165: Indorktrination


"Erin and I have known each other for 10 years, and we've been married for five. We take part in so many activities together that it's difficult to list them. We spend plenty of afternoons at the beach soaking in the deliciously harmful sun. We enjoy trying new restaurants in our Brooklyn neighborhood. Theater is in our blood, and we love to see crappy Broadway musicals whenever we can.

"But throughout our entire relationship, there's been a rift; there are some things which we never share. And those things always seem to involve elves, dragons, spaceships, swords and the occasional magic ring."


I've been faced with this many times as well, though not with my wife (as I have none).

The amount of knowledge required to do stuff we gamers (digital or no) take for granted is an absolutely staggering hurdle we rarely take full account of. Telling people that the text on a card explains what it does and how and when it can be played is an absolutely baffling (discombobulating?) experience for some people. And I'm talking a packaged game like Fluxx or Bang, not something like Magic, though I've taught that to novices as well (not as hard as many people make it out to be), some can handle it, some never will.

I'm currently in a party with novice DnD players and they keep forgetting the most basic stuff all the time. "So, what do I roll to hit again?" comes up all the time. And so we go over it again, and again. We're three sessions on now, things are starting to smooth out, one of them is our Cleric though (playing 3.5), I guess we'll let her discover the intricacies of spell combinations and the like on her own as the levels go up. And these are people who play Magic and were interested of their own accord. I can only imagine how this would work with someone who 'will give it a go' (however well intended) and have no experience with a game with such expansive rules.

Well, yeah, now I do I guess.

My girlfriend and I are both geeks, but different kinds of geeks...

I like Action/Shooter Videogames, she likes Puzzle and "Sim" games, RPG's are something we both enjoy as long as they're not too grindy or plotless, then she gets sick of them (Oblivion is a good example of something she really didn't like).

We both Pen and Paper Roleplay, but she doesn't like Dungeons and Dragons and finds "traditional" fantasy boring, she does however LOVE Steampunk and Pulp Adventure so again there are comprimises that work well for both parties. She also doesn't mind fantasy if it's innovative or well grounded in a realistic and interesting world.

She's an Artist, I'm a writer.

I like Plot, she likes Character.

I figure it works as well as it does because we're enough alike to "do" things together, and different enough that the other person is still interesting.

Possibly one of the 'indie' RPGs would have been a better choice for her to experiment on. Something like In A Wicked Age or Primetime Adventures. Of course, if you yourself don't have a lot of prior experience and skill-honing on those types of games as opposed to D&D, the experience would likely end up being just as baffling and unpleasant for you as it was for her, so it's probably just as well. Still, I imagine that someone who has trouble with spatial mechanics in WoW and likes the person-to-person aspect of D&D but dislikes the rules-crunching would take to those games like a fish to water.

Excellent article, very interesting read.
My best mate's girlfriend also seems to have the problem with moving a character through 3D space. I've heard her complain about the camera before, even though she had full control over it in the game. She also doesn't like playing FPSs because of a lack of peripheral vision, although we pointed out that we all had to play with the same camera and it doesn't affect any of us.

I think the take-away message here isn't necessarily that you didn't get your wife into your lifestyle, but that she now has a better understanding -- and hopefully, appreciation -- of your interests. Part of the disconnect, evident in the opening of the article, is that a lot of non-gamers don't even WANT to know about gaming of any sort. They view it as infantile and as a waste of time. Although I'd like to have heard that your wife felt more inclined to join you in your hobbies, I'll settle for her better understanding of the lifestyle in general. It's more then we get out of most non-gamers these days.

its what i had to put up to every day in my house when i invite my D&D Group its so sad... that we cant enjoy a game im peace :(

Good article.

There's a symmetry to the gamer/non-gamer relationship in a way. I don't think non-gamers have any comprehension of how incredibly boring their passtimes are to me!

Videogames, especially action-oriented ones, assume a basic spatial understanding of how to control an avatar in a three-dimensional space.

Another way to look at it is that videogame UIs are made of FAIL and we put up with it for some reason.

Same with fantasy. I love fantasy themes, but often they are childishly done for no very good reason beyond laziness.

Excellent article, I really enjoyed reading it. It's true that gamers take for granted one hell of a lot of knowledge, and that makes the learning curve for those not initiated into the fold at a young age pretty damn high - probably the main source of the divide. Still, the Wii definately seems to be helping with that...

When I was younger I was WAY more into things like Magic TG than I am now, and I remember never bringing up the fact that I played the game up once with my friends. There's a stereotype ofthe average D&D/MTG player, and that was something I definately didn't want to get chucked into. The sooner these activities stop being considered weird the better, as it means the most vocal groups of players won't fit into and therefore perpetuate said stereotypes; the 'normal' people can show that's it's really okay to play.

I agree with the article that alot of the problems stem from the stereotypes associated with the people who play these sorts of games. Thankfully, I grew up at a time when video games were played by nearly everybody (or atleast boys), and so it was quite well accepted. On the other hand, I also was interested in math, science, and computers, so I'm well aware of the similar stereotypes that they shared. It's funny how things which can be so different have nearly the same stereotypes associated with them.

