arranged by how you choose to go about it. The most frequent one I’ve attempted and probably the worst idea of the three is the observation activity. This is where the enthusiastic gamer tries to get their apathetic partner involved in a game by letting them play with the guidance of the experienced partner. Just letting the one who doesn’t care watch will be futile of course. You’ll notice I’m not assuming gender here. I don’t want to stereotype. It’s assumed the male is the more intense gamer, but I have seen it both ways. The problem with this scenario can be demonstrated by wandering away from the topic just a bit. Think of what it’s like watching a very contrived movie where the protagonist keeps doing obviously stupid things to cause themselves enormous problems. As much as you want to yell at the screen, you know it’s silly. You can’t control the events of a movie.
The events of a video game can be controlled, indeed that is the point. When watching someone play a game, the actions of the stupid protagonist aren’t awful movie clichés they are the person next to you acting foolishly. You can roll your eyes when a movie character blunders into danger, but when your partner guides their character into traps or gunfire or gets stabbed because they don’t turn around fast enough, you want to pull your hair out. Of course this is silly too. It seems a bit obsessive. The trouble is that people play video game to have control. To live vicariously through fiction and feel powerful. When that experienced is transformed into trying to pilot not by controls but by giving directions, it’s frustrating for both of you.
In the first place men and women approach video games differently. This isn’t true of everyone but it’s generally accurate. The same way men navigate by streets and directions while women navigate by landmarks, men play games by goals and accomplishments while women play by experiences. Women want to explore and test the limits of things, men want to get things done. There is no compromise in this.
The issue is amplified if the individual in question is the type to tend toward backseat driving to begin with. The difference being that there’s a certain amount of restraint to telling someone how to drive. You don’t want to distract them into an accident. There’s no real danger in back seat game playing, so we just let loose with every criticism we can.
Trying to play two player games isn’t any better. It’s just a different set of problems. Games aren’t made equal and fair. We haven’t reached the point where there can be such a thing as a fair competition. When playing completive games against each other, you will inevitably take any opportunity to get ahead. That’s the point, otherwise it isn’t fun. Game makers are lazy and they tend to toss in some unfair mechanics. In fighting games this is in the form of a cheap move or two that can be used over and over to win most of the time. In other games there is usually just an unfair handicap or occurrence used to turn the tables. As annoying as this is, you can’t direct your frustration at the code of the game or the people who designed it, your target has to be the person right before you manipulating the unfair set of rules. I suppose you could say this would be a petty thing to be mad about, but tell me it doesn’t happen. Motion controls come with the added bonus of the fight you can have when one of you gets to enthusiastic with the backswing.
Cooperative multiplayer games are, other than shooters, are a thing of the past. I’m sure I could have had some fun disagreements over friendly fire and wasting ammunition but I’ve never played shooters with anyone else, or very much to begin with. What I can say for sure makes for some interesting disagreements are old school two player platformers. Games didn’t used to have length so they had difficulty instead. What old games have in abundance is challenge. It takes very exact skills to succeed at them, and everything I’ve already mentioned is ten times as frustrating when your mistakes are more costly. On top of this, some multiplayer games punish both players for the failures of one. if one player loses then you both go back. Unless your talents are equal and even then mistakes happen, there is just no avoiding the frustration. One game in particular I remember took a very exactly sequence of actions and doing even one wrong sent you back to start over. It was nearly impossible alone, but playing it together was a nightmare. One mistake out of either of you and you both go back. I’m convinced there is at least one divorce settlement out there involving this game. (I don’t mean to be vague but I don’t want to give free endorsements so I’m not mentioning any games by name).
I deal with this kind of playfully because fighting about stupid things like video games is fun to me. I don’t take it seriously later, though I can get pretty annoying about it in the moment. I enjoy the challange and passion of an occasional frivelous arguemnt. I don’t know if this is the healthiest way to be but I hope I helped you navigate some pitfalls, or at least made you laugh alittle.