Of Love and Games

Of Love and Games
The Dating Game

Wendy Despain | 10 Feb 2009 12:32
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  • Games are usually either single-player or competitive multiplayer - Few videogames are two-person experiences. Often, one person is left as a purely observational audience member, and that's usually second-rate entertainment compared to other media. When there's a two-player option, there's usually a winner and a loser. So are you the loser? Or just dating one?
  • Games are played in private space - There used to be an arcade culture in the U.S., but it's mostly dead now. For the most part, the only place to play a videogame is in someone's home. This may be fine when you've been dating someone a while or were friends before you began dating. But it fails completely as a true first-date option.
  • Games don't encourage physical contact - Console games require two hands on the controller. Online games are usually played at great distances from each other. This might be a convenient way to maintain a long-distance relationship, but when it comes to a first date, there aren't many advantages.
  • Game genres are limited and unpredictable - Do I want to play a first-person shooter? Or survival horror? Maybe an open-world game like GTA? Wait ... how is your date going to like watching you shoot that hooker to get your money back? My favorite example is in Lego Star Wars. Open a particular door, and you walk in on several storm troopers in a hot tub. That made me blush, and I was just playing it with my 3-year-old nephew, who thought nothing of the Lego characters taking a bath. It could have been very awkward on a faltering first date if I didn't know to avoid it. These Easter eggs are everywhere in videogames. They're not inherently bad, just potentially embarrassing in mixed company.
  • Game culture is sexist and homophobic - The Brits call it "lad" culture. In the U.S. we associate it with bad-mannered college fraternities. Put on your headset in any multiplayer console game and you'll get an earful of graphic trash talk where players who aren't doing so well are told they play like a girl. Or a fag. Level design that fails in some way is referred to as "ghey." This may make you look cool to other 12-year-old boys, but women don't find it attractive, and few adults are inclined to immerse themselves in that kind of culture.

Of course, not all games fail on all these points. Guitar Hero and Rock Band are more cooperative than competitive. Casual games often have a lower barrier to entry. MMOGs are social, but rarely played from the same location. And these are the exceptions, not the rule. We couldn't think of any game that covered all the same essential characteristics as a good date movie.

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