One thing I've found with my girlfriend, who is also a gamer, is that everybody has their own personal tastes and that these can influence the game/no-game attitude highly. For example, my girlfriend loves RPGs -- she started with Final Fantasy and moved on to World of Warcraft. Myself, I quickly tire of the pointless grinding, especially when the underlying story is little more than a pretense for grinding. I play some strategy and sim games, as well as board games. She doesn't like most of those. Our common ground is FPSes, especially Battlefield and (recently) Team Fortress 2. Despite the fact that we both game, we find it difficult to understand why the other likes those games. I find her RPGs boring and she finds my strategy games complicated.

While it's great that your wife now understands that your games (and the friends who play them) don't fit the horrible stereotypes she had, it's quite clear that she doesn't share the same interests in games. However, I doubt that precludes her from liking video games -- she just needs to find the right ones. It sounds like she would appreciate something that allows her to collect, customize, socialize, and show off. Incidentally, that's pretty much what an MMORPG is all about, except that it takes untold hours to collect things.

My girlfriend also plays Webkinz, which allows all of that, but you get items through playing fun little minigames. Perhaps that's something your wife would be interested in. The only thing is that it's definitely aimed at children, so that exacerbate the "childish" issue.

Sounds like you threw your wife to the wolves a bit, Greg. ;-)

It was a good read. I too have a non-gamer wife (whose only claim to fame came from way too much time with Donkey Kong Country) so I really appreciated the article. I have a slightly different story though; one that involves a Nintendo DS, Brain Age and Puzzle Quest... and her not letting me play my DS.

Last Battle... ah, the memories. ;-)

Wow I must admit I love this article and will save it for girlfriends present, future, and the ones I still talk to from the past. Thanks again for writing this better than I would have been able to even pull off (the dorkifying of your wife)

"game-player-hating" is comedy gold. Fie on mainstream cultures stifling of imagination and attachment to "maturity" as a female gender role. (No really, I'm serious. Women are expected to be more mature.)

<<Gender Disclaimer, I am male>>
The first FPS I ever played was Corridor 7: Alien Invasion, but it didn't take me more than about an hour to grasp what was going on. It was a question of determination however, I WANTED to, and many girls at an early stage are conditioned to want to do what their friends do.

As to purely physical limitations, I think the important factor is being able to externalize concepts of feedback and control; "view the sword as an extension of your arm", that sort of thing. Ball-related sports (insert your own jokes here) tend to be male-dominated in childhood, and when combined with a higher average acuity for spatial relationships it leaves a gender gap at the point of initial entry. I have two sisters, one of which balked at this step re:videogames because she resented "help" familiarizing herself, and the other who overcame the hurdles of camera control and now plays Halo, Jedi Academy, Mass Effect, and so on.

I never understand why the 'lesser people' have such a bad opinion on games and geeky past-times. I made the mistake of telling people at work I would be spending my weekend settled in with episodes of Monkey, some Metal Gear Solid 4 and go see the opera (Marriage of Figaro, for those curious) and all I got was disdain because 'opera sucks' and 'I should go out and meet people instead of playing games.'

Great article. It reminded me of my first experience in DnD; funny looking dice, srange people, wierd books with nice pictures in them. Well, I still look at the pictures in the books when it's not my turn, but now at least I know what I have to role.


I actually hope that my partner thinks its dorkish. Games are just something I envision doin with my buddies.

Very excellent article; I grinned at several locations...

Kudos to both you and your wife. You for both wanting to get her involved in what you do AND for being both sensative enough and understanding enough to accept that she's just not going to get into it. To your wife, very large kudos for being willing to even give it a go; I have many non-gamer friends who wouldn't have done that even if their aging, dying grandmother had agreed. It seems to me she tried; not just oh-I'll-do-it-because-you-ask, but actually gave it a real whack.

I find it very interesting, that bit about the spacial trouble. I grew up playing games (you and I could be buds, man-I'm pretty much exactly like you). My mother, however...did not. She had to work very hard to overcome her inability to control the little dude, and she had to learn all over again when we hit the age of 3-D (she's still not great at it). But, unlike your wife, she did have the incentive (she grew up in the age of FRODO LIVES!)

So again, thanks for the very interesting, entertaining article.

I've had a similar experience on this with my boyfriend who (not so much anymore) used to go to friends for D&D sessions once a week.

When they offered for me to join in I decided to give it a go. I've always been a fan of games like Baldur's Gate and thought that would set me in good stead for this kind of thing. it certainly made the creation of my character easier although the guys very kindly did most of the creation for me what with it being my first attempt!

Sadly, I never managed to really relax (possibly because I was worried of making a fool of myself) and never really got into the game. It was a real shame because it was obvious the group I was playing with were really enjoying themselves and I think if I could have just got a little more confidence together I could have as well.

Since that time, I've gone back to the PC and my RPGs on there (any D&D based game being very high on the list) At least that way I can't get confused over what dice I need to roll!

I'm pleased that I experienced D&D at least once though. The only way I found out that I enjoy playing Team Fortress 2 was actually trying out. My first game was in a tournament however, not that I was putting myself under any pressure of course.

Its great that your wife gave it a go though. It certainly made an interesting article.

I've had the same problem with many games like D&D, Oph. There's just too many situational rules for me to get into, when I can play a game that handles the number-crunching for me. It was a laugh (Mostly because of the group), but at the end of the day I believe Exalted might have been a better game to start out with (The rules are pretty much secondary, other than the Rule of Cool).

We could try a simple scenario at TFF. Brike will probably be in (He's a Barbarian. He runs up to things and hits them until they break).

Nice, you made your sig. other sound like a female stereotype in only four little pages. I'm sure she's thrilled.

Congratulations on using one of the most awesome words ever invented.

So your wife was basically a thirsty Stranger in a Strange Land.

I had a similar experience with my girlfriend and WoW.

It brought back some memories when you described her inability to control the camera. I would play with my girlfriend, and we'd duel, but the only thing I would do is try and break line of sight by running around her, through her, jumping and bobbing and weaving, so we worked really hard on getting her to control her camera.

Now she's a hardcore raider who plays more then I do (in fact, I quit months ago, and she's still playing).

Hehe. Nice read! And I guess there is difference between "dungeon-crawling" vs. role-playing.
If you had made that evening an interactive drama, she could have been the queen (and for once I mean that in a positive way).
If I think back of the times I did the DM, I always tried to avoid senseless dice-rolling (I never got behind that - how was rolling dice for hours without end any fun? Where was the action in that? It was simply frustrating rule grind)
That's why one of our most basic rules was: we don't need no stinking dice rolling: If you (i.e. the player) can describe your actions properly and in a actor-like way (and basic logic doesn't defy it) and you really give your best in acting out your role, hell, why shouldn't it work?
You should have used your special knowledge of the likes and dislikes of all the people to appeal to their "needs" instead of forcing them into boring dice-rolling-land.
[It's funny how all adventures tend to start in bars... I mean, I'm from Germany... and it's just the same over here]
The thing I like most about (real) RPGs is the near-limitless freedom. Why take it away from them. People sense it if they run into invisible barriers (and computer games are, by design, full of them). Running nose upfront into such a barrier creates frustation; and frustration causes people to lose interest, because they don't feel like they can change anything in "your" DM-set-up world.
The most memorable evenings of D&D I created when I completely let things flow. I totally scrapped my initial plans and let the players go, where they wanted to go, throwing hurdles and stones in their way.....

Well, I guess I better stop writing, as there seems to be limited attention on these forums anyway and once I was asked if I had too much time on my hands... Maybe no one will read it anyway...

We all live the dream (with the exception of Usefulplayer1) of getting our ladies into the games. Never give up hope. Never surrender!

I love the fact that going to church is something you can't do very well (not that I have anything against no going to church) But you just go sit there and look bored; However, I guess being bored is something most people don
t want to do.

nice article - i liked the perspective on this one. I've got to say I'm glad you do have some things in common with your wife tho, one of my best friends has a gf who has no gamining interest at all, I think she is going to get the shock of her life when she moves in with him in a few weeks, he's a level 80 tauren warrier, with 2 reserve characters!

I'd be inclined to agree with her on a few points, I'm afraid. This business of WoW being more of a lifestyle than a game rings true, and is the reason I avoid MMORPG. Same thing goes for D&D, with its several sourcebooks and preparation.
I'm afraid I find fantasy a bit juvenile, too. That could be a personal bias, though. I've always thought that sci-fi was more useful, on account of it being grounded in a kind of pseudo-reality as opposed to an archaic worldview relying mainly on outdated tropes and anachronistic viewpoints. Again, maybe that's just the inner fanboy rearing its foetid head.

Just read this, great article. I'm British, and I've found that quite a few "normal" girls quite like the dorky guy, especially when they hit their twenties-something I try and tell the depressed teenagers on this site who just can't get ahead. It's creepy how similar your story was with my life and previous relationships. I love dorky girls, but I don't generally date them. They have all like WoW, mainly because they can create pretty characters. In fact, they never level up farther than 35-40, because they are too busy making new ones, or getting grumpy that the clothes change! Such a negative stereotype, but it's true!

I think the attraction lies within them finding a man who is genuine, nice, and doesn't feel the need to share other people's hobbies in order to be happy, something which can't be said for a lot of the casual-but-pretend-to-be-hardcore football (soccer) fans out there.

I'm kinda happy for you that you didn't fully convert her though. Sharing interests is great in a relationship, but having your own, separate space is essential, and now that she understands what it is that you do, you guys can remain happy, without contention over the time you spend in a darkened room rolling dice. Just stay away from E!


Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
Register for a free account